Beaver Press
Print Shop



"The past is an excellent laboratory from which to learn things about humanity and human systems. A history class like this at MIT helps to foster a deeper empathy in our students for people not like themselves, people whose world-view and opportunity space were quite different from our own. This empathy and broader perspective is an essential quality for doing great 21st century science and engineering.” — Anne McCants, MIT Professor of History

This 12-unit subject, taught at least once a year at MIT and cross-listed by the MIT History Section and the First-Year Concourse Program, introduces undergraduates to the history of the book and European intellectual, cultural, and material history in the Early Modern period. During the term, students carefully study the design and content of books printed from 1475 to 1800 that are conserved in the MIT Libraries’ Rare Books Collections. The culminating project for the semester is a pamphlet that can range from eight to 24 pages, in folio or quarto format. Student teams in the subject write, design, set, and print these pamphlets in the Beaver Press Print shop. Since 2017, a copy of each pamphlet printed is given to the MIT Libraries, and catalogued in the MIT Libraries' online catalogue. To see these projects and consult their metadata, visit our Imprints page, or the Beaver Press Collection page in the MIT Libraries catalogue. We are working to update the Imprints page with digital versions of subsequent texts published by students in the class. During the pandemic, when access to the Print Shop was not permitted, Designer Ken Stone and Instructor Erica Zimmer created a a small printing press with which students did printing at home.

To learn more about 21H.343/CC.120, visit the MIT Open Course Ware (OCW) page for this subject. To consult the plans we used to build the letterpress, visit this OCW page.

21H.343/CC.120 will be taught by Dr. Erica Zimmer in the Fall 2023 term. Enrollment is limited to twelve students, due to the small size of the print shop.