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WhatTheyThink

Articles by Frank Romano

Frank Romano has spent over 60 years in the printing and publishing industries. Many know him best as the editor of the International Paper Pocket Pal or from the hundreds of articles he has written for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East to Asia and Australia. Romano lectures extensively, having addressed virtually every club, association, group, and professional organization at one time or another. He is one of the industry's foremost keynote speakers. He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.

Displaying 1-99 of 771 articles

Et Tu, Frank?

Published May 13, 2022

Frank bemoans the loss of local bookstores—and takes responsibility for some of it. He shows two books he bought online and one produced via on-demand printing. The changes in the way book buyers—like Frank—buy books has had a profound effect on the local bookstore.

Frank Goes Small

Published May 6, 2022

Frank bemoans the steady decline in the number of small printers—those firms having fewer than 10 and 20 employees. They have largely been replaced with web-based services, office supply services, FedEx Office (Kinkos), and even home printers. He presents a short history of the so-called quick printer.

Frank Gets Evocative

Published April 29, 2022

Frank discusses how typefaces evoke feelings. He shows a few examples and discusses how movies—especially on streaming platforms—TV shows, documentaries, and books use evocative typography to appeal to potential viewers. Each uses type and imagery and there are a multitude of choices. That is why we need a million typefaces.

Frank Kerns Over a New Leaf

Published April 22, 2022

Frank talks about kerning and how it evolved as we moved from wood type up through phototypesetting. A piece of rectangular wood type would be cut to allow tighter spacing with its adjacent character. Fast forward to the 1960s and the advent of the Visual Graphics Corp. PhotoTypositor which introduced the concept of tight spacing to typography.

Frank's Radio Days

Published April 8, 2022

Frank notes that WhatTheyThink now offers audio versions of its many articles. He harkens back to his early years and radio and how it competed with print advertising. It was television in the early 50s that took advertising away from print and the Internet that took even more.

Frank Reads Ben’s Mail

Published March 25, 2022

Frank uses a new book called “Poor Richard's Women” as a launching point for a discussion on how authors and others often saved their written correspondence, which could then be used as references and sources for historians and biographers. For example, most of Ben Franklin's correspondence is available in 47 volumes from Yale. But what of his emails? (Author Nancy Ruben Stuart will be at the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass., on May 21 to give a talk about “Poor Richard's Women” and sign books. If you’re in the area, be sure to attend!)

Frank and Chris Obert on Self-Publishing

Published March 18, 2022

Frank talks with Chris Obert, who works with budding authors to publish their own books. Through his consulting and trade shows, Chris helps them navigate the world of publishing. On-demand printing and Microsoft Word have provided opportunities for anyone to be a book author.

Frank Looks Out

Published March 11, 2022

Frank finds a stash of old research reports on the printing industry and segues into the new WhatTheyThink PRINTING OUTLOOK 2022 report. Printing and communications executives were surveyed to ascertain the industry's print and service offerings. The results are always enlightening.

Frankly Speaking

Published March 4, 2022

Frank talks about Ben Franklin's 1789 codicil to his will, where he left money to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. He focuses on Boston and the Franklin Institute, a vocational college, which does not teach printing. The tale takes 200 years to tell. (Don't worry, the video is not that long.)

All Frank's Almanacs

Published February 25, 2022

Frank talks about almanacs (or almanacks) and shows a collection of them from the 1800s to the 2000s. Almanacs became popular in England in the 1700s and were published in the Colonies by the likes of James Franklin and his brother, Ben. These were well-thumbed publications and few have survived fully intact.

Frank Makes Book

Published February 18, 2022

Frank talks to Adi Chinai, president of King Printing in Lowell, Mass., about the current state of book printing. This was apropos, as he delivered the second edition of Frank’s “History of the Phototypesetting Era.” The book industry is doing well and print books are outselling ebooks by a mile.

Frank Waxes Nostalgic

Published February 11, 2022

Frank takes a quick tour of the world of paste-up artwork in the days of offset printing. Using wax and rubber cement, we used to assemble type and line art on boards called mechanicals. These were shot in graphic arts cameras to film. It is now a forgotten world in the age of electronic page preparation on computer screens.

