This Saturday, September 20th, BBC2 broadcasts the documentary The Machine that Made Us: Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press, produced by Wavelength Films. I believe this to be the first time that people outside the UK will be able to watch it, because up till now it has only been shown on BBC4, and the online version on the BBC's iPlayer can't be viewed if you're living outside the UK. So program whatever recording device you have hooked up to your telly – especially if you're attending ATypI'08 St.Petersburg at the end of the week.
Here's the description for the show, part of BBC4's Medieval Season, on the BBC4 website:
"Stephen Fry examines the story behind the first media entrepreneur, printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg. He finds out why he did it and how – a story which involves both historical enquiry and hands-on craft and technology. Fry travels across Europe to find out how Gutenberg kept his development work secret, about the role of avaricious investors and unscrupulous competitors, and why Gutenberg's approach started a cultural revolution. He then sets about building a copy of Gutenberg's press."
As always the charming Stephen Fry displays a genuine interest in his subject, and he doesn't hesitate to get down and dirty, cutting type, handmaking paper and aiding with production of the actual press. Fry's endearing enthusiasm makes this one definitely worth viewing.
But don't take my word for it. Here's what the critics had to say about the film after it premiered on BBC4 on Monday, April 14th:
"this terrific documentary" — Simon Horsford, Telegraph
"a fine documentary … a reminder that television too, sometimes counts as a pretty decent invention" — Brian Viner, The Independent
"the best documentary of the night" — Andrew Billen, The Times
"an absorbing documentary … a winning combination of wit and wonder — Stephanie Billen, The Observer
"Stephen Fry gets Beeb 4's Medieval season off to a splendid start" — Mik Duffy, The Scotsman
"a remarkable story" — The Guardian