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The First Outlander Printing Post No One Wanted.

All screencaps are from 3x07 "Creme de Menthe." So, remember how the last post was about everything they got right about printing? Well, this one is about everything they got wrong.

So the big plot point in both the books and the show is the excisemen connecting "Jamie Roy's" smuggling business to "A. Malcolm's" printing operation. In the books this involved a lot more off-screen discussion of the excisemen going around Edinburgh taverns tasting brandy to locate the stuff Jamie's smuggling and then getting to the print-shop where they also find his seditious pamphlet trade. As happens.



Step one to seditious printing: Don't put your fucking name on it, for one thing.

And in fact, most seditious material would have neither a name nor an address on it, which would be illegal because 17th c. printing ordinances actually REQUIRED all printing to have physical addresses on it for these reasons. If you had a "press in a hole" it meant you were moving your press around pretty regularly to avoid the authorities, and often doing shitty printing as a result. When you look at something dodgy in the 18th c., though, what you see is printing with FAKE addresses and imprints on them instead. There's actually some neat scholarship on this topic, because it turns out, it's easy to put a fake address on something....but you can look at the type, ornaments, composition (which is to say, how the compositors placed page numbers, assigned gathering signatures and catch words, etc) and successfully identify true origins of these things.

But anyway. Lemme show you a scene that has bugged me for YEARS. So Young Ian confronts the exciseman in Jamie's printshop and a fight scene ensues. The exciseman pulls a gun and tries to shoot him, hitting a wall of clear jars behind him, the liquid of which falls down and starts a fire. In the books, Gabaldon says this is alcohol for making printing ink, except you don't use alcohol in printing ink, you use oil varnish. (Oil varnish is pretty flameable though. Fun fact: There were in fact laws requiring ink makers to not do so within five miles of city limits because you make oil varnish by boiling oil which has a tendency to combust when oxygen hits it, so you have to try to control the boil by leaving the lid on the cauldron and adding bread and onions to mitigate the temperature and make a nice luncheon. Anyway.)

Okay, so the "alcohol' drops down onto the banked stove-looking set-up which we also saw last week. In the book, this is described as the little "forge" where damaged type could be melted down and recast. You'll see here that young Ian grabs the small ladle of lead (and tin and antimony) and throws it into the face of the baddie which is enough for him to drop to the ground writhing in pain and then falling unconscious like he's Prince Viserys or something.



LOL, no.

Okay, so, small things first: The lovely thing about type metal is that it has a low melting point (about 800 degrees F) and a high cooling point. If you throw the tablespoon of molten metal at someone's face, they are going to yell "Ow! Motherfucker!" and that's about it. I've seriously gotten worse heat blisters from pot handles or hot tea than with molten type metal. To really damage someone, you'd need to pick up that WHOLE POT YOU GOT THERE and dump it on someone, but it would be pretty heavy, so you'd have to ask said someone to hold still while you poured it. Basically this is just a dumb dramatic scene, which is also ahistorical, because by the 18th century, no one was really doing this anymore.

Image result for casting lead type

Now, this is probably the scene Gabaldon had in mind; this is a woodcut by Jost Amman, Frankfurt, 1568. In the early days of printing, there was a closer relationship between printers and typecutters/typefounders, so you COULD do this in your shop. by the 18th c., however, the professions had diverged significantly. Typefounding, making type and the matrices for the fonts, required a very different skill set and what is basically a proprietary technology. Think of it like you working at your computer--sure, you use Microsoft Office all the damn time, but can you write to code for it? Nope. That's why you download updates and buy new software packages and so on. Although fun fact: Ben Franklin managed an early "hack" when he was working as an apprentice in his brother's print shop, rigging some matrices to cast some type (likely from sand moulds) until he was able to make the NECESSARY TRIP to Europe to buy some.

Anyway, the one thing the show got right with this whole sequence is a scene not in the book, where Jamie physically moves a press so they can escape.



That's right: one big dude, moving a press by himself. I like this bit because there's some conventional wisdom by non-printing scholars that presses were ~so heavy, and especially ~so heavy that the womens couldn't use their feeble women strength to work them. LOL, NO. A wooden press is lighter than my beat-up Ikea couch, man.

Anyways, then the printshop burns down and then the other plots have to be set in motion. We won't see a printing press again until they adapt book 6, assuming they do so. *sighs wistfully* In which case....see you in three years for more rants?

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