Frank Has Many Issues

Published February 4, 2022

Frank takes a trip down memory lane when he finds a stack of old printing industry trade magazines. At one time there were more than 20 monthly magazines for every aspect of the printing trade. Today there are only a handful.

Frank’s World of Colors

Published January 28, 2022

Frank acquired a recent reprint of a 1682 book showing color swatches. However, only one 300-page book was ever produced. It reminded him of how the Herbert brothers created the Pantone swatch book and how color is used for branding.

Frank's Ship Comes In

Published January 21, 2022

Frank was on Cunard's Queen Mary II recently, and what does he talk about—printing! Cruise ships run on paper. From the daily program, to daily newspapers, to menus, to promotional and informational material, passengers are bombarded with paper.

Ironmark Makes Its Mark

Published January 14, 2022

Frank was near Annapolis, Md., visiting Smithsonian warehouses (because of course he was) and stopped by Annapolis Junction to visit Ironmark, a local printer. He interviews president Jeff Ostenso, who has built his 150-employee company into a Top 500 printer through organic growth, mergers, and innovative thinking.

Edifice Rex

Published January 7, 2022

Frank found a number of articles about former newspaper and printing buildings being re-purposed for other uses. Print-related structures were sturdy in order to handle the weight of presses, Linotypes, and metal type. Now they are condos, apartments, or even new businesses.

Frank’s Time Bandits: 80 Years of Printing’s Past, Present, and Future

Published December 17, 2021

As the calendar brings us to the start of another year, Frank Romano reflects on the past in terms of printing achievements...as well as how science fiction predicted the future.

Frank’s Fake News

Published December 17, 2021

Frank read an article that said there was less fake news in printed newspapers and he disagrees. Hearst and Pulitzer built their empires on “yellow journalism” and many newspapers were founded specifically to be partisan and, to this day, have the word “Democrat” or “Republican” in the names.

The Apples of Frank's Eye

Published December 10, 2021

Frank celebrates the 45th anniversary of the founding of Apple Computer in a California garage. Frank received his first Macintosh in 1984 and shows a collection of almost every Apple product, including the handheld Newton.

Frank and a Tribute to Women in Print

Published December 3, 2021

Frank starts by reading the famous “Pause Stranger: You Stand in a Composing Room” poster by Beatrice Warde and segues into a book review for “Baseline Shift: Untold Stories of Women in Graphic Design History” by Briar Leavitt, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Portland State University. She and others tell the tales of women who have advanced graphic design.

Inside Frank’s Type Vault

Published November 19, 2021

Frank takes us into one of the hidden treasures of the Museum of Printing: the type vault. Here you will find the drawings for every glyph in every typeface done by Linotype, plus type art from Photon, Intertype, and others.

Frank Goes Back to the Futura

Published November 12, 2021

Frank saw the latest James Bond movie and—naturally—all he could think of was the typeface used on the promotional materials. Futura Black came out in 1929 and had a stencil look to it. It was part of the Futura geometric sans serif family, the hottest typeface of its day.

Frank’s Tale of How the Pilgrims Pressed On

Published November 5, 2021

Frank tells the tale of how a printing press saved the Pilgrams and Thanksgiving. It involves an old Gutenbergian press, a less-than-seaworthy ship called the Mayflower, and Squanto, the one Native American who spoke English.

Tripping the Light Fontastic: We Just Hit the One-Millionth Digital Font

Published October 29, 2021

In this article and accompanying video, Frank celebrates the release of the one-millionth digital font, looks back at the evolution of typeface design and distribution, and provides a comprehensive list of sources of digital fonts.

Tripping the Light Fontastic: We Just Hit the One-Millionth Digital Font

Published October 29, 2021

Frank talks type in this video and accompanying article, as he calculates that we have reached the one millionth font in the 36 years since the advent of the digital type age. Beginning with PostScript in 1985, graphic designers have had access to a steady stream of fonts of all kinds from designers around the world.

Leveraging EFI Technology to Enter New Markets

Published October 22, 2021

Frank talks Ken Hanulec, VP of WW Marketing for EFI, at their recent “Ignite” press event. EFI inkjet printers print on plastics, ceramics, corrugated board, fabric, and other materials. These print systems—some of which are the size of a small house—allow commercial printers to enter new markets.

