Categories
Monotype Composition caster printing presses Thoughts on lettering typography

Beeches Press: the history

It’s a long time now but once I ran what was called a ‘private’ or ‘fine’ press. I was publisher and printer.

Here’s my story.

Short history of the Beeches Press

Why the Beeches Press?

I started the Beeches Press as a teenager, when I was about 16 from memory. At that time [early 1970s] I was living with my parents in Carshalton Beeches, a small town about 40 minutes by train from Victoria Station, London. I bought an Adana desktop, [8×5] through the wonderful Exchange and Mart [a weekly printed on newsprint full of ads for all manner of things] and a very limited amount of type, consisting of Times. I have a recollection of buying the equipment locally then strapping the lot to some sort of rack over the back wheel of my bike. But that might just be memory playing tricks. It was most probably delivered.

Searching for a name for the press I selected where I lived and engraved a tree [though whether or not it resembles a beech I do not know] on a random piece of wood, which I used as a ‘device’ on my first publication – grandiloquently titled A Manifesto. I was a radical school student at the time, taking Sociology A level and very much into Marx!

Part I –  A Manifesto, 1970s

 This first manifestation of the press in Carshalton Beeches left little to posterity. I have a copy of the Manifesto [printed in black and red] and I seem to recall printing Coleridge’s Kubla Kahn [I was also taking an English A level] but, thankfully, that seems to have been lost.

Beeches Press Manifesto
Beeches Press MAnifesto

The press work on the Manifesto was appalling, though the intentions were laudable: A private press will have four objectives: the press will print limited numbers of fine texts; an excellant [sic] but discriminate type face will be used; the press will print on high quality and, if possible, hand made paper; and finally, the press will ensure that the best bindings are tooled, I wrote. Nevertheless, this was all hand-set and printed on the Adana; a nice touch being a layer of tissue paper overlaying the example of Donne’s Holy Sonnets.

Beeches Press Holy Sonnets
Holy Sonnets by John Donne

Part II – High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, early 1980s

The original press was discontinued around the time I was completing my A levels (18 years old) in 1975 and didn’t get going again until 1980, by which time I was living in High Wycombe (having started a degree in English at Newcastle University), working as a reporter on the town’s weekly broadsheet, The Bucks Free Press. I bought, with considerable financial assistance from my dad, a new build terrace house near West Wycombe. It was on a small estate backing on to the grounds of the Dashwood estate; in fact, the little garden backed on to the estate itself, a flint wall being the boundary. The house at Portway Drive had three bedrooms, one tiny which I converted into a printing room. My diary records that I purchased one machine in January [of this I can’t recall] and then on 11 July drove to Kenilworth, near Coventry, to collect a Furnival guillotine and a Cropper Carlton treadle press. As with the Adana, I think these would have been advertised in the Exchange and Mart, since in these pre-internet years this weekly magazine was like today’s Gumtree or eBay, and had a comprehensive section of printing machinery for sale. I bought it every week and followed up on various leads – it was through E&M that I would later find the Monotype.

One other thing I remember about West Wycombe was the local rector, Michael Staines, I think of St Paul’s Church, had a vast collection of printing equipment and type housed on the first floor the Church Loft, an old building that fronted the A40/High Street. I recall going up there a couple of times but, much to my regret now, did not further access this source or find out any more about its history or function. Does it still exist? I have this entry dated 26 February 1983: See the vicar, Michael Staines, in the Church loft. He is printing. He has such a quantity of type. I hope he will buy the guillotine.

I also made friends with Harry Warschauer during this time through his wife, Judy, who worked at the Bucks Free Press. Harry, who had fled from Nazi Germany as a young boy, was an investigative reporter on the Sunday People [their house was alarmed after one expose´ led to death threats]; but I loved him for his eclectic book collection not for being a celebrated Fleet Street journo. He opened my mind to concrete poetry, Ian Hamilton Finlay and much else, and became my first ‘patron’ after my enthusiasm shifted from hot metal to letter carving on stone a decade later.

