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A taste of ink and type in a country printery

The CHN blogger enjoyed an informative and interesting visit to a small museum as part of History Week 2018 conducted by the History Council of New South Wales.

The museum in question was the Penrith Museum of Printing located in the Penrith Showground.

Penrith Museum of Printing signage (2)lowres

 

The museum has a collection of fully operational letterpress printing presses and equipment from the 1860s to the 1970s. It is part of the living history movement that is so popular with tourists in North America, Europe and increasingly Australia.

The printing equipment includes linotype machines, flat-bed printing presses of various types and platen presses. There is also a substantial collection of hand-set type.

During the History Week visit the operation of the different presses was explained by retired tradesmen who had been printers and compositors. They kick started the presses and linotype machines and demonstrated their capabilities.

Penrith Museum of Printing Linotype Machine 2018
Here a museum volunteer and former operator demonstrates  and explains the operation of a linotype machine at the Penrith Museum of Printing.  This is a hot metal typesetting system that casts blocks of metal type for individual uses. The machine creates lines of type for the compositor to set-up a page for printing a newspaper. Hot lead was used to create the letters and was heated to over 500 degrees C. These machines were used across the world to set print for  newspapers, magazines and posters  for large metropolitan dailies to small local country newspapers up to the 1980s.  This machine is belt driven and in the late 19th or early 20th century a printery would have had a steam engine and boiler to drive the equipment. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The museum is setup like a 1940s printing shop and the visitor  gets the experience of the noise of the press and linotype machines and the smell of the ink. It is the authentic real deal.

Linotype machines were introduced to replace hand-compositing of pages for printing. Hand setting was very slow. What would take a compositor hours to set in a page would take minutes with a linotype machine.

The printing museum is also a site for the demonstration  of the traditional trades of the printer and compositor.

The printing museum give a real demonstration of how the local newspapers of the Macarthur region were produced before the current era of off-set printing. The processes for printing the local paper were labour-intensive despite the introduction of these pieces of equipment.

Penrith Museum of Printing Albion Hand Press 2018
This is a demonstration of the hand-operated Albion Press by a volunteer and former printer at the Penrith Museum of Printing. The museum website states ‘This beautiful old Albion Press was manufactured in London in 1860 is a magnificent example of 19th Century printing press design and craftsmanship’.  The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences states that ‘Albion printing presses continued to be manufactured, in a range of sizes, right up until the 1930s. They were used for commercial book-printing until the middle of the nineteenth century and after that mainly for jobbing work and by private presses.  The arrival of small hand printing presses enabled the publication of newspapers in country regions.’  (I Willis)

 

This type of equipment had a profound influence on the production of local newspapers across the world.

It is interesting how much of the terminology used in computer word processing derives from the smell and noise of the print shop and the lives of the printers and compositors.

The Macarthur region newspaper printeries

The Sidmans in the early 20th century introduced the latest equipment at the principal printery located in the building that houses the Camden News office and printery at 145 Argyle Street Camden.

Camden News Linotype printing machine 1930 CN
This image shows the Camden News printery in the 1920s at the rear of the building and office occupied by the newspaper at 145 Argyle Street, Camden. From the left are N Bean, printer, Charles Sidman, linotype operator. The Penrith Museum of Printing states that this is likely to be a Payne’s Wharfedale Cylinder Printing Machine and sheets of newsprint were hand fed into the press by the operator. (Camden News, 22 October 1980)

 

The Richardsons had the latest equipment at their headquarters and printery at 315 Queen Street Campbelltown for the Macarthur Advertiser and other newspapers.

History of Penrith Museum of Printing

The Penrith Museum of Printing website outlines the short history of the museum. It states:

The story of the Museum  begins with Alan Connell, the founder of the museum who had a desire back in 1987 to develop a “working museum” of letterpress printing machinery and equipment.

As the story goes, many years had to pass before Alan’s dream was able to be fully realised via a Commonwealth Government Federation Fund Grant. The Penrith Museum of Printing was officially opened on the 2 June, 2001 by Ms Jackie Kelly, M.P. for Lindsay, the then Minister for Sport and Tourism.

A large proportion of the machinery and equipment on display  originally started its working life in the Nepean Times Newspaper in Penrith, NSW Australia, while many other items have been donated by present and or past printing establishments.

To experience the smell and noise of the local newspaper printery a visit is a must to the Penrith Museum of Printing.

Penrith Museum of Printing Tour group 2017
Tour group enjoy their visit to the Penrith Museum of Printing. Visitors are watching a demonstration and explanation of the equipment by museum volunteers who were former compositors and printers. (PMoP)

 

For contact details go to the website of the Penrith Museum of Printing.

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