Frank Buys Textbooks

Published October 15, 2021

Frank talks about student preferences for printed textbooks and then segues into a mini history of textbooks for teaching printing. As the printing industry grew in size and technology adoption, its textbooks became bigger…and more expensive.

Frank's News Caravan

Published October 8, 2021

Frank found a number of news items that were too short for a full video and combined them into a faux newscast. He channels 1950s newscaster John Cameron Swayze as he reports on pricey antiquarian books and ephemera as well as technological developments. He especially likes the news that they can print brain cells, which leads to his latest mantra, “Print makes you smarter.” 

Frank Preaches to the Quire

Published October 1, 2021

A recent donation of paper samples, newsletters, and booklets leads Frank to wax nostalgic about how paper companies promoted their products in the “heyday of paper,” the 1960s to the 1980s. Considering that there are fewer paper companies and mills and some availability issues today, it is interesting to harken back to another time.

Frank Phones It In

Published September 24, 2021

April 3, 1973, a date that will live in infamy: the first cellphone call was made. “Cutting the Cord: The Cell Phone Has Transformed Humanity” by Martin Cooper inspired Frank to drag out some vintage telephones, from the vintage Bakelite phone, to the bulky first cellphones, to the Blackberry to the iPhone. Today, almost everyone on earth has a mobile phone.

Blown to Bits

Published September 17, 2021

Frank takes a trip through the graveyard of printed products. The electronic age has seen the virtual elimination of most road maps, annual reports, phone books, forms, and other products that can be replaced by electronic methods. We have gone from atoms to bits. As Benny Landa has said, “Whatever can go digital, will go digital.” 

Frank’s Book Club: “The Bookseller of Florence”

Published September 10, 2021

Frank reviews “The Bookseller of Florence” by Ross King, which tells the story of a world of beautiful handwritten books by Greek and Latin writers upended by the invention of printing. Printed books were not as beautiful, but much cheaper to produce. In fact, there were even instances of scribes hand-copying printed books. Still, within a decade, printing puts the scribes out of business.

Frank vs. History

Published September 3, 2021

Frank goes off on a rant about The History Channel series “Machines That Built America” because of one glaring omission: they did not include the Linotype. Frank contends that the American-made Linotype helped to increase literacy and facilitated documentation and helped the companies that made the machines that built America actually build them.

Frank Takes Stock

Published August 27, 2021

Frank talks about stock photography with Stewart Monderer, Principal of Monderer Design, a corporate graphic design and branding firm in Cambridge, Mass. What began as a black-and-white print became a slide or chrome and then a JPEG on a CD-ROM. Now stock photography is a website and a download.

Frank Talks to Dave Seat, Linotype Repair Expert

Published August 20, 2021

Frank talks with Dave Seat, one of the few Linotype repair experts. Dave and a few of his peers keep these mechanical marvels running. The 1886 Linotype revolutionized typesetting and many museums are struggling to keep them running.

Cherchez LaPlume: A Massachusetts Printer Thrives Despite Challenges

Published August 18, 2021

In the past three years, Lawrence, Mass.’s LaPlume & Sons Printing experienced a gas explosion and then the pandemic—but then this 85-year-old family business has faced its share of challenges over the decades and has managed to change with the times.

Frank Is on the Mark

Published August 13, 2021

Mark Michelson of Printing Impressions sent Frank a collection of materials for the Museum of Printing. (Or perhaps he was just cleaning out his office.) It is interesting what he saved after four decades in the printing industry. Each piece tells a story, and Frank adds his footnotes.

Frank Goes to War

Published August 6, 2021

Frank heard that American Airlines is discontinuing its inflight magazine. This prompts a discussion of the “war on paper” that began more than 30 years ago, which had led to many paper mill closures—a situation only made worse by the pandemic.

Frank On Platen Presses

Published July 30, 2021

Frank talks about very old printing presses, specifically, the evolution of the two-person hand presses into the single-user platen presses named for George Phineas Gordon of Salem, N.H. The advantage of the platen press was that it used a foot pedal, and thus could be operated by one person, unlike the older hand presses which required two operators. The platen presses were the workhorses of the 1800s and early 1900s, and many are still in use. 

