THE HOUSE OF THE GOOD PRESS
Work on the Printing School of Alba building, which will be able to house about one hundred people, is close to completion [July 1921]. We shall therefore dedicate this issue to call your attention to the importance and the necessity of the Good Press apostolate, the purpose of the new house, and the conditions for people to be accepted.
God's work. The house of the Printing School of Alba
Work is advancing quickly. The ground floor is almost finished; the first floor too is at a satisfactory stage; the second and third floors are slowly taking shape. As work gradually proceeds the outline of the master plan followed becomes more and more clear. We asked for a solid building; and this is solid indeed. We asked for a rational and modern division of the floor area, ease of communication between sector areas, separation of the various departments, ease of surveillance over the students, sanitation and light. Anyone who visits the site and the areas for the members will be immediately convinced that, if perfection is not one hundred per cent, the advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages.
What merits particular consideration is that this is, above all, the house for the spread of the Gospel, it is a modern mission, it is like a church from which must shine the light of truth. Truth is the basic nourishment of understanding, a human being's prime faculty: "ut luceat omnibus".1 The new house must give an appearance of mild severity and calm recollection; ornamentation must be sparse but beautiful, such that it raises the heart on high, to the heights. Saint Paul is the protector, and Saint Paul is such a figure of holiness, doctrine and zeal that he shines out over the centuries like a star of incomparable beauty.
When you set foot in this house banish any thought that you are entering a factory, a workshop or an office. [Here] you experience being overtaken by a supernatural spirit; it is quite natural for everyone to take off their hat, remain silent or speak in whispers. The machines are pulpits, the halls are churches, the workers are preachers; this is the new and extraordinary meaning that things take on. Churches, too, are built with bricks, but the layout, the appearance, and shape all show that you are not standing in front of an ordinary house but in front of the house of God.
Those arriving at the new house (at present there is a makeshift door on the ground floor) come face to face with a staircase proportionate to the needs of the house. On the right is the first machine room where there are four small printing machines lined up. Each prints a sheet 50x70 [cm].
This leads on to a larger hall, 10 meters long and 20 meters wide. It is divided into two parts, which allows the printers an access passageway of one meter and a half.
The rest of the machines are laid out in two rows on both sides of the passageway. On the right are an Export 70x100 and three Optimas 80x115. Lined up on the left are a Phœnix, 35x50; an Ideale 28x40; an Optima 70x100; and a further three Optimas 90x130.
Retracing one's steps, on the left of the staircase, is the bookbinding hall. Here you find a gilt-edging machine; a paper cutting machine; a binding machine; a folder; two wirestitch staplers; a cardboard cutter, a press, and so on.
We can now move to the first floor, which is reserved for typesetting. On the right are two rooms: the first is the parlor for relatives to visit the students and for expediting matters of little consequence; the second acts as an editorial office for both the periodicals and for proof reading.
Further along is the large typesetting hall; two rows of columns divide it into two parts, leaving a spacious passageway in the middle.
On the right is a Model 15 Linotype. The unoccupied space is for a Monotype that will arrive from London early next September. On the left are two Linotypes: one a Model L, the other a Model 4. Proceeding onwards we find on the right a department reserved for social issue periodicals, a second for pamphlets, a third for commercial-type jobs, and a fourth for Gazzetta d'Alba and its various editions. On the left, instead, the first and second departments are for books, the third for miscellaneous jobs, and the fourth for parish bulletins.
On the same floor, also at the side of the staircase, is the management staff; then there are wash rooms, bathrooms...
The Linotype is an American machine that does the work of six hand compositors. It is a delicate but quite complex machine. You grasp this immediately when you consider that although it is not a large machine it has about nine thousand parts. Its role is to cast complete lines (a line of type, hence the name). Molten lead is squirted into a line of brass matrices that are assembled by the operator by way of a number of ingenious devices. It is a marvelous machine and shows just how far mechanism has come. It is used mostly in daily newspaper offices. Those few who are skilled operators are held in great esteem and earn a lot of money. The Printing School of Alba has three of these machines which, today, cost 300,000 lire: a Model 15, a Model L and a Model 4. The operators are six students; there are two for each machine.
The Monotype is like the latest discovery in typesetting. It differs from the Linotype in that it forms characters one by one (mono, one). This machine requires two operators: one at the keyboard and one at the caster. It too is of foreign extraction, and unfortunately Italy has to buy it at a very high cost, more so now that the exchange rate is so high. Nonetheless, figures show that Italy has imported about a hundred of them. The big printing plants find they bring considerable advantages, one being the low labor cost and another the range of character faces it provides.
Since the Printing School of Alba wants its students to be instructed in the whole art [of printing], and the Good Press to have the best means available (at least on a par with those of the bad press) it has acquired a Monotype. It is on its way from London and, God willing, will be working by mid-September. It costs L. 100,000.
