Moveable Type Printing Press

Finally!  We get some help.  Some folks thought it was nuts to keep writing this stuff out and created a template by carving into a wood block.   This actually continued to serve well for illustrations but not for the text.  Remember all the rubbing when you had to do your first linoleum block in school?  Surely there must be another way!  Introducing the – the Moveable Type Printing Press!

Clip about scene
From 1982 Spaceship Earth Guide

Printing Press scene from Spaceship Earth that shows 2 men working the printing press and Gutenburg in front examining the printed pages

Here are some concept art pieces for this scene by Claudio Mazzoli.

Concept art illustration of printing press scene showing printers at the press

Concept art illustration that shows close up of printer

Instead of grueling copying and rubbing we have we now have the printing press.  It works like this:

Moveable Type

Letters are produced separately, then arranged into an infinite number of new combinations and can be reused (thus creating a font)*.  Eureka!  This process of casting the letters was not invented by Gutenberg, it was just applied to this process.

*Note that a study of the Gutenberg bible shows that the same letters were not reused through out.

large wooden tray (letter case) as part of the print scene

In the this large wooden tray (letter case), the different letters are kept organized (lowercase/uppercase) etc.   The straight edge on the table in front of this tray is a composing stick that is used to arrange the letters.  The composing stick was left there by a composer who upgraded his use of fonts in the future and leaves this era.

large wooden tray (letter case) shows original scene had animatronic sitting at the tray

The composer reads from the text of a handwritten version of the text to be printed, then arranges the letters on the stick till one line is complete.  This is repeated until the full page of letters is ready and are loaded into a frame.  The frame is then loaded onto the bed of the press and ink is applied (1).

The Press

There are two parts to the press itself.  The first is the carriage that holds the bed. The press used is a screw press, the same used from winemaking.  The carriage has dampened paper placed above the frame of letters.  The carriage is slid into the press.  The handle of the press swings from left to right and back at 90 degrees so that a wood or metal plate could press the paper onto the ink.

Spaceship Earth scene showing two workers at the press

Note the hand prints of ink on the sides of the press.  Remarkable detail for the print process including all the pages hung up to dry.

The Gutenberg Bible

This scene’s main character is Gutenberg seen examining a page of the Bible that has been printed.  This sheet is a replication from an actual original Gutenberg Bible in the Huntington Library collection.  There were approximately 180 copies made and about 50 can be accounted for (2).  One of them is at Harvard where I work!

Spaceship Earth close up for Gutenberg animatronic studying Gutenberg Bible page

An original paper Bible cost about 20 gulden – almost what a master craftsman would make in a year or about 1/4 the cost of a stone built house (2)!


The previous iteration of the ride showed the printed pages bundled together in stacks to be bound.   In the current version they are already bound – an art in and of itself.

bundles of pages appear on the ground in the previous scene


Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The printer who is pushing/pulling the tray is said to also be the Andrew Jackson from the Hall of Presidents (3).


Johannes Gutenberg is said to also be the James Buchanan from the Hall of Presidents (3).

han        BUCHANAN

The pressman is said to also be the Andrew Carnegie from American Adventure (3).

PPPRINT      carnegie

February 15, 2008 – current
Narrated by Judy Dench

In 1450, Gutenberg invents the movable type printing press. Now knowledge can travel as fast as these new books, and travel they do.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007
Narrated by Jeremy Irons

Finally, from the depths of the Dark Ages came the Age of Enlightenment: the Renaissance. And with this era, came a powerful new invention: the moveable type printing press.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994
Narrated by Walter Cronkite

The dawn of the Renaissance brings a wondrous new machine, the printing press. Now books and authors flourish as never before.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986
Narrated by Larry Dobkin

At last, a new dawn emerges. The dawn of the Renaissance-and a wondrous machine performs as a thousand scribes. Now for all: the printed word.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

We lit the walls with printed words, filled them with ideas that taught – informed – inspired. Some old – some new – ideas to share and spread to far and distant shores.

  2. Pettegree, A. (2010). The Book in the Renaissance. New Haven and London, Yale University Press