Frank’s Highway to Hell

Published July 23, 2021

What the Hell? Frank talks about color scanners and emphasizes the granddaddy of them all, the venerable Hell Scanner, named for Dr. Rudolf Hell. Their use in the 1960s made color common in the printing industry, and trained scanner operators could pull in a decent salary. Soon, more than 10 companies had scanners and prices dropped so that every designer could have one. Now scanners are built into most desktop printers.

Frank Gets the Munchies

Published July 16, 2021

There has been a noticeable uptick in printing directly on food, such as cookies, cakes, and other comestibles. He still has his archival carton of printed (and deteriorating) Pringles from the 1990s, but with inkjet, you can print on anything—even foods.

Frank Would Like a Word

Published July 2, 2021

Frank learned that the Oxford University Press printing arm is closing after hundreds of years. He talks about their best known product, the Oxford English Dictionary, a monumental work that traced the derivation and first usage of every word in the English language. It took 30 years to produce the first volume—A and B. Simon Winchester’s “The Professor and the Madman” is an excellent book about the creation of the OED.

Frank Goes Postal

Published June 25, 2021

Frank bemoans the increases in first class postage and the proposal for 58 cent stamps. He goes back in time to the venerable Addressograph mailing machine that ushered in the era of mass mailings, especially catalogs. From the telephone, to the modem, to the Internet, we have changed how we communicate with each other—and mail has been the loser.

Frank Has Spirit (Duplicators)

Published June 11, 2021

Frank discovers an article that says that Jeff Bezos of Amazon prefers multi-page memos over Powerpoint and this prompts a discussion of office printing. Along the way, we are reminded of paper memos and phone call slips, some printed with Mimeographs, Dittos, Gestetners, and Xerox copiers. Today, almost everyone has a printer/scanner a few steps away.

Frank’s Enablers

Published June 4, 2021

A recent study shows that one-third of all newspaper subscriptions are for digital versions and that this could reach 100% between 2024 and 2027. But for digital subscriptions to be worthwhile, there needs to be an easy way to read them. Frank takes us on a quick tour of these digital enablers and how they evolved—from the Apple Newton, to the Powerbook, to the MacBook Air, and then to the iPhone and iPad.

Frank Takes Pictures

Published May 28, 2021

Photography and printing have always had a symbiotic relationship. Frank shows off the Museum of Printing’s collection of antique (and some not so antique) cameras. The challenge after the advent of photography was how to get photographs into a form that could be printed—hence the halftone and, eventually, scanners. Now images are digital from the start, since everyone has a camera with them and there is a glut of images.

Frank’s Paper Chase

Published May 21, 2021

Frank waxes nostalgic about the Compugraphic CompuWriter phototypesetter and how it helped expand the newspaper market. Working for Compugraphic at the time, Frank’s first book was all about how to start a profitable newspaper—with a CompuWriter that made typesetting easy. But now newspapers are trading paper for pixels and the traditional paper is sadly going away.

The Fabric of Frank’s Life

Published May 14, 2021

Frank excitedly recommends a new book called “The Fabric of Civilization” by Virginia Postrel. He learns that the words “text” and “textile” some from the same root, and the “Stone Age” is misnamed. He ties it all together with a letterpress press used by the Folly Cove Designers to print fabric.

Frank’s Tale of Two Books

Published May 7, 2021

Frank shows us two beautiful case-bound books. Both are histories of the Weyerhaeuser Paper Company produced in 1999. One was printed with offset lithography and the other with Xeikon toner-based printing at RIT using the same PDF file—and if not for a production note on the cover of the digital version, you’d never know it wasn’t offset. In the decade that followed Weyerhaeuser got out of the paper business and Xeikon flourished in digital printing.

Yes, We Have No Bodoni

Published April 30, 2021

Frank takes us on a quick tour of the only type specimen book done by type designer Giambatista Bodoni in his lifetime. Dedicated to Napoleon, it presents the “Our Father” prayer in 97 languages. The 1806 folio-sized book is now in the Romano Library at the Museum of Printing, as are the research materials that Valerie Lester drew upon for her definitive biography of Bodoni.

Frank Is on a Scroll

Published April 23, 2021

Frank pontificates about how we will see and interact with information as we move into the future. He goes from ancient scrolls, to the book, to the screen. How will information be presented in the future—and is there a future for text in the electronic age? 

