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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia releases Presswork: A Documentary

By Robin Goldstein

university of virginia uvaPresswork: A Documentary describes the scope of RBS’s “Presswork” program—charting how the project began with RBS’s commissioning of a wooden rolling press, modeled and designed after diagrams published in Denis Diderot’s famous Encyclopédie (of which UVA owns a unique copy, annotated by Diderot himself).

We know of no other university, whether in the U.S. or farther afield, that has two facsimile 18th-century period presses positioned side by side, allowing faculty, students, and visitors to compare, in a hands-on research setting, the intaglio and letterpress technologies that were necessary for producing the illustrated books that Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries read.

As the documentary illustrates, these presses were essential for interpreting how early modern and Enlightenment-era printers worked, how books and prints were fashioned, and how those processes influenced the culture of learning that fostered the growth of libraries and universities.


Presswork, a new, public-facing program, seeks to bridge that divide, by connecting UVA’s experts in the history of printing with faculty, students, and members of the broader community. Established in 2018 through a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, an initiative of the UVA Alumni Association, Presswork provides custom teaching labs for UVA courses and visiting groups, while training UVA undergraduate and graduate students in the technologies of printing through its RBS-UVA Presswork Fellowship Program. After training in the Presswork program, students teach class sessions with senior printers. Presswork also hosts events, such as open houses, for the local community. The program is meant to spark new conversations, projects, and research on Grounds and in the local community.

About Rare Book School

Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, is a non-profit institute that engages in advocacy, education, and outreach for the study, care, and uses of written, printed, and born-digital materials. Each year, the School offers continuing education opportunities for adult students to study with leading scholars and professionals in the fields of bibliography, librarianship, book history, manuscript studies, and the digital humanities. The School’s courses run at UVA and at the Morgan Library and Museum; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library; the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library; the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Lillian Goldman Law Library, and Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University; the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania; the Library Company of Philadelphia; the Free Library of Philadelphia; Amherst College; Indiana University Bloomington; the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library; the Harvard-Yenching Library, and the Houghton Library at Harvard University.

augusta free press
augusta free press