The tiny town of Dorrigo on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales is home to Australia’s last letterpress newspaper.
The paper, which has been running since 1906, is now owned and operated by husband and wife team Michael and Jade English. Together, they print 1,000 copies of the paper for the town of just over 1,000 people each week.
Mr English has been working on the paper for nine years, but his father ran it for 50 years before him, so he grew up watching the process.”During my primary school years I used to come here before school and watch,” he said. “It’s been a part of my life ever since I was born, and I don’t know anything different.
“Michael started working on the paper alongside his father after the mill he worked at was closed and he was made redundant. “Six weeks after I was here dad got ill and had to retire, so I was chucked in the deep end.
A previous employee named Alan Smith came back to help Mr English learn the process, which Mr English said was more complicated than many people realise.”Once we get a story in, we’ll work out whether it’s relevant for Dorrigo, then we’ll typeset it on the Intertype,” he said.
“Once it’s set, Jade will proof read it, we make any changes then. Once that’s done we get to print it.”
“Sometimes things do get missed, we’re only human,” Mr English said. “Things have improved in the last two months since I got reading glasses.”We set the type in hot metal on the Intertype machine, which will then be laid into the bed of the press and run off”.
He said the staff write very few of their own stories, because their time is taken up with the mechanical part of the process. The intertype machine is almost 60 years old, and the printing press was made over 70 years ago. “That’s the biggest thing, making sure everything’s tip-top,” Mr English said.
The process is not only arduous, it can also be dangerous, with risk of lead poisoning and burns. “You need to know how to operate the machine, you’ve got to concentrate on what you’re setting, and you have to keep in mind what the machine’s doing,” he said.
“When the elevator jams up it could pump lead everywhere. Dad had some pretty bad burns.”
Photo: The type for the newspaper is laid into the bed of the press before printing. (ABC Coffs Coast: Liz Keen)
Images by Ellis & Co, Sutton (Photograph) & Walker and Boutall (Engraving). Source: Catalogue of the William Blades Library (1899)
William Blades (5 December 1824 – 27 April 1890), English printer and bibliographer, was born at Clapham, London.
In 1840 he was apprenticed to his father’s printing business in London, being subsequently taken into partnership.
The firm was afterwards known as Blades, East & Blades. His interest in printing led him to make a study of the volumes produced by Caxton’s press, and of the early history of printing in England.
His Life and Typography of William Caxton, England’s First Printer, was published in 1861-1863, and the conclusions which he set forth were arrived at by a careful examination of types in the early books, each class of type being traced from its first use to the time when, spoilt by wear, it passed out of Caxton’s hands.
Some 450 volumes from the Caxton Press were thus carefully compared and classified in chronological order.
Pentateuch of Printing with a Chapter on Judges (1891)
In 1877 Blades took an active part in organizing the Caxton celebration, and strongly supported the foundation of the Library Association.
He was a keen collector of old books, prints and medals. His publications relate chiefly to the early history of printing, the Enemies of Books, his most popular work, being produced in 1880.
On his death, his library was acquired by the St Bride Foundation as the initial collection of the library.
Bremen: Ernsting, 1791 Engraved broadside. Graphic Arts Collection.
A panoramic view of the city of Bremen tops this journeyman’s certificate.
It is inscribed for twenty-five year old Johann Hingstmann (born 1773), who has completed his twelve year apprenticeship to reach the level of journeyman.
Hingstmann now has the right to charge a fee for his own work.
To reach the highest level of master craftsman, he will have to submit an example of his work to a particular guild for evaluation and hopefully, be admitted to the guild as a master.
The certificate is engraved by Daniel Albert (Albrecht) Ernsting (1749-1820), who was himself an apprentice to a Bremen printer. Ernsting then studied in Göttingen and Copenhagen before returning to Bremen and opening a shop.
His name is found engraved on portraits, business cards, playing cards, and of course certificates.
The Holy Bible as printed in Oxford in 1717 by John Baskett became known as the ‘Vinegar Bible’ on account of the celebrated misprint in the Parable of the Vineyard. Rel.bb.71.2
No authoritative copy of the King James Bible survives.
The manuscript, supposedly still in existence in 1655, is said to have perished in the Great Fire of London.
The first editions were produced by the King’s Printer, Robert Barker, who despite his eminent position seems to have been a disorganised workman who introduced a large number of typographical errors.
The first Cambridge edition of 1629 carefully revised the text, but Barker excelled himself in 1631 with the notorious ‘Wicked Bible’ which omitted the word ‘not’ from the Seventh Commandment.
The translation itself was not universally admired either, the Puritan scholar Hugh Broughton damning it as soon as it appeared, and a later writer producing an 800 page volume on errors in the Pentateuch alone.
Nonetheless, assisted by the monopoly of the King’s Printer, the new translation rapidly supplanted the Bishops’ Bible and, more slowly, the Geneva version.
Plans for another rendering in the Commonwealth period came to nothing, and the King James version, dubbed the Authorised Version although no record survives of it ever having been authorised, reigned unchallenged until the 1880s.
“Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms.” — The Hatch Brothers
One of the oldest letterpress print shops in America got its start when the Hatch brothers founded Nashville’s Hatch Show Print in 1879.
Originally known as CR and HH Hatch, the company made its first handbill for the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, nailing what has become the company’s trademark style from the outset.
Their work has always been renowned for its balanced use of type, masterful composition, and well-chosen graphics.
Hatch Show Print’s early “glory days” coincided with the golden age of Nashville’s country music scene.
Though it certainly didn’t hurt that from 1925 until 1992, the shop was located directly behind the Ryman Auditorium, aka “the Mother Church of Country Music,” much of Hatch’s reputation during this period was built upon the shoulders of Will T. Hatch (son of co-founder Charles).
Using his skills as a master woodblock carver, some of the most memorable posters for America’s biggest music stars were produced either by his hand, or under his artistic direction.
Though bills featuring country icons like Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris may be what first comes to mind, Hatch never played favorites. The shop has produced work for the likes of B.B. King, Etta James, Bruce Springsteen, and Duke Ellington, only to have the posters become sought-after collector’s items.
Moreover, during the “lean years” when offset printing briefly blinded the public to the value of such labors of love, Hatch maintained its business and a reputation of approachability by embracing everyone who came through the door, whether they be pro-wrestlers, owners of a grocery store, or Louis Armstrong.
What resulted was a delightful paper trail of American history unlike any other.
In 2013, the shop was relocated part-and-parcel to the lobby of the Country Music Hall of Fame, where it manages to retains its original air of independence-soaked history. Hatch remains a fully-functioning print shop, lovingly crafting over 150,000 posters each year in their own distinct aesthetic.
Tours of the studio are offered seven days a week, drawing together poster nerds, music geeks, history buffs, and art freaks all eager to see the next iconic print roll off the presses.