Remembering Chuck Geschke, Co-Founder of Adobe Systems

Published April 19, 2021

Frank Romano looks back at the life of Charles “Chuck” Geshke, co-founder of Adobe, who passed away last Friday.

Frank on Display

Published April 16, 2021

Frank opines about museums that once had printing exhibitions and those that have them now, and it's a sad fact that major museums around the world no longer have printing on display. There are now specialized museums that emphasize printing—but they all have the same problems with space and public interest.

Frank Texts

Published April 9, 2021

Frank looks at vintage textbooks for printing and reviews how technology has changed graphic arts education. Early books covered letterpress but the change to offset and then digital complicated the teaching of print. Schools that are still teaching print are grappling with the problem of what specific digital equipment to teach, as there is no standardization the way there was with letterpress and offset. Frank also wonders who will run the printing devices of the future. 

Frank and the Ironic Praise of Scribes

Published March 26, 2021

Frank talks about Johannes Trithemius, the Abbot of Sponheim, Germany. His monastery had a large scriptorium of monks scribbling their way to Heaven hand-copying manuscripts. He wrote a book in 1516, some years after the advent of printing, called “In Praise of Scribes” in which he extolled the glory of handwritten books and urged monks not to give up the practice. But—in a great moment of historical irony—in order to get the book published in the quantities he needed, he had it printed. 

Frank Talk with Print Historian and Collector Patrick Goossens

Published March 19, 2021

Frank found a video from a past trip to Antwerp, Belgium, where he interviewed Patrick Goossens, noted print historian and collector. Goossens’ 2,500-square meter facility holds a vast collection of ancient printing equipment which is unequalled in the world. 

Just Frank’s Type

Published March 12, 2021

Frank takes us on a whirlwind tour of the history of photographic typesetting. Starting with the 1949 Fotosetter and progressing through ATF, Compugraphic, Linotype, Itek, and ending with the laser-based Linotronic. By the mid 1990s, computer-to-plate and digital color printing negated the need for separate typesetting machines.

Frank Strikes Out

Published March 5, 2021

Frank shows rare newspapers produced during the 1923 New York City pressmen’s strike. There were 22 daily newspapers and they combined to print a morning and evening paper. The New York Times only printed a single page—and only for archival purposes (not distribution), as they were “the newspaper of record.” Newspaper strikes increased in frequency in the 1960s, usually involving new typesetting technologies.

Frank Says, “PS, I Love You”

Published February 26, 2021

Frank describes the advent of PostScript fonts with the Apple Laserwriter 1 and the Linotype Linotronic 300 photo imagesetter. PostScript allowed jobs to be typeset in PageMaker, proofed on a Laserwriter, and then output on film on a Linotronic. P.S.: Adobe has announced that support for authoring PostScript Type 1 fonts will be discontinued in 2023—although it’s not all that clear what exactly is being discontinued.

Frank’s “A Tale of Two Types”

Published February 19, 2021

Frank tells a tale of two types: the sans serif font called Arial (let’s be honest, Helvetica, really) and the serif font called Times (New) Roman. It is said that Times will cut your ink use when printing. Frank, of course, investigates further, and what follows is a twisting tale of mistaken point sizes and shady serifs.

Frank Takes Issue with Newspapers

Published February 12, 2021

Frank waxes nostalgic about newspaper issues from the past. He relates how many newspapers have cut back on the number of issues per week that are printed—and points out that we will someday no longer have iconic front pages announcing major events, such as the sinking of the Titanic or the death of JFK. He shows a copy of the NY Times from the day he was born, proving that print had been invented by then.

Frank Sees Little Justification in Early Newspaper Typesetting

Published February 5, 2021

Frank uses the retirement of a former Linotype operator at the New York Times as a jumping off point to trace the evolution of newspaper typesetting, from the advent of paper tape, to computerized hyphenation and justification (H&J)—and to the great New York City newspaper strike.

Frank Catches Up On Some Reading

Published January 29, 2021

Frank reviews “The Creation of the Media” by Paul Starr. His long, detailed, occasionally ponderous, but completely fascinating book touches on technology, literacy, capitalism, and other factors to ultimately explore what led to the news media that we understand today. The book was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

Frank Provides a Backdrop for Book Sales

Published January 22, 2021

Frank comments on reports that 2020 was a great year for book publishing. Book sales were up, and some of them may even have been read. More often than not, Frank muses, they were bought to use as backdrops for Zoom calls.

