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Courtesy photo/Brattleboro Reformer

The old Brattleboro Reformer print shop in the heyday of letterpress printing.

Town and Village

Printing, publishing exhibit opens at Brooks Library

The Brattleboro Words Project is a collaborative effort by five local non-profit organizations — Marlboro College, Brooks Memorial Library, the Brattleboro Literary Festival, the Brattleboro Historical Society and Write Action — to tell the story of the region’s rich writing, printing and publishing history through exhibits, a published book, and creation of the Brattleboro Words Trail that will map this rich but undersung history for visitors and natives alike. For more information about the Project, visit brattleborowords.org.

BRATTLEBORO—Brattleboro’s publishing and printing companies have been recognized internationally for the high quality of their work. In the 1950s and 1960s, about 10 percent of the town’s population was employed in that industry, the highest per capita rate in the nation.

A new exhibit illuminates this history; “Brattleboro’s Printing and Publishing Heyday — 1900-1970” opens on Wednesday, May 9, at 7 p.m., at Brooks Memorial Library in downtown Brattleboro with a Q&A and refreshments.

The exhibit, which features rare images, books and ephemera, highlights some of the major printers and publishers of that era including the Vermont Printing Company, Brattleboro Reformer, E.L. Hildreth Company, The Stephen Daye Press, The Stephen Greene Press, and The Book Press, as well as local book designers.

The exhibit is curated by Stephanie Greene, the daughter of Stephen Greene, of the Stephen Greene Press, Bill Soucy, consultant to the Museum of Print and a printer for 50 years, and Mary Ide, archivist and historian.

“Brattleboro has always been a book town,” said co-curator Stephanie Greene. “From Smead’s and Fessenden’s era in the late 1700s, when local paper mills abounded, to the desktop revolution that continues today, the writing, making, and selling of printed material has always had an important place in the economics and zeitgeist of the town.”

The two month-long exhibit is the second in a series of exhibits on the region’s vibrant printing and publishing industry, brought to the public by “People, Places and the History of Words in Brattleboro, Vermont,” a National Endowment for the Humanities backed community-wide effort better known as the Brattleboro Words Project.

The Project stimulates community-wide research whose revelations will contribute to the creation of a ‘Brattleboro Words Trail’ mapping for audio walking, biking and driving tours.

Project Lead Researcher Rolf Parker just discovered that Benjamin Smead’s late 1700s printing press office, and de facto bookstore (Brattleboro’s first), was located where the River Garden is now, a fact that will delight Brattleboro Literary Festival goers when they convene there this October.

Now in its 17th year, the festival was named one of the top five literary festivals in the country by The Writer’s Circle, further evidence of the area’s storied love affair with words.

The Brattleboro Words Project will also screen the documentary film, Linotype — The Film: In Search of the Eighth Wonder of the World, at 118 Elliot on Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m., as the May offering for its monthly, second Thursday “Roundtable Discussion” series.

The film, directed by Douglas Wilson, is a fascinating celebration of the linotype machine, which revolutionized printing and Thomas Edison called “the Eighth Wonder of the World.” The showing will be followed by refreshments and a discussion with veteran printer and exhibit co-curator Bill Soucy.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #457 (Wednesday, May 2, 2018). This story appeared on page B3.

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