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Sign of the George

The Sign of the George, an educational letterpress print shop at King University, was founded in 1974 by Dr. George Parker "Pat" Winship.

Winship's father, an antiquarian librarian at Harvard University, introduced young Winship to the craft of printing when he received a toy press for his sixth birthday. Winship senior bought a set of twelve point type and printed a small book, "How the Monkey Got its Tail," which Winship junior dictated. Winship senior was hooked and they continued to print booklets using the imprint "The Sign of the George" in honor of the father and son press.

Years later, as an English professor at King University, Winship junior wanted to show his students traditional typesetting to help them understand the process of accurately editing a Shakespeare text. For this purpose, Winship often borrowed a case of type from a local printer.

Then in 1973 Winship's sister found one of their father's table presses in her basement. Winship agreed to take it off her hands, and he and fellow professor Graham Landrum bought rollers and a case of type.

The Sign of the George first found its home in Anderson Hall. Originally a men's dorm, it sat vacant due to structural problems. Soon after opening the shop, Winship acquired an 8" x 12" Chandler & Price so heavy the floor had to be reinforced. That same year Winship personally purchased the contents of a fully equipped hobby print shop. Although it included dozens of sizes and styles of type, it contained only enough to print cards or labels-not enough for the small books Winship had in mind. Over the next several years, Winship supplemented this collection with purchases from flea markets and foundries.

The Sign of the George eventually relocated to its current home, the basement of the Women's Auxillary Building. Prior to the print shop, this room contained the campus snack bar, the King's Den, pictured below. The old grill hood remains in the print shop.

After the original purchases, the press supported itself by printing small jobs for the college and its students (letterhead, playbills, programs, cards, wedding invitations, etc.). The college hired two students a year as apprentices, and Winship taught a craft of printing class. Winship noted they printed over 1,375 items in the first fifteen years. Samples of these items can be found in the Gallery, and the full collection is stored in the E.W. King Library.

After Winship's death in 2002, he left some printing equipment to his son David, but most he bequeathed to the college. Although the craft of printing class is not currently taught, the Sign of the George remains in working condition in the Women's Auxillary Building.