I spent Sunday and Monday this week holed up in a little hotel near a railway station. Mainz is a little like Bristol, bombed heavily in the war with a sixties shopping centre thrown up to fill the gap in the city centre. Some lovely old bits of the city still stand and these house the more interesting small independent shops and trades.
Both cities have big historical figures looming large over the city, Gutenberg is everywhere, like Brunel in Bristol. and like Bristol, many businesses include his name (I bet there is even a Gutenberg Buttery somewhere).
I’d been told that the folk from the Gutenberg print workshop were all at the Frankfurt book fair until Tuesday, but then I would be able to spend the day in the workshop printing the last of the postcards. Seemed like a good ending to this adventure. Except when I got to the workshop on Tuesday, no one seemed to know of me and the technicians were still in Frankfurt. The lady said she would call her boss who was in a meeting and let me know what might be possible. Meanwhile the Printing Bike was in the workshop and it all felt a quite hopeful.
My friend, Jon Matthews had driven up to Mainz for the day and we headed off to look around the Gutenberg museum for an hour or two. Sara, from the local cycle pressure group ADFC, was also with us. The museum holds a replica press similar to the wooden press that Johannes Gutenberg would have used to experiment and develop his moveable type invention in 1450. There are no illustrations of presses until 1490, so much of what we see is speculative. Even Gutenberg’s image is invented as there are no illustrations of him from his time. So he has a slightly mystical side to him, and I wondered whether he was more of an entrepreneur inventor (like James Dyson say).
The museum holds two copies of the 42 line bible, the worlds first printed book using moveable type, maybe the most valuable printed item in existence,48 copies are still around of 160 or so originally printed. Spaces were left for illuminated letters, and these were added in a quality depending on the amount the owner could pay.
The museum has a pretty amazing collection of print from Gutenberg onwards and an excellent exhibition of the artist and designer, Herbert Bayer is currently on display.
When we got back to the Gutenberg print workshop, I was told that there was no way that I could print in the workshop, which was a bit rubbish as I’d hung around for three days thinking that I could. Not only that but my bike was a safety hazard and please could I move it out of the workshop. In some ways it seemed a bit of a sad end to the journey. But I looked at the images of printing in fields and campsites, I looked at the photos of people stopping on the banks of the Rhine and asking about the press and the bike. And I realised that was what this journey was about, a reliance on no one and the freedom to go where we liked and print where we could. The formalities and rules of a museum workshop were a long way from that. It was a little sad as I was looking forward to printing Stanley Donwood’s illustration in the proofing press (I had earmarked one for the task).
The Printing Bike seemed to also break all the rules of ‘taking a bike on a German train’, so Jon had offered to take the bike back to Cologne and sort a courier from there. I have much to thank Jon for over the years, and the camp supper and getting me out of a hole with bike transport are just two more on the list.
Another was Jon taking me towards Frankfurt airport and home. But that went a bit awry as well, when I realised that Ryanair fly from Frankfurt Hahn (which is about 60 miles from Frankfurt). Blimey I was pushing my luck. But Jon was brilliant and just turned around and off we went to Hahn.
Home now and straight back into new stuff. But I will print Stan’s card and post it early next week. I am also thinking already about the little book about the journey which will be printed on the Heidelberg and out by the end of the year.
A big thanks to everyone who has helped, supported and sent messages on this adventure. Thanks to the mighty Robin Mather, maker of the bike, map reader extraordinary, who rode every mile, put up with my failings and was the best company I could have wished for. To Jon who quietly turned up when I got into difficulty and always had a supportive or wise word when I needed it.
To all the brilliant illustrators who made this project work and were so great to work with (I will send a card with all the artists names so that you can see who did what).
Big thanks to Emma for making the little Kickstarter film and helping give the idea some shape, and to my good and supportive friends at Centrespace.
Thanks as well to James at Rapha and to Brooks of England for giving us the best gear that made such a difference to the long days in the saddle.Thanks to Wilf for lending me his brilliant little camera and wise words over coffee.
And finally to our partners Harriet (me) and Muriel (Robin) for their help, love and support.
The Gutenberg Museum printshop (no room for a printing bike sadly).
Gutenberg's 42 line bible, changed the world forever.
They could set a bit of type in 1774.
This is Sabina, who I met on the banks of the Rhine, she had seen the project on Kickstarter and reminded me that this is what the project was really about.