Alfred Mame printing machine room
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Mame operated 30 steam-powered printing machines, all of French manufacture, printing 20,000 books per day, or 6,000,000 volumes per year. We learn much about the work environment in this huge machine room even though the artist provided few specific visual details regarding the machines.

Alfred Mame bindery
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Mame's bookbindery was probably the largest depicted in the 19th century. In this image there may be several hundred people working in the huge facility. No women are visible. Strangely, there appears to be a water fountain in the middle of the room. Dodd's Curiosities of Industry, Printing: Its Modern Varieties (1852) p. 10 suggests, probably with some exaggeration, that Mame may have employed as many as 1000 people in this department.

Alfred Mame binding
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Alfred Mame bookshop
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Mame's bookshop was a very long and deep room.

Alfred Mame printed paper warehouse
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This warehouse stored an immense number of printed sheets of various awaiting binding after they received orders. 

Alfred Mame buildings
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Mame combined all his book production and sale departments in a complex of interconnected buildings.

A banquet that Alfred Mame held for his employees appears to have involved hundreds of people sitting at a single enormous table. It was considered newsworthy enough to be covered in l'Illust
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons
A banquet that Alfred Mame held for his employees appears to have involved hundreds of people sitting at a single enormous table. It was considered newsworthy enough to be covered in l'Illustration magazine.
Detail map of Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France Overview map of Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

A: Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Imprimerie Alfred Mame's Spectacular Portrayal of Large Scale Book Manufacturing

1867
Alfred Mame typesetting
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Mame's typesetting room may be the largest that was depicted in the 19th century. Much effort went into providing good light both from windows on either side of the very long room and from gas lights throughout.

One of the best produced promotional books about a printing and publishing business issued in the second half of the 19th century was Imprimerie - Librairie - Relieure. Alfred Mame et Fils à Tours. Notice et specimens. This folio work, in its original red blind-stamped and gilt cloth binding, with gilt edges, with pages measuring 395 x 270 mm., was issued at Tours in 1867 by Imprimerie Alfred Mame to advertise and promote its business in connection with the Paris Exposition universelle  of 1867. Beautifully designed and printed on excellent paper, the work has only 18 pp. of text, interleaved with many full-page illustrations, followed by more than 100 pages of specimens of title pages, text and illustrations, sometimes printed in two colors, and including many fine examples of engraving. The folio format was used in order to include full-size folio specimens.

My interest in the volume was primarily in its beautiful engraved images of the different elements of large-scale book production in the mid-19th century. Mame used 30 printing machines, as the image of his huge pressroom shows. And, as one might expect, Mame employed a very large number of manual typesetters. The image of Mame's exceptionally large bindery suggests that virtually all of the binding work was still done by hand.

A common element to all the images is that none show women employed in any of the book production tasks. As women were frequently employed in book production at this time-- especially in book binding-- not employing women, if that was actually the case, would have set Mame off from the many printers and publishers who employed women.

Mame's business model involved bringing in house all aspects of book production, including typesetting and printing, engraving, binding, and even bookselling. Mame also was part-owner of a paper mill. The firm specialized in publishing religious or devotional books-- a major topic of book consumption in France during the second half of the 19th century.

Mame's firm employed about 700 people in production and 400-500 in sales in what appears to be a rather grand facility, though we may assume that the images glorify or beautify what cannot always have been ideal working conditions. Nevertheless, the environment may have been relatively copasetic as, according to the Wikipedia, "Inspired by the social Catholic ideal, Alfred Mame established for his employees a pension fund for those over sixty, wholly maintained by the firm. He opened schools, which caused him to receive one of the ten thousand francs awards reserved for the 'établissements modèles où régnaient au plus haut degré l'harmonie sociale et le bien-être des ouvriers'. In 1874 Mame organized a system by which his working-men shared in the profits of the firm." (Wikipedia article on Alfred Mame, accessed 05-18-2013).

Bigmore & Wyman II, 16.

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