Frank Catalogs Catalogs

Published January 15, 2021

IKEA announced that they will no longer print their catalog, so Frank takes a nostalgic look back at the history of mail order catalogs, from 1872 and the first Montgomery Ward catalog, to Sears, to JC Penney, to IKEA. While there are still printed catalogs, most marketing is online these days.

Frank Gets Lost in the Good Book

Published January 8, 2021

Here we get up close and personal with the Gutenberg Bible. Frank becomes part of the book and takes us on a walking tour of a typical page from the 1455 masterpiece. He comments on the type, layout, and illustrative material. 

Frank Romano Remembers John Peterson

Published January 5, 2021

John Peterson, a major figure in the typesetting industry, passed away last year. Frank Romano offers a remembrance.  

Frank to the Future

Published December 18, 2020

In this episode we meet “Future Frank,” a hologram from the year 2100 that reports on what life and technology are going to be like over our next 80 years. We get a glimpse of our future, but maybe we don’t want to know. (Hint: Start to look into printing food.)

Frank Goes In Search of The Lost World of Typesetting Services

Published December 11, 2020

The Museum of Printing has one of the largest collections of specimen books from typesetting services, a business classification distinct from type foundries. At their peak around 1990, there were more than 4,000 typesetting services in the U.S. They set type for ad agencies, book and magazine publishers, and graphic designers. When word processing came along, these businesses lost the income from keyboarding, and desktop publishing finally did away with this once-vibrant industry.

Frank Reads the Fine Print

Published December 4, 2020

Frank discovered these tiny editions of the Boston Herald that were printed in the mid-1940s. These were special editions that were reduced in size photographically for shipment overseas to members of the armed services during WWII to give them a slice of home—primarily for the headlines as the text ended up about four points. These editions were sponsored by the Jordan Marsh department store and printed using offset lithography at a time when letterpress was the dominant printing technology.

Franks Cabinet of Wonders

Published November 20, 2020

Frank showcases some items in an eclectic display case in the library at the Museum of Printing. Not fitting in anywhere else in the museum, these items range from an Indigo commemorative stamp issued in Israel; to the font for the first phototypesetter to set Chinese; to the pins that Boston Globe Newsboys wore; to a set of rescue doorknobs from the Printing Crafts Building in New York City.

Frank’s Rise and Fall of the Paper-Based Office

Published November 13, 2020

Frank talks about office communication and shows some of the vintage machines that helped offices run on paper. There was the Mimeograph, Gestetner, and Ditto machines. He then shows a clip from a speech he gave at the XPLOR event in 1993 that predicted today’s work-at-home world, the decline of the office per se, and perhaps the decline of the need for paper.

The Digital Trade Printer: A New Approach to an Old Idea

Published November 11, 2020

Harvard Pinnacle Group in Waltham, Mass., is a digital trade printer. Owner Greg Wallace started the company as a Macintosh training center, and his need for training materials moved him into printing. The company was born digital and has stayed digital.

The Elephant in the (Bath)room?

Published November 6, 2020

From Egyptian papyrus, to today’s handmade papers, to paper made from stone and hemp, Frank looks at the evolution of writing and paper—as well as one recent paper made from an…unusual but all-too-common material.

Frank’s Reading Rainbow

Published October 30, 2020

Frank reviews two books this week. The first is “A Place for Everything—The Curious History of Alphabetical Order” by Judith Flanders, which provides an interesting look at how the alphabet evolved. The second is the more technical “Printing-Process Control and Standardization” by RIT’s Robert Chung, whose students have become the "apostles of color" around the world. Every printer should have a copy.

Frank Plays with the Stones

Published October 23, 2020

Color printing began with Alois Senefelder, who developed the process we now know as lithography, printing using a variety of limestone. Before there was process color with offset lithography, there was chromolithography, color printing using litho stones which overlaid different colors. Frank provides a short history of chromolithography, Louis Prang, its most famous practitioner, and shows some beautiful samples of this colorful printing art produced from 1900 to 1910. After 1910, CMYK inks were formulated and offset began the path to color printing.

