Within the Brutalist architecture of the Rochester Institute of Technology campus lies an immersive library of graphic communication. Visitors to the Cary Graphic Arts Collection often get inky as they experience, hands-on, the history of printing on the Collection’s 19 printing presses.
Far from a dusty museum with a look-but-don’t-touch policy, the Cary Collection hums with activity as curators demonstrate printing techniques on the presses, students examine rare artifacts, artists-in-residence create new works, and scholars from around the world conduct research.
The library’s Kelmscott/Goudy Albion iron hand press was used in 1896 by English designer William Morris to print The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which is considered one of the most beautiful books ever produced. The newest addition, dubbed the “Uncommon Press,” is an authentic reproduction of an 18th-century wooden common press that was built by students at RIT.
Among the more unusual objects are a book woven entirely in thread using an automated loom that prefigured the computer, every comic book published in April of 1956, and a print created from a direct impression of an actual bat wing.
Surrounding the presses is a diverse array of artifacts like early manuscripts, artists’ books, posters, and shopping bags. Since its founding in 1969, the Cary Collection has continued to host unique public exhibitions, free lectures, and other programming throughout the year.