Tangfu printing museum
Tangfu Printing Museum Introduction
It is fitting that the country that invented printing should have a museum dedicated to the subject. Sinying’s Tangfu Printing Museum is a fascinating exploration of this nearly lost art form. It is a place where those who grew up in the digital generation can get a first-hand look at the trappings of the trade, learn about the effort that went into creating the printed word, and become acquainted with the industry that made universal literacy possible.
What is now the Tangfu Printing Museum was first opened in 1954 in Zhanghua as the Taisugar Corporation’s printing office. The office was responsible for printing all of Taisugar’s documents, paperwork, publications, records, and advertising. In 1984, it was moved to Taisugar’s Sinying plant, where it began to take on outside work as well.
The museum is home to the only complete set of typographic printing tools in Taiwan. Home to 150,000 letterpress character dies in seven different sizes, 70,000 bronze and copper moulds, and thousands of antique zinc plates, it also displays cutting and perforating machines, type casting machinery used to create the lead dies, typesetting devices, and printing equipment that spans several decades.
The front room of the museum houses an array of printing presses, some dating back nearly a century. The older platen letterpresses were operated with a foot pedal, which when pressed caused the platen to roll the ink evenly across the plate; the inked plate would create an impression on a card or sheet of paper pressed against it, and the process would then be repeated, one card at a time. On these older machines, a skilled worker could produce thirty to fifty pieces per minute, while the newer machines at the other end of the room were capable of producing 300-500 pieces in the same amount of time.
But it is the back room of the museum that is the most astonishing to see. Here, rack upon rack of lead character dies run the entire length of the large space. Arranged partly by frequency of use and partly in Chinese language dictionary order, these vastly outnumber the amount of dies required for traditional printing in any alphabetic language. The task of remembering where each character was stored in order to retrieve it quickly for placement into the typesetting tray must have been daunting, to say the least. There are several dies for each character, since the same word might be used several times in a document, and each of the 150,000 characters comes in seven different fonts, or sizes, for use in titles, subtitles, section headings, and ordinary typeface.
The bronze and copper moulds used to create the lead character dies are stored in drawers at the back of the room. The museum also has large numbers of antique zinc plates etched with graphic images and company logos on display. Designed for use in advertising or official stationery, these could be applied repeatedly without losing their sharpness.
The Tangfu Printing Museum is a monument to the effort that went into the creation of the printed word and a tribute to those who worked in this industry. Its location right next to the entrance to Sinying Railway Cultural Park means that guests can make a combined visit to the two venues. The Museum is open from 9:00-12:00 and 1:00-5:00, except on Wednesdays. Visitors are asked to make an appointment to see the exhibits or request a tour of the museum at the office.
No. 40, Zhongxing Rd., Xinying Dist., Tainan City
+886 6 6329562