Frank Turns the Rules

Published October 16, 2020

Frank shows some newspapers with large, black inter-column rule lines. This was called “turning the rules” and was used to indicate mourning when a president or some other prominent personality died. The practice continued until the Kennedy era.

All the News That’s Fit for Someone Else to Print

Published October 9, 2020

Frank uses a giant 1880s Hoe rotary flatbed press—the machine that revolutionized the printing industry—as a jumping-off point to talk about how newspapers are getting out of their own printing. As newspaper circulation has gone down, newspapers can’t afford their own production, so newspaper printing—and often of rival newspapers—is being consolidated in a single production facility.

Frank's Training Video

Published October 2, 2020

Frank holds his version of the Holy Grail of newspapers, one of the rarest items you can find in the printing industry: an issue of “The Transcontinental.” This was a newspaper printed on one of the first passenger trains to go from Boston to San Francisco in 1870. It was typeset in the baggage car and was printed on a Gordon platen press installed on the train. Content for the 12 editions was essentially a travelog, as the train stopped in various cities during its cross-country journey. The issue Frank has was printed at the summit of the Sierra Nevadas.

Frank Gets Framed

Published September 25, 2020

Last week it was hardware, this week’s it’s software. A graphic designer donated some software to the Museum of Printing, and reviewing it was like a trip back in time. Extensis Suitcase? Adobe Type Manager? And then there was FrameMaker, the donated version of which dates back to circa 1995. Installed from 11 floppy disks (!) and coming with a two-inch-thick user manual and all kinds of other printed documentation, FrameMaker was the standard for the production of structured documents like manuals. FrameMaker was later acquired by Adobe and is still around.

Frank Goes Down Read-Only Memory Lane

Published September 18, 2020

The Museum of Printing gets tons of donations, and Frank shows some recent computer hardware equipment that the Museum recently acquired. There were three smaller-than-laptop computers and a host of plugs, cables, connectors, and converters to get you from SCSI to USB to even FireWire (if you need a cable, give him a call). A ZIP drive and even a CD-ROM unit were included.

Frank’s Mysteries at the Print Museum: Print and the Pandemic

Published September 11, 2020

Why did the Ludlow Typograph Company see an 800% increase in sales to printing companies in 1919, right in the middle of the Spanish Flu pandemic? While researching a book on the history of the Ludlow Typograph, Frank gains some insight into the 1918–1920 influenza pandemic and connects the dots between that pandemic and the printing industry.

Frank Visits Waltham’s HPGprint

Published September 4, 2020

Frank visits Greg Wallace at HPGprint in Waltham, Mass. HPGprint is a trade printer, a descendent of the “gang” printers of the past, and specializes in “value-added” printing, such as gold and silver, spot UV, etc. HPGprint is all digital and also acts as a dealer or reseller for equipment. Take a look.

Frank's Flashback: 1995

Published August 28, 2020

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of what was a watershed year for the printing industry. 1995 was the year that the industry was at its peak (65,000 commercial printing establishments!), but the advent of the first Web browser and the maturation of the Acrobat PDF combined in that year to change the very nature of communication. Meanwhile, a paper shortage—which led to the Paperwork Reduction Act—hastened a switch to electronic media, especially among government agencies.

Frank’s Back to the Future

Published August 21, 2020

Frank was perusing an issue of “Inland Printer” from June, 1973, and discovered an article that he had written. In it, he summarized many of the typesetting trends that were taking place at the time as hot metal was transitioning to phototypesetting. Many of the technologies emerging at that time would play increased roles in the printing industry—and lay the groundwork for today.

Frank’s Mysteries at the Print Museum

Published August 14, 2020

While poking around the Museum of Printing’s archive of more than 5,000 Linotype Company font designs, Frank discovered that they had once created a font for Cree, the only Native American language for which there was a Linotype font. Why Cree? The search for the answer takes Frank back to World War II and the US military’s use of Native American “code talkers” to convey classified military information.

Frank’s Summer of 68

Published August 7, 2020

When PIA and SGIA merged to form PUA, they donated a huge carton of memorabilia to The Museum of Printing. One of the items was the show directory for PRINT 68 (hardbound! signed!). So as we enter the era of the virtual trade show, Frank waxes nostalgic about PRINT 68, the first major in-person printing show of the modern era.

