Reception: Friday, August 5th, 5-8 pm
Curated by Stephen William Schudlich, The Printer’s Devil is an exhibition of work that presents evidence of a flourishing printmaking community in Detroit, both building from, and challenging print tradition. The exhibition brings into focus the methods, madness and creative fruit associated with the processes of letterpress, relief, risograph, silkscreen and other “less formal” and DIY printing procedures being put into practice by Detroit’s unique creative community.
A printer’s devil was an apprentice in a printing establishment who performed a number of tasks, such as mixing tubs of ink and fetching type. They also took worn and broken lead type that had been thrown into a “hellbox”, to the furnace for melting and recasting.
It was a fanciful belief among printers that a special devil haunted every print shop, performing mischief such as inverting letters, misspelling words or removing entire lines of completed type. The apprentice became a substitute source of blame and came to be called a printer’s devil by association.
Business partner of Johann Gutenberg, Johann Fust, sold several of Gutenberg’s bibles to King Louis XI of France and his court officials, representing the bibles as hand-copied manuscripts. When it was discovered that individual letters were identical in appearance, Fust was accused of witchcraft – the red ink text was said to have been written in blood, and Fust was imprisoned. Though Fust was later freed after the bibles’ origins were revealed, many still believed he was in league with Satan, thus the phrase.