BOOK REVIEW: Printers of the Streets and Lanes of Melbourne (1837-1975) by Don Hauser (Melbourne, Nondescript Press, 2006). Printed as a limited edition run of 1,000. 171 pages with illustrations, portraits and facsimiles. Hardcopy includes index and bibliography.
Review by Wendi Bradshaw.
This beautiful book is now fifteen years old, yet the important contribution it makes to the history of the local[i] printing trade and industry will surely prove to be timeless. Hauser wrote that his purpose was “to recognise the work of the tens of thousands of men and women and their employers who worked in the ancient and noble craft in printing and related businesses in the streets and lanes of Melbourne” (p. 28).
The introduction briefly outlines the arrival of several early colonists who established printing businesses in Australia. Following these 12 pages is a summary of the mainly western printing history, from Gutenberg through to Caxton’s influence in the United Kingdom and pivotal developments in the United States and the roles played by these significant persons and establishments in investing in the uptake of printing presses.
The next short section offers a perspective of printing within Australia with introduction to those printers considered forerunners of the Australian industry, further but briefly discussing them within most Australian States or Territories. Also, very helpfully, describing the differences between certain printing processes and their nomenclature. “Pioneer Printers of Melbourne” follows beginning with John Pascoe Fawkner – Melbourne’s first printer and publisher (1792 – 1869), and on one page, a wonderful image of one of the first issues of the Melbourne Advertiser dated January 8th, 1838, reproduced as handwritten in ink by Fawkner himself.
Printer and affiliate listings
Necessarily, the bulk of the book is an alphabetical listing of printers and graphic designers, businesses, associations and societies. Each listing includes who the business was established name, owned by and how each developed and contributed to the Melbourne printing industry scene. Informative and attractive black and white images or photographs adorn most pages. The 450 printing listings included represent most of those that were begun in the Melbourne CBD, and it is acknowledged that the list is by no means inclusive of all Melbourne printing business. The detail of each entry is extremely variable – no doubt depending on the information originally available to the author. Additional names are listed at the end of most entries to aid in cross-referencing.
As a reference book this would be indispensable to those who require to know or have passion for the finer details of the businesses.
In acknowledging the gradual evolution of many printing endeavours away from the larger companies and presses to desk top designers and SOHO (small office/home office) business models, this book remains as a substantial and relevant historical guide. Importantly too, it helps place the local printing and graphic design activities within the contexts of the wider international printing industry.
An elegantly coloured bookmark accompanied the book at time of purchase and is shown here. It displays the image of the 1899 calendar designed for Jas. Arbuckle & Co., one of the entries featured within the book.
This review was originally published in the Ephemera Newsletter & What’s On #13 September 2021.
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