History / Museums / Process

The Dark Arts in Amish Country


These are not the dark arts you imagine, there is no caldron just large wood and iron printing presses…


postcard Lancaster County Pennsylvania has a long and rich history in the graphic arts. One of the earliest printing presses in PA can be found at the historic Ephrata Cloister. The celibate community of ascetics practiced their own unique ethereal musical compositions. They printed their notations in the first American essay on music harmony. The brothers of the cloister also printed the “Martyr’s Mirror”, an english translation of a dutch book telling the stories of Christian martyrs. This 1,500 page book is considered one of the most ambitious printing projects of the colonial era. Their creaky wooden press can still be seen on it’s historic site in Ephrata.

IMG_0294.JPGIn the 1950’s Harry Stauffer ran a printshop, the Conestoga Press. He named his shop after the creek that ran through his farm. The press used at the Conestoga shop was an iron version of the same type used by the Cloisters (only a half mile down the road). This press now resides in the Cocalico Historic Society where it is finding new purpose. Lancaster county is home to a budding revival of printers working in old letterpress processes.
Production printing had a profound effect on our culture. The press allowed for books and information to be reproduced,  promoting literacy. Ideas were shared across greater distances and with larger numbers of people. I plan to translate some of my paintings and drawings into letter press ready plates. Through this work at the print shop, I hope to infect my neighbors with a love of image making. This is an opportunity to learn a process that connects what I am doing to my community and it’s heritage. I envision inviting other artists to come and work on their images. And, like the revolution of the printed word, I imagine a small revolutionary act of my own, bringing the arts to this small corner of the world.

by John Meyers


” Saint John, Patron Saint of Stray Cats” – Prints by John Meyers: Printed at the Cocalico Historic Society

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