Home Campus A revolutionary weapon at BYU-Idaho

A revolutionary weapon at BYU-Idaho

When the word “revolution” is spoken, what comes to mind? In the United States, many would think of the American Revolution and the birth of a nation. In Europe, many would recall the French Revolution of 1789 or perhaps the Russian Revolution of 1917. Revolutions can be conflicts — turning points where the world was suddenly shifted in a burst of energy.

However, not all revolutions are defined by civil unrest, guns firing and blood in the streets. Some are quiet and unsuspecting. In 1440, for example, Johannes Gutenberg created an invention, a weapon and a freedom fighter out of metal and wood. On the western borders of modern Germany in the city of Mainz, the printing press was born. This creation allowed books and art to be mass-produced and widely distributed, driving prices down and giving access to a wider audience.

These wooden stamps were used to apply ink to the lettering before pages would be pressed.
These wooden stamps were used to apply ink to the lettering before pages would be pressed. Photo credit: Travis Skelton

According to Tom Wheeler in his book “From Gutenberg to Google: the History of our Future,” “Johannes Gutenberg picked the lock that had kept knowledge confined for centuries. The result was an intellectual explosion that shook the foundation of the Establishment’s power and propelled a new inquiry-driven trajectory.”

Nearly 400 years later, at the time of the Book of Mormon’s publication, the printing press undertook changes and advancements but was still the primary method of mass-producing literature. On the second floor of the David O. McKay Library sits one of three replicas of the printing press used to print the first 5,000 copies of the translated ancient record.

Previous projects left imprints on the press' cover.
Previous projects left imprints on the press' cover. Photo credit: Travis Skelton

Sam Nielson, a reference and instruction librarian for the McKay Library, said the Iron Acorn Press started its journey to BYU-Idaho when school faculty visited the Idaho Museum in 2006 and saw an exhibit about the press that printed the first copies of the Book of Mormon. After that, the school commissioned a replica. The press arrived two years later in 2008.

“This is an exact replica of the original Grandin press,” said Abigail Riggs, a sophomore studying early childhood education. “This is the only one that continues to print.”

The entrance to the Iron Acorn Press.
The entrance to the Iron Acorn Press. Photo credit: Travis Skelton

Once a month, the press is available to produce original works on “Print Night”, an event open to all BYU-I students. While the Iron Acorn is an old piece of technology, its capacities remain intact 191 years after the first pages of the Book of Mormon were printed. The press is open on weekday mornings in McKay 249 and is available for Home Evening use by appointment.

This joint allows 400 pounds of force to move by pulling on a handle.
This joint allows 400 pounds of force to move by pulling on a handle. Photo credit: Travis Skelton
The Iron Acorn Press has been open at BYU-Idaho since 2009.
The Iron Acorn Press has been open at BYU-Idaho since 2009. Photo credit: Travis Skelton
Various wood blocks are used to create images. Prior to the invention of the Gutenberg Press, wood blocks were the most common way to mass produce images or literature.
Various wood blocks are used to create images. Prior to the invention of the Gutenberg Press, wood blocks were the most common way to mass produce images or literature. Photo credit: Travis Skelton
Photo credit: Travis Skelton
This handle allows the paper to move into the desired location for printing.
This handle allows the paper to move into the desired location for printing. Photo credit: Travis Skelton
Various typefaces for the press sit, waiting for use.
Various typefaces for the press sit, waiting for use. Photo credit: Travis Skelton

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