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Following Gutenberg and rebuilding his original printing press
April 21, 2008 7:27 AM   Subscribe

The BBC's Stephen Fry follows the trail of Johannes Gutenberg to France and Germany, and attempts to reconstruct a working replica of Gutenburg’s first press. (YouTube version)
posted by Brandon Blatcher (27 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The BBC's Stephen Fry? He's everybody's Stephen Fry!
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:28 AM on April 21, 2008 [9 favorites]


Oh yeah, via I Love Topography.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on April 21, 2008


Hi Res by adding &fmt=18 at the end of Youtube URLs. Is there a way for non-UK users to get a mpeg file off the BBC website?

This is great. Thank you.
posted by stereo at 8:13 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


If only he were Metafilter's own Stephen Fry. I watched the first part of this the other day when another blogger mentioned it. Pretty interesting.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:13 AM on April 21, 2008


And here's a torrent.
posted by stereo at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2008


I watched this last night and was captivated. I've been a fan of Fry's comedy and writing for some time, but I thought he really shone as a presenter here - his genuine excitement and enthusiasm really came across and did a lot to get me as involved and excited by it all as he was.

And christ, you really were left fully understanding how much harder it used to be to get a page in print, rather than just pressing Ctrl-P - Return.

I've love a desktop laserjet that looked and sounded like a wooden Gutenberg press, with a big squeaky wooden screw and a lever banging over for each page. Not sure how my clients would like everything arriving in gothic lettering, though.
posted by dowcrag at 8:17 AM on April 21, 2008


Fry's evident awe at what this tech unleashed is inspiring, adorable and worthy of a series.
posted by Haruspex at 8:21 AM on April 21, 2008


Is there a way for non-UK users to get a mpeg file off the BBC website?

There isn't even a way for UK users to do it. Unless they have an iPhone which makes them virtuous gods in the eyes of the BBC.

All non-applelytes can do is get the DRMed version because we are thieving proles.
posted by srboisvert at 8:23 AM on April 21, 2008


Sorry, this programme is only available to play in the UK . Damn.
posted by ericb at 8:24 AM on April 21, 2008


The paper mill where he had the rag paper made, in part 5 of the YouTube segments, is a museum in Basel, Switzerland (Schweizerisches Museum für Papier, Schrift und Druck - Swiss Museum for Paper, Writing and Printing). It has complete printing and paper making facilities, and also employs disabled persons/the otherwise unemployable. A great place, especially if you're interested in the subject matter of the docu.
posted by derMax at 8:26 AM on April 21, 2008


Thanks for the torrent, stereo, I'm going to try it at home.

Fry has the rare ability to be both funny and smart at the same time. Hence, when he talks about technology, both techies and non-techies understand and laugh. But more than that, he just seems to plain enjoy the stuff.
posted by tommasz at 8:33 AM on April 21, 2008


So apparently you can just send off to America for a full set page of Gutenberg bible in individual type?

(Also I couldn't help but notice that Mr. Fry was looking even more out-of-shape than usual in this show.)
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2008


Sorry, this programme is only available to play in the UK . Damn.

[too loud voice] Yes. Damn. Because it would totally unethical of me to use any kind of link which might allow me to watch this later tonight here in the Midwestern United States.

*surreptitiously clicks on torrent*

It would only be appropriate to wait for the BBC to move this to BBC America, even with the time trimming and added commercials...

*checks download speed*

Excellent.

*watches some youtube QI to pass the time*
posted by quin at 8:48 AM on April 21, 2008


I didn't realise that the Chinese had a press with movable type a considerable time before Gutenberg; only found that out recently.

I really liked this show as well. Fry comes in for some stick in other places, but he really came across as genuine and charming on this one.
posted by bonaldi at 9:24 AM on April 21, 2008


Fry on Gutenberg? Wonderful!
posted by carter at 9:56 AM on April 21, 2008


Just to reiterate, this is a lovely documentary (I watched it last night). Even the "hey, let's build a replica!" thing, which is getting a little bit tedious in historical documentaries now, worked like a charm. Fry's joy at the physical process involved, and his intellectual passion for printing's cultural consequences, was palpable and inspiring. It was like watching him get his very first smartphone...
posted by flashboy at 10:03 AM on April 21, 2008


The funny thing about the printing press and movable type is, of course, if you've seen one Gutenberg Bible, you've seen them all.