Frank Turns Over an Old Leaf

Published July 31, 2020

Frank shows several examples of print that have survived the centuries. Books, newspapers, and other documents from 1300, 1350, 1493, 1781, and 1901 show how print has endured and is still accessible and readable after 700 years—or more. Will today’s digital files be as accessible and readable in the future?

Frank Is Looking for Work in All the Wrong Places

Published July 24, 2020

Frank came across an article about the fastest shrinking jobs in the U.S. for each state, and he speculates on the causes for the loss of those jobs. Telemarketers in Colorado, Missouri, and South Dakota? Motorboat operators in Florida? Telephone operators in Illinois, Michigan, and Utah? Word processors and typists in Mississippi and North Carolina? Private detectives in New Mexico? Fortunately “WTT commentator” was not on the list.

Frank Digests Edible Paper

Published July 17, 2020

Frank tries out his new stand up (or perhaps sit down) routine as he tries to digest the concept of Edible Notepads—a Japanese company has introduced pads of paper that can be eaten. This will not save trees as they now become a food group. Frank then riffs on the potential for other kinds of edible office supplies.

It’s All About the Benjamins

Published July 10, 2020

In the course of Frank’s travels across America, he has tried to seek out every statue of and monument to Benjamin Franklin. Take your mind off the pandemic for a while and watch his “home movie” of Franklin memorials. More than once, he had to ask someone “Where’s the Ben Franklin statue?”

Frank and Fitzgerald

Published June 26, 2020

Frank discovered a book about the WWII publishing program for the military called “The Best Read Army in the World” which discusses how F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby”—which upon its release got mixed reviews and sold poorly—became a beloved classic. Frank segues into a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to a cousin written during the 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic. Somehow it’s all related.

Frank Gets Lost in the Good Book

Published June 19, 2020

Frank previews an upcoming Museum of Printing exhibit showcasing original leaves from famous Bibles, including every Bible printed in Colonial America. The King James became the best known English translation—even if a printer’s error changed one of the Commandments to read “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The first Bibles printed in America were not in English—they were in Algonquin.

Just Frank’s Type

Published June 12, 2020

Frank discusses an old report he wrote in the 1980s called “The Evolving Markets for Type,” about changes in the typesetting industry. Typesetting used to involve dedicated typesetting companies setting metal type and delivering it to printers. Phototypesetting then allowed type buyers to do their own typesetting, and ultimately desktop publishing finished wiping out what had been an $8 billion typesetting marketplace. Technology changes everything.

Frank’s Alphabet Soup

Published June 5, 2020

This episode wins the award for most acronyms used at one time. Frank traces the evolution of American printing associations from UTA to GATF to PIA, from NPEA to NPES to APT, from SPA to SGIA to PUA. WHEW! (That’s not an acronym.)

Frank Catches Up On His Reading

Published May 29, 2020

Frank has lots of free time on his hands nowadays and is getting caught up on his reading. This week, he reviews two books. “Death of a Typographer” by Nick Gadd is a murder mystery with loads of typographic clues and gags. “Merg: The TRUE story of a WWII soldier's selfless act of valor and sacrifice that one town never forgot” by Peter Lion is the story of Ottmar Mergenthaler’s grandson George Mergenthaler, who joined the US Army during World War II, was sent to Luxembourg, and was ultimately killed by the Nazis.

Poll Position

Published May 22, 2020

Frank reviews a new book “This is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot” by Alicia Yin Cheng, timely because of the current talk about mail-in voting and support for the postal system. Frank uses examples from the book to show how printed ballots evolved as printing technology changed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Small Wonders

Published May 15, 2020

Since the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass., is, at present, closed to visitors, Frank is showcasing some highlights of the Museum’s collection. This week, Frank explores the Museum’s collection of miniature books including what Frank contends is the smallest book in the world. Smaller than a Tic Tac, it was bought at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany.

All the News That’s Fit to Not Print

Published May 8, 2020

Frank comes to praise newspapers, not to bury them. Starting with the front page of a 1923 New York City newspaper—a time when there were more than 20 newspapers in NYC alone—he comments on the decline in newspaper circulation and readership, which started around 1954 with the popularity of television. The erosion of printed newspapers accelerated around the year 2000 with the massive growth of the Internet. But what is really sad about the decline is newspapers is that it really marks a decline in local journalism.