FYI France

File 3: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler,

March 15, 2017 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on March 15, 2017.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to:

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at




Ex Machina, an online-digital database of wonderful old printing machines


"E x Machina is a database project, dedicated to printing presses, for an historical period running from the beginning of printing to the first half of the 20th century. The idea of building this reservoir of information emerged from the difficulties presented by the heterogeneity of the documentation of our archives, faced with inquiries about presses, often unable to answer questions stemming from photographs of incomplete or damaged examples.

"The Musée de l'Imprimerie possesses numerous sources in its collections but they have not been organized systematically. So research about presses took a long time and was inefficient.

"It was time to collect and establish this abundant and useful information, devising some remedy for its dispersed condition.

"An iconographic database systematically organized

"By associating images with data, it becomes possible to identify a press by collecting standardizes information in a research index, knowing that the desired resulted will be at least a pictorial or photographic representation.

"These visuals and this information are taken from the advertising of the era in periodicals articles devoted to printing, as well as any other documentation regarding the subjects concerned: in pieces from our permanent collection, special collections, catalogs and manuals of the machinery builders, photographs or monographs concerning the machinery of printing.

"The search system emphasizes above all simplicity of access, permitting the combination of several search criteria specific to printing presses, such as the builder, the mechanics of impression or the principle of action (motor, pedal, or manual)... The system does not, of course, make any pretension of covering all the distinctive characters of these machines, which become more and more complex throughout their technological evolution, but it enables the user to avoid, with great rapidity, the search models used formerly or any given technique.

"The system is completed by a free-text search and a chronological filter, enabling more precise searches and a reduction in the "noise" of the retrievals.

"A collaborative tool which is evolving

"Ex Machina does not have solely a goal of becoming a research tool for the Musée de l'imprimerie, it equally is designed for any person or institution searching rapidly for information regarding a particular press. This tool is thus developed to permit online collaboration for any organization desirous of using and sharing, in a simple and effective manner, any information of a similar nature.

"We also propose the collection of all complementary information which might further enrich the database, understanding that we automatically mention the origins of all images presented.

"Please note

"Certain information, for instance and particularly the dates these presses were put into service, are susceptible to being modified in that many of them are taken from documents on hand at the moment of their cataloging and so, by their nature (advertising, notes, summary information...), one does not always find the exact date of intention or sale of a particular model.

"Any such exact data-points contributed by our Internet users therefore will be very welcome."

[From the newsletter of the Musée de l'Imprimerie -- the version above translated by JK -- and now online at:

[You can reach and try-out the Ex Machina database itself online at:

-- currently there are the following index-terms --

-- and 3 general groupings --

-- so, for instance, point-at / click-on "manuel" -- you will obtain 131 thumbnail-images, clickable to reach the full-image & current data, of often-beautiful graphic illustrations of (now) ancient printing presses, i.e.,


-- and onward for a current-total of 131 references, just for hand-presses...

-- and I love the old sales-promotion names -- "L'Accélérée, L'Actuelle, La Confortable..." -- marketers have forever been marketers...




A Note:

If we ever are to understand, fully, our modern Digital Era -- which has brought us now, or so we repeatedly are told, to Twitter Politics and Sound-byte News, and the election of Presidents and the decision of Foreign Policies by Big-Media and Alternative-Facts... -- we need to understand how we got here, how all this developed, and whether any of it has happened before and how it was handled then.

Ben Franklin we know about, in the USA -- also in France and in the UK -- well, Ben was a printer. And we know about broadsheets & billboards & old things called "newspapers"... We know, as well, about, "'Is the head dead yet?' Journalism": in the US muckraking was at its worst not in the Trump election or the Gore election or the Dubya or Clinton or Carter elections, but in 1800, Jefferson v. Adams...

France had its day of "The Placards", and the execution of Etienne Dolet in the Place Maubert...

The extraordinary TV series "John Adams" has that wonderful scene where the new US Ambassador gets his breakfast terribly upset by reading, the "London Papers"... And these days the French and the British and even the Americans get their "news" most likely from Le Canard Enchainé and Private Eye and Jon Stewart...

But none of this is "new". Most of it is very, very old, in fact -- Greek tyrants who had any political sense would go down to the theaters to see themselves lampooned in plays, Socrates is said to have thoroughly enjoyed the unflattering on-stage portrayals of himself...

So it's not The Media, I believe, but the message... The media have changed drastically -- most drastically over the last 20 years, a true paradigm-change -- but the message has not. We and our leaders have been blaming media for hundreds of years, for thousands -- printers and dramatists have lost their heads and worse -- but the messages somehow get through regardless... and where that process is delayed, by tyranny or dull-wittedness or sheer laziness, the bad results are worse... But it is not whether messages are slower or faster, whether they were transmitted via Tweet or via Pony Express or on foot from Marathon, it is the messages themselves which count.

So here, at Ex Machina, are the principal tools of the Media which transmitted our Messages over the last 500 years or so. Their images are strangely beautiful, far moreso aesthetically than the current invisible bits & bytes & signals which our little "mobiles" and mysterious "servers" now use as tools for our current Virtual / Digital era.

As we grope for understandings in our Virtual / Digital era, though, contemplating these printing-presses used as Media previously, let us remember that the Messages are largely the same, those haven't changed, not since the Greeks and long before.









FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916

      |         FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic
      |         journal published since 1992 as a small-scale,
      |         personal experiment, in the creation of large-
      |         scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler.
     / \        Any material written by me which appears in
    -----       FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for
   //   \\      any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me
  ---------     credit and show my email address, and, b) it
 //       \\    isn't going to make them money: if it is going
                to make them money, they must get my permission
in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. 
Use of material written by others requires their permission. 
FYI France archives are in various places on the Internet, i.e. 
at (PACS-L), 
or Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, 
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        Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler,
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M. Eiffel

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Last update: March 21, 2017