(Fry doesn't make that crack, does he? I've only watched up to part 5. Terrific stuff!)
posted by steef at 10:13 AM on April 21, 2008


Frank Burns: [about Koreans] Savages!
B.J.: Frank, those "savages" were printing with movable type in 1403.
Hawkeye: That's right. I was in 1402 and didn't get a wink of sleep all night.
posted by steef at 10:27 AM on April 21, 2008


*Someone* told me about this site which agregates torrents of high quality caps of UK television shows. Ratio monitoring is used, but you can just download [FREE] things to avoid the headache.
posted by asok at 10:35 AM on April 21, 2008


Great doc, as Fry's usually are. Really looking forward to the series in which he visits every state in the US.

srboisvert writes 'There isn't even a way for UK users to do it. Unless they have an iPhone which makes them virtuous gods in the eyes of the BBC.'

You can use this script to take advantage of the iPhone version of iPlayer and download from any computer.
posted by jack_mo at 11:25 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nice doc. Also that script is a nice find too jack_mo.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 11:50 AM on April 21, 2008


As enamoured as I am by Fry in general and this documentary in particular, it's a rather disappointing to see that after all that toil and hard work to get the press, the type, and the paper all as authentic as possible, they just go and skim the ink out of a can.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:10 PM on April 21, 2008


(I'm not in the UK and I watched it just fine without even having to wait around for a torrent to finish. Try clicking the YouTube link, folks.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:12 PM on April 21, 2008


Stephen Fry is a national -- nay, world -- treasure. How else can you describe someone whose intelligence and humanity has kept people transfixed through light comedy, satire, drama,and extremely personal documentaries about depression and AIDS? And there's more:- When TV is widely decried as a medium of distortion, flatulence and mendacity, it's hard to be completely miserable about the medium when it lets someone like Fry reach millions of people without, as far as can be seen, becoming corrupted in the process. (The advert voiceovers, although regrettable, are mostly harmless.)

This particular documentary is a delight. The man is genuinely fascinated by the interlacing of history, technology and society -- as, I would argue, any person of culture must be -- and it was a commissioning act of genius to couple him to the story of Gutenberg. (The creation of the printing press in Europe is, I think, the closest we'll get to a moment that could be called the birth of the modern world. Certainly, the conscious decision by the Ottoman Empire to reject printing was the birth of something related that's still growing.)

That and a truly terrible pun about a 7000 point font has convinced me and others that BBC4, a rather troubled digital TV channel, is in fact a high point in TV history. Me and a pal just spent an evening watching many hours of recent (as in last week) content from that channel - two documentaries about medieval thought, created with an enviable lightness of touch and true sense of drama; one about The Who; and the Fry Gutenberg. It left us feeling spoiled beyond reason.
posted by Devonian at 3:14 PM on April 21, 2008


No offense to Stephen Fry, who's wonderful, but I prefer James Burke's version. The bit in "The Day the Universe Changed" where he describes making movable type still leaves me gobsmacked when I watch it.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:16 PM on April 21, 2008


I finally got around to watching this last night. It was really very good.

I did notice that the BBC must employ people who like filming with a macro lens, because they used it here quite a bit, and I've seen it extensively employed on Top Gear as well.

I can only assume that they do this because it looks amazing.
posted by quin at 7:14 AM on April 23, 2008


I think the BBC cameramen are experts at using tricks to cover up the grey skies in England. Vignetting seems to especially popular for this, since it gives a nice variation in the sky colors.

Also cranking up the saturation to unreal levels, which works because there's not much color to start with. It tends to make everything look like Amelie though, if it's not an overcast day.
posted by smackfu at 7:48 AM on April 23, 2008


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