This re-incarnation of the Beeches Press was not very productive: some ephemera and a book of poems for a friend of Harry’s is all I can recall, hand-set in whatever metal type I had at the time. The only other item of mention was a card Harry and I produced (printed offset by a printer in High Wycombe) to commemorate the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana on 29 July 1981. The plan was to make some money and we had 10,000 printed thinking our fortune ensured. The card featured a typographic portrait of the pair done using Letraset Univers and was printed in purple on white glossy stock. Awful.  I have found one surviving example, tucked at the back of a photo album mum kept of my ‘life’, as well as a letter from the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, to whom one sent, very rightly, such things for the seal of approval. [The watermark is Original Turkey Mill Kent.]

Charles and Diana card 1981
Charles and Diana card

On the day of the wedding I went into central London with dad and brother Andrew trying to flog the cards to spectators. [Dad was a salesman and saw this as an opportunity to suck up a captive audience. We sold a few cards. 50p each, but I was stopped by police asking me what I had in the large bag I was carrying: I think they thought it might be explosives!] When Diana fell pregnant a year later I over-printed the remaining cards on my treadle with the slogan, Fast Breeder, [one of Harry’s inspirations] and we distributed these to like-minded anti-monarchists and those who opposed nuclear power! There were some bookshops in Charing Cross Road and elsewhere who actually stocked them.

In late 1982 my dad came up with the fancy of buying a newspaper on the Isle of Wight – The Isle of Wight Mercury. Why not? I was a journalist and also a printer, and dad could do the selling and finances. Simple. We went to Ventnor on a cold November morning, taking the ferry from Portsmouth, the departure delayed by an hour because of dense fog. I recall us sitting below deck on the return when the fog was even thicker and mum moaning that we would all perish because of the fog! I wrote in my diary: I heard my mother saying to my father, ‘There’s nothing you can do. Your number has to come up some day and if it comes up well, that’s it. It will come up sooner or later. There’s nothing you can do about it’. We all survived but the project went no further.

The Cropper treadle was sold in 1982 ‘for £200, to a lady living in London. Sold the beautiful beast because of a few debts, mainly mortgage…’ I write in my diary on 23 October. It was at this time I was seeking to return to university to study archaeology and anthropology so I was downsizing. (I matriculated at Fitzwilliam, Cambridge in October 1983, graduating in 1986 with first class honours in Achaeology and Aathropology.) These plans may well have had something to do with dad’s crazy idea for the Isle of Wight – a not so subtle hint in an effort to sway me from giving up a regular job, a mortgage and a future in order to return to uni and uncertainty and penury for three years. I was stubborn and did my own thing.

Part III – Bromley, late 1980s to early 1990s

Two false starts. Now for the real thing. It’s 1988. I’m a full-time journalist at the Financial Times, then at Bracken House, 10 Canon Street, near St Paul’s. [A year later the paper moved to One Southwark Bridge and by a strange quirk of fate is due to return to its former HQ in 2018.] I have bought a small terrace house in Brockley, near Lewisham, and a beige coloured and battered  MGB GT [registration VMD 733G]. Life is good. In April I follow up on an advert placed in the Exchange and Mart for a 1960s built Monotype caster and keyboard once operated by Cox and Wyman in Fakenham, Norfolk. It is priced at £350 and owned by a printer in that town who is selling off his letterpress. My paternal grandmother died in December 1987 and I am left a small legacy. This I use to make the purchase, which includes five matrices: Bembo, Fournier, Times, Gill and Univers.

Earlier in the same year I also acquire an Albion hand press. I can’t exactly recall now how this came about, the diary relates that in February I was put in touch with someone who had the machine through a mutual friend. It was not complete, a ‘few pieces missing but should be quite serviceable,’ I write with the enthusiasm of the amateur. [I never did get it going, and I’ve no idea where it went. I did do a fair bit of research, however, visiting similar machines in Oxford and at the Kelmscott Museum in Chiswick. My press was manufactured the executors of Cope and is illustrated in Moran’s Printing Presses. I also saw a man named Chris Holladay at his workshop in Frederick Terrace, Hackney. He sold me a filial and gave me detailed drawings of other missing parts. He also guided me to the Slade where he thought there was a machine similar to mine. It was dated 1830.]

On 4 May 1988 I visit the Monotype headquarters at Redhill. I see Duncan Avery, the Sales Support Manager, ML Division, who provides me with the details of Ernie Devonshire. On 27 May I pick up the Monotype equipment from Norfolk – I have to hire a driver and lorry. This I do before starting my night shift at the FT! The Monotype caster is stored for the time being at my friend’s factory unit in Staines as I do not yet have a workshop. The keyboard and some other items I store in an outside shed at the house in Brockley.

