JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Part of the History of Memory series.]
I found this fantastic cross-section of the Harper & Brothers publishing house in Jacob Abbott's The Harper Establishment, or, How the Story Books are Made, published of course and thankfully by Harper in 1855, and found in its entirety here
The whole of the enterprise is explained on pp 43-49 (here). I'd really like to return to this image at some point, because there are more detailed engravings in the book to match every section of the building, and to me it looks like this image could be turned into a 19th Century Printing and Publishing Board Game.
What I was interested in right now was the box on the extreme bottom-right, which turns out to be The Vaults--this is the central memory core of this publisher, a 200-foot-long, 8x8' corridor lined with the original plates for all of the publications of the firm. The plates for their single-volume version of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick would've been put down there just a few years ago.
"The plates are stored in subterranean vaults built under the streets that surround the building. The entrance to these vaults has already been shown in the sectional view of the Cliff Street building, on page 42. A more enlarged view is shown on the preceding page. The vaults extend under ground for two hundred feet in length, and in dimensions are eight feet wide by eight feet high. They are shelved on both sides, and the shelves are loaded with plates--stereotype or electrotype--representing all the works published in the establishment. There is one plate for every page of every one of the many hundreds of volumes which the house publishes, making from fifty to seventy tons in all."
"When a new edition of any book is required, the plates are brought out from these vaults and put upon the presses. When the work is finished, they are taken back again to the vaults."