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Canon discussion / Essays

How do they make all those books? Printing in the Wizarding World


I read the essay “When Magic Meets Muggle Technology” by PrefectMarcus. I thoroughly enjoyed the essay, which provides a pseudo-science, almost science fiction view of the wizarding world. Being myself an ardent fan of the sci-fi genre, I value this essay dearly.

The essay ends with a question: how does a wizard printing press work? PrefectMarcus offers some possible solutions, such as: a bank of enchanted quills (far too slow), and a simple offset press (also too slow). Not to mention that both methods will drive up the price of the books.

Rita Skeeter, copyright Mary GrandPre.

Although it certainly won’t be canon, allow me to present a hypothesis here.

Wizards publish books the same way as Muggles do. A wizard or witch writes his or her manuscript with quills, and complete with illustrations, and so forth. (Obviously there is no Microsoft WizardWord. But there seem to be quills that accept dictation. . . .) The manuscript is sent to a publisher, which will assign an editor, and back-and-forth the manuscript goes, until it reaches completion.

Then, the wizard-publisher goes to a Muggle printing press—there are Muggles aware of the wizarding world, notable examples being the Dursleys (no matter how they vehemently deny it), the Grangers, and the Muggle Prime Minister. I believe there are other wizarding-aware Muggles, and one or more of them owns a printing press.

Or, most likely, they’ll go to any printing press they like, one that offers the best quality at the right price. Anyway, printing presses couldn’t care less what they’re printing on their Linotype-Hell machines, as long as the manuscript is received  in QuarkXpress format (or any other Desktop Publishing software). The content to be printed may seem to the Muggle publishers to be just so much Gobbledegook . . . but who cares? The customer pays. Like, for instance, the illegal presses I have in my country that print pornographic smut . . .

Monster Book of Monsters cageUm, back to the essay.

“Ha! But computers don’t work in the wizarding world, so there are no QuarkXpress files!” I hear you protest. Which is why the wizard-publishers first ask the assistance of a wizarding-aware Muggle who’s skilled with QuarkXpress to scan/type/what-have-you the manuscript and lay it out using QuarkXpress.

I hear you scream, “But . . . but . . . how do you explain the moving pictures? And the scurrying, biting books?” Well, as we see with Colin’s camera, for a picture to actually move it must be developed using a magical solution. So, in this case, after the Linotype-Hell completes printing all the thousands of pages (which will have taken only a couple of hours—I’ve seen how those machines work, they’re fantastically fast), the printed sheets are sent back to the wizarding-publisher, which will imprint—using magical ink, I daresay—all the moving images. For fancier books, for example, the Monster Book of Monsters, the book is charmed.

This wonderful collaboration between wizards and Muggles allows books (and newspapers and magazines) to be printed quickly, revised every year if need be, and most importantly, at a low price.

So there you go. Another mystery solved.



What follows is an “autobiographical” note provided by the author:

“pepoluan is a muggle-born wizard who, quite unusually, acquired his wizarding skill some time after graduating from university. Thus he never enjoyed the delights at any wizarding school, and required lessons with personal tutors from the Ministry of Magic. This anomaly, however, gives him unique insight on the liaison between the wizarding world and the Muggle world.”

Pensieve (Comments)

  • Elias Thienpont

    Ah, yes, printing has been a long time hobby of mine dating back to a 6×9 hand-powered platen press. I loved setting hand-set lead type.
    But the fact remains that printing is an are, and can therefore be a magical art. As a wizard, I can put my hand on a page and “read” all of the words that are there all at once. But it does not really end there. I can put my hand on a book, and read all of the pages that are in the book, all at once.

    Monks had the scriptorium where scrolls were hand written one letter at a time. As a wizard I can write these scrolls one line at a time just by running my finger across the page.The codex is even easier than a scroll. I can put my hand on the cover and all of the words will develop on all of the pages all at once.

    Wizard books are bound as blanks, and the text is added by the method that I described. You can print one book at a time or several books at a time. But wizarding books, other than textbooks, did not enjoy wide circulation. Only a selected number of books ever got into the large private libraries.The Library at Potter Hall was by far the most extensive, yet Hogwarts has a fairly comprehensive library, the Ministry of Magic, not so much. The Library at the Draco Institute (of Advanced Magical Studies) has the entire library that was held at the old Malfoy Manor (Now called the Museum Malfoy). Since Hermione’s directorship at the Draco Institute, almost every scrap of magical paper has been computerized, cross-referenced and and readily available to researchers.

Tags: Muggle technology publishing/publications schoolbooks