In August 1988, I lay my hands on a proofing press. This from the Journal: ‘A chance browse through Artists Newsletter in Dillons, Long Acre, led me to Goldsmiths (just down the road @ New Cross) which had advertised a proofing press – a Western with a 30” wide bed. Saw it Thursday, meeting Colin Aggett who explained that the printing workshop was closing down…The Beeches Press is reborn!’

At the end of the year I write: ‘It is a delight, it is wonderful, to have the workshop. I consider how lucky I am to have come across Ernie just at the right time and for all the elements of my project to fall neatly into place. There is much to learn, a great deal, but I feel that I am moving forward. Next year must be consolidation as this year has been assembling the parts of the jigsaw and moving machinery from place to place. But I now have the equipment to do whatever I care to do and The Beeches Press is reborn and a private press is born and like a little demigod I [am] in charge.’

Brief Chronology from 1988

1988

May: Monotype Caster, keyboard and five fonts (Bembo, Fournier, Times, Gill and Univers) purchased for £350 from a printer in Norfolk.

May: Visit Monotype headquarters in Redhill and given name of Ernie Devonshire, a retired former Monotype engineer who lives in Bromley, Kent.

June: Visit Ernie and negotiate space in his workshop. Ernie also offers me lessons on how to operate the keyboard and caster. I pay £20 a week in rent.

July: Purchase some equipment from Financial Times which is closing its works at Bracken House – includes trolley used to move large chases, furniture and other sundries.

August: Western Proofing Press purchased from Goldsmith’s College, Deptford for £75. [I am living in Brockley, near Lewisham.] I have to hire a specialist removal firm, the same Chris Holliday of Modbury Engineering,  as the press is on the third or fourth floor.

September: Research Coryate’s Crudities at British Library, having heard a talk on radio earlier in the year about Thomas Coryate. Decide to use the section on Venice for first publication by the Press. Decide to use Bembo for text. In the same month visit the Whittington Press.

November: Set-up and print a specimen sheet for The Beeches Press, to use as publicity poster. Send this out to those who I think may be interested in the venture. [I purchase paper from John Purcell of Brixton.]

1989

February: Complete Prospectus for Coryate’s Venice.

April: Print Prospectus.

June: Put in touch with artist Gwyn Roberts through Goldsmith’s College and I commission Gwyn to do linoprints for Coryate. Contact the Libanus Press regarding Greek sorts needed for Coryate.

July: Start printing – this being the third day of the third Ashes Test.

September: First proof of lino cuts by Gwyn arrive.

October: Back at British Library to commence research on possible second publication by Press: George Farquhar’s Adventures in Covent Garden.

November: Title page of Coryate printed.

December: First trial binding completed. Edition runs to XXXX copies. Some are boxed.

1990

January: Bertram Rota Booksellers in Covent Garden agree to stock a few Coryate’s; orders come in for others.

August: On the Flying Scotsman printed in an edition of 100, including a printer’s hat. This is a reprint of Eric Gill’s essay originally published in the London and North Eastern Railway Magazine, vol. 23 no. 1, dated January 1933. Published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gill’s death.

October: Exhibit at first Oxford Fine Print Bookfair.

A prospectus is issued on the intention to publish a book on the artist Betty Swanwick, who died in 1989, to be called A Singular Vision.  The work was never completed. I had been collaborating on this with my friend Philip Garner who knew Swanwick and would write the text.

1991

Little work at the workshop and nothing printed: I married Marian in October this year after a short betrothal.

1992

I extend my studies in calligraphy and letter carving in stone. In November I take leave from the FT [long service leave of about 5 weeks] and spend part of that time in the studio of Richard Kindersley, Camberwell.

August: Take a one week residential course in letter carving under Tom Perkins at West Dean.

1993

August: Visit to see John Skelton, nephew of Gill’s, at his workshop at Blabers Mead, Streat. He is holding an exhibition to celebrate his 70th.  I take a one week letter carving course at his workshop in 1994. [John Skelton died in November 1999. I attend his memorial service held at Chichester Cathedral, 24 June 2000.]

August: Make a video of the workshop at Piell’s Yard with Marian’s assistance. [This has now been converted to DVD.]