Printing machines. There are at present fifteen in use in the Printing School of Alba: a Phœnix, which is German-made, very powerful, easy to work, and gives good results. An Ideale, which is Italian-made, has a high production rate, small format, for ordinary jobs and commercial use. Then there are ten other same-type machines. These are Nebiolo (Augusta) Optimas from Turin of various print size formats: three can print a 50x70 cm. sheet of paper; one a 70x100 cm. sheet; three an 80x115 cm. sheet; and three a 90x130 cm. sheet. The first three are very elegant, real jewels; the last three weigh 100 quintals each, are very powerful and run on forced coasters. Their movement is solemn, majestic almost; machines that are precise and give wonderful results. The middle three share the elegance and strength of the previous ones and are mostly used in the printing of medium size jobs. Then there are three other machines, which are quite dissimilar: a Rapida De Luxe, which deserves the name given it and has a paper size of 50x70 cm. The bed moves on tracks back and forth on a cushion of oil. Then there is an Export, which although not as strong, could quite easily compare with the Optimas. Lastly, there is a Marinoni, which is suitable for printing wall posters and cheap jobs because while the other machines print pages by way of a cylindrical process this one prints pages pressed flat up against the type.
The youngsters in the Printing School move from one machine to the other and after the theory they learn how to manage them. The machines require little effort since each is equipped with its own motor, which insures smooth running.
These machines have a commercial value altogether of L. 500,000.
The folder, as the name implies, folds newspapers and 16-page signatures. It comes equipped with a stapling device on the third fold.
The binder ribbon stitches and binds books, ledgers and pamphlets. Its output is exceptional.
Then there are the other machines in the bookbinding department: three wire-stitching staplers, two book-sewing machines, a cardboard cutter, three paper cutters, a high pressure lying press, and so on.
This group of machines represents a capital of L. 80,000, and even more, because these machines are brand names, and are new or in mint condition.
The Printing School of Alba could not have borne such heavy expenses at present, and it owes everything to Divine Providence which, in this case, made use of Benevello, the best of the towns in the diocese, and of its Dean, already revered in age but yet a youth when it comes to ideas, our own beloved Cav. Don Brovia Luigi.
Reflections on machinery
Machines are matter and, as such, should hold no attraction for the Christian, were it not for the fact that a human being is not all spirit. But this matter which constitutes the machines is the work of God, and it was utilized by the marvelous genius of humans to whom God had entrusted it.
These marvelous machines are cherished and revered just as the pulpit is cherished and revered by the sacred orator.
In his letter to the Romans, that masterpiece of wisdom and charity held aloft in view of the ages, Paul exclaims: "Faith [comes] from hearing and from hearing the Gospel... How beautiful are the feet of those who preach peace, who preach happiness!"2
How beautiful are the machines destined for those who preach the good news. In front of his machine the Apostle of the Good Press experiences something more than did Saint Francis when there flowed from his soul his hymn to Brother Sun. The apostle's thought passes into the machine, takes shape on a sheet of paper which takes on an almost living form, because it is the bearer of eternal truths, of spiritual nourishment that will nurture countless readers: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."3 Divine Wisdom has nourished the heart and soul of the apostle by means of God's word, which the apostle has meditated on in the Holy Scriptures. This word passes from his inner self and begins to take shape; it evolves, emerges and exits with a paper body by way of the melting pot, spring coils, cog wheels, and the flatbed of a machine; it will become the thought of other persons; it will sail the seas and scale the mountains; it will make one of a kind the feelings and the ideas of two persons who have never seen each other, the writer and the reader; Christian the writer, Christian the reader. God's Truth lights up the world, the kingdom of Jesus Christ acquires new minds, new spirits, and new hearts.
The missionary of the Good Press loves his machine. He wants it to be beautiful and modern but also very fast, so fast as to overtake and pass the bad press; he loves this little church of his, and he keeps it clean and tidy; he dreams of it always in motion, [so as] to erupt4 the good word. "I should like to die while I am preaching in the pulpit" a priest said, one of those who are apostles! And so it was: he died while preaching on the praises of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.
I should always like to be found on the platform of my machine.
The saints are portrayed holding in their hands the instruments, symbols or emblems of their sanctification. The apostle of the press says, "I should like to be portrayed with my pen and ink bottle, or standing upright at my machine which is operating at top speed."
Indeed, how else would we be able to portray on canvas the conviction of that great mind that was Tertullian's: "The time will come when the ink of writers will be worth as much as the blood of martyrs."
The martyrs display the sword, the pyre, the grill, the cross, the animals...
And how do many Saints present themselves to us?
Saint Paul is portrayed holding the book of his epistles in his hand; Saint Thomas [Aquinas] is holding a pen; Dominic Savio is carrying paper in his right hand; the Evangelists are portrayed in the act of setting down on parchment what the Spirit of truth was inspiring them; Saint Francis de Sales has at his side the works that saw him declared a Doctor of the devout life; Saint Gregory the Great is portrayed in the act of composing his Moralia; Saint John Berkmans clasps to his breast the book of the Rule on which he had meditated at length.
1 * Mt 5:15: “so that it gives light to all.”
2 * Cf. Rom 10:15-17.
3 * Mt 4:4.
4 * "To erupt the good word" is the literal translation of the Latin verse "Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum" (Ps 44:1 Vulgate): "My heart overflows with a goodly theme..." [Ps 45:1].