Monsohn Press - a slice of history
Ofer Barsadeh | January 18th, 2009
Monsohn Press - 100 Years of Lithography presents the history of the Monsohn printing company, which began in Jerusalem in 1892. Two years before, Moshe-Mordechai and Avraham-Leib Monsohn went to study lithography in Frankfurt. They returned with a hand-press and opened their print-shop, producing about 300 prints per day. In 1894, their new machine, which could output
1,000 copies a day - one of the most advanced at the time - landed at Jaffa Port and was carried by train to Jerusalem, where it was loaded onto donkeys and taken to the Old City's Jewish Quarter.
Now, besides their regular fare of scenic postcards and greeting cards, the brothers launched into religious material, such as decorative plaques for synagogues and announcements for the departed, and later - advertisements. They were one of the first printers in the country to convince local manufacturers to package their wares. Monsohn even received special permission from the city's rabbis to print for Christians and Moslems - so long as the material could not be used for missionary work.
For years, Monsohn Press was considered the best and most innovative in the country - pioneering gold-embossing, among others. In 1934 Monsohn moved into the new city - by now a 4-machine operation with 30 employees that worked with all city segments (even Arabs during the pre-WW II riots).
Clients included Elite, Shemen, Dubek and other renown national brands; products spanned the spectrum of the national economy - wine, sweets, movie posters. even coupon booklets from the Tzena austerity period, which they printed exclusively. Indeed, a survey of Monsohn output is a colorful, innocent and optimistic look at a naive period that has long since passed - a lesson in early Israeli art history.
According to exhibition curator Galia Gavish, "the changes occurred at the Monsohn Printing Press over the years extend to style, such as the flowery arrangements of the Art Nouveau period, in which Rachel's Tomb, the Western Wall and other monuments appear. In the 20s and 30s, on the other hand, a more modern, functional approach takes over, with posters and commercial labels documenting the country's developing economic and advertising sector."
Monsohn succumbed to big business and closed shop in 1992, but not before a grandson of the founders helped establish Keter Press - still one of Israel's leaders.
Open until April 19.
Itzhak Kaplan Old Yishuv Court Museum
6 Or Haim St., Jewish Quarter
Open Sun-Thurs 10am-5pm; Fri 10am-1pm