1994

April: Visit David Kindersley at his workshop in Cambridge on the 24th. [DK died on 2 February 1995 and I attend his memorial service held at St James’ Church, Piccadilly, on 2 October.]

1998

Last recorded entry of visiting the printing workshop is made on 1st November. I have no date for sale of the machinery but guess it may have been 1999.

Aside from wedding invitations [ours in 1991] and some other ephemera I printed nothing of consequence after On the Flying Scotsman.

The Beeches Press was, therefore, dormant from 1991 until machinery sold in or about 1999.

Categories
printing Thoughts on lettering

No hot metal on this Penguin

It’s 1957 and those at Penguin, namely Allen Lane, had a problem. The imprint was becoming so successful that print runs of some 50,000 were necessary to keep costs down and the paperbacks affordable. However, Allen Lane also wanted to publish original titles: and the market for these was often small, much smaller than the popular titles that kept the firm afloat (these were the post-war years, years of austerity). Think of the number of formes kept locked up in metal on the hunch a quick re-print might be required. Therefore, film-setting was investigated and Private Angelo became the first book (in England) to be printed entirely on film.

This is recorded in Penrose Annual vol.52 (1958). An article by L.S.F. Elsbury, manager, Fotosetter division, Intertype Ltd., Slough, Bucks, explains: ‘The book chosen was Eric Linklater’s Private Angelo. Sir Allen Lane decided at once to print, apart from the trade edition, a special edition of 2000 copies as a Christmas gift from him and his brother to friends in the trade. Designed by Hans Schmoller, a charming book has been produced. The text is printed on bible paper, the volume is bound in Linson vellum printed in two colours with the spine lettered in gold, and there are special end-papers by David Gentleman.’

Mr Elsbury concludes in [restrained and English-like] rapture: ‘This, then, is a step forward in a new adventure…It may give a new standard of quality to the graphic arts and, if it should be widely used, the combination of filmsetting and offset reproduction could become one of the means to help the industry keep pace with the progress of our times.’

Anyone have a copy of the original limited edition?

[Also referenced: Fifty Penguin Years, Penguin Books, 1985.]

 

Categories
Thoughts on lettering

Christmas Quiz 2016 [Number 3]: the answer

It’s that time of year again – time for the ‘famousAll About Lettering Quiz that comes without a Prize – just the quiet satisfaction that in correctly answering you, dear reader, know one hell of a lot about typography and the printing arts!

So, who is illustrated here and what is wrong with the image, according to one historian?

1 January: Thank you to all readers who took up the challenge. As most of you correctly identified this is a portrait of our man Gutenberg (or Guttemberg) and used as a frontispiece in Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises… It is believed to have come from an engraving made in 1584, though this shown is taken from a 17c painting that copied the 16c engraving. The painting was destroyed by fire in Strasbourg in 1870. What is wrong about it? Some authorities attest Gutenberg was beardless. [See Ruppel, A, 1947: Johannes Guteberg. Berlin.]

christmas-quiz-2016

Categories
Thoughts on lettering

The Oxford University Press 1468-1921: some thoughts on re-acquaintance with old friends

Books sit patiently on the shelves of our libraries – those still fortunate to have their own private library in this digital world. Sit there collecting dust and household debris [unless you also happen to employ someone to ‘bang the books’ for you], perhaps for years. Then one day an idea takes hold, you recollect a volume, have a vague idea where on the shelves it nestles. Usually our own libraries do not follow Dewey, so a Jane Austen novel might share a shelf with Ten Ways to Skin a Cat or something prosaic.

Today I delighted on Mr Middleton Murry’s The Problem of Style, a text I’ve not read fully for some 40 years when it was a High School exam piece. I’ve two editions – a cheap paperback [from memory possibly light-fingered from the school library] and a hardback edition of 1925, quite possibly a first though the paperback records earlier, 1922 to be precise. It is, however, not a booksellers delight, being ex-University of London Library, Extra-Mural Library to boot – and stoutly Cancelled by a rubber stamp in blue ink.

problem-of-style
The Problem of Style by J. Middleton Murry published by OUP in 1925

[For the record Mr Middleton Murry was sharing space on the shelf with none other than TE Lawrence and The Mint. No doubt both quite placidly, being contemporaries and reminiscing on glories past.]

