An ancient labour of love in producing works of art

A museum piece printing press is back in use as part of an exhibition at Norwich Cathedral celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first official English bible. Derek James finds out more.

The printing press is a work of art in itself. Cast-iron serpents, eagles and winged swords decorate the historic machine.

It was made in 1845 and used in Norwich for more than a century to help print books, posters, leaflets and calendars.

Now the museum-piece printing press is once again in daily use, as part of an exhibition at Norwich Cathedral to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first official English bible.

Volunteers will be reprinting the first two pages of Genesis, exactly as set out in Norwich Cathedral's own 1611 King James Bible.

Volunteers from the city's John Jarrold Printing Museum will be at the Cathedral every day, from 2-4pm, to demonstrate the historic hand-operated printing press.

Most of the volunteers once worked in Norwich's printing industry themselves and are hugely knowledgable about the art and science of the ancient process.

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Visitors will be able to watch them printing the first two pages of Genesis after an American expert recreated the metal type, using 17th-century techniques.

The freshly-printed pages will then be available to buy in a commemorative envelope.

'We wanted to help people understand the enormous amount of labour and love and care which went into producing bibles,' said Canon Peter Doll, who helped organise the exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James, or Authorised, Bible.

The exhibition the runs in the Cathedral Hostry until June 30.

The John Jarrold Printing Museum was set up almost 30 years ago to preserve the pre-computer craft of printing. Many of the volunteers who help run the museum once worked in the printing industry in Norwich. It includes numerous printing presses, plus early typewriters and a fully-functioning hand-composing room.

The museum, alongside Norwich's court complex, is open from 9.30am to 12.30pm every Wednesday.

For more information visit or call 01603 660211.