Mens et manus in MIT History workshop

Students examine works in the Rare Books Collection and build a printing press in hands-on humanities class

MIT News recently profiled the humanities class Making Books: The Renaissance and Today, which combines classroom learning with unique hands-on opportunities in the MIT Hobby Shop, MIT Museum, and the Institute Archives and Special Collections. To gain insight about early books and book-making technology, students examined works in MIT’s Rare Books Collection and designed and built a handset printing press.

A group of MIT students briefly put away their cellphones this spring to concentrate on a much older information storage and retrieval device: the book.

In a hands-on humanities class — 21H.343 (Making Books: The Renaissance and Today) — students gained insights about early books and book-making technology, not least by actually making paper and building a handset printing press, the kind of press on which the great documents of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution were printed.

MIT historian Anne McCants, who co-taught the class with Jeffrey Ravel, head of the MIT History section, says, “One of the values of making something that seems prosaic, especially something that is now as common as paper, is learning that we moderns are not the only clever ones. People in the past were clever too, and they also knew some things we don’t.” Read more

Read full the story at MIT News