Joe and I spent the afternoon peering around the preview of Boston’s retired printing plant. The contents of the printing plant—previously used for everything from city employee’s business cards, voting ballots, and parking tickets—will be auctioned tomorrow.

The building is in one of my favorite neighborhoods: the North End, Boston’s little Italy. A former employee watching over the preview said they would have a pastry in the morning, garlic in the afternoon. He seemed to be feeling a little gloomy.

Most of the machines are enormous, some made of solid cast iron that will cost almost $1000 just to move from the building. (This linotype machine reminded me of Rabbit in John Updike’s books, who happily set linotype for a living in the first novel.)

The whole building felt like it had been a wonderful place to work–chock full of windows, warm yellow brick, breezy views of the North End on all sides.

City seals were everywhere.

No one seems to know how the auction will go tomorrow–the printers are afraid the metal will go to salvagers for scrap, but most printers don’t have the money or need for new machinery. To complicate matters, much of the letterpress stuff is being sold in large lots–meaning you can’t just pick up a few things, like this beautiful set of type drawers below.

The crowd at the preview was hushed group of respectful visitors—representatives from universities’ with print shops, mournful typophiles running their hands through the bins of metal slugs, experienced printers with their own shops eyeing the machinery, sightseers like us wishing we had more money and more space.

We’ll be at the auction tomorrow–I’ll let you know how it goes!

174 North St. Boston. Opens at 9am, open to the public.

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