Anyhow, I got to examining the title page noting Humphrey Milford as the Imprint and then a list of cities – shown in this image – ranging from London through to Shanghai, via Copenhagen and Madras. I got thinking. Whatever was the OUP doing in Shanghai in 1925, let alone three cities in India?

Fortunately I had the answer at hand. I re-entered the library [no need for a Readers Pass] and headed straight for the Stacks. This is where ‘important’ volumes are kept in a bookcase with doors preventing the ingress of too much of that dust and household debris – as I, alas, cannot, nor would I even if I could, have access to a ‘book banger’.

The doors opened and I immediately knew where to go. Second shelf down [for here there is some nod to Dewey and books keep rightful neighbours with whom they can consort – though some find this tedious: would not a volume on Caxton like to flirt with Gill?] I run my fingers along the line and ease out The Oxford University Press 1468-1921. 

some-account-of-the-oup
Some account of the Oxford University Press

What a thrill, what rapture to open again this slim [13mm] edition that bears proudly on the Title, having swept away the tissue protection: OXFORD AT THE CLARENDON PRESS MCMXXII.

Here all the answers to my questions are displayed: ‘The Chinese Agency of the Press is at C 445 Honan Road, Shanghai, of which Mr T. Leslie is the present Representative…’; and ‘The activities of the Press in India are of a relatively recent date. Until 1912 when a branch was opened in Bombay…The increase of staff has made it possible to open a new branch in Calcutta – a sub-branch in Madras had already existed…’.

And as for The Clarendon Press. Well, that is the be all and end all – ‘By Clarendon Press Books are meant the learned, educational and other ‘Standard’ works produced under the close supervision of the Delegates and their Oxford Secretariate, and printed at Oxford’. Indeed. For Humphrey Milford [recall him?] was no more than a minion in the outskirts of the big smoke of London [then at Amen Corner, EC4], a publisher and not, for heaven’s sake, a printer in the city of Dreaming Spires.

There is more. Take this at random from the list of Oxford Medical Publications [of 1922 – not long after the Great War]: ‘…further important additions have been made, including…War Neuroses and Shell Shock by Sir Frederick Mott, K.B.E.,’

My edition contains a slip note written many years ago by an earlier hand of mine stating this volume was printed in Fell types, as noted in Updike. I quickly pulled him from the Stack – the plump two volumes being easy to find [second edition, second printing, hardback]. Here Updike confirms in a footnote (vol II, p.97) that Some Account… is indeed produced from Fell. However, I notice he refers to a 1926 edition, not that of 1922. A small detail, minute in fact, yet to a bibliophile as seismic as an earthquake in the hills of a medieval town in central Italy. [I have now amended the slip – so whosoever considers this volume in the future can rest assured of some closure.]

some-account-of-the-oup-2
Some Account of the OUP dated 1921

In closing, may I wish readers a satisfying end to this year and may sense prevail in the one to come. 

Categories
lettering

Christmas Quiz 2015

In reviving a ‘tradition’ that was first launched in 2012 (see here), may I first of all wish those loyal, and new, readers a safe, relaxing, enjoyable and stress-free (is that possible?) holiday season wherever you may be. Take time out and take time to reflect.

Okay – here is the photo: can you name what this is and what machine it belongs to? There is no prize – just the quiet adulation that comes from being one of the few able to recall pre-digital technology (now, that was a clue). I will give the answer to those suffering sleepless nights in the first week of January 2016. And – no Googling. Not that it will do you any good mind.

Now what is this assemblage of pipes…it is not an organ
Now what is this assemblage of pipes…it is not an organ
Categories
Elements of Lettering lettering lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework printing Typographic ephemera

Something Rampant for the weekend

Looking through my collection of typography today I came across these images, included in Portfolio Three by The Rampant Lions Press, Cambridge, England, dated 1982. I have written about Will and Sebastian Carter many times throughout the life of this blog so please hit the search key to find out more, or send me an email. Enjoy your weekend. (This was a regular feature of the blog – the last entry can be found here.)

Franklin typeface
Franklin typeface
Rampant Lions Press prospectus
Rampant Lions Press prospectus

 

Categories
Brand design Elements of Lettering lettering printing typography

Ashley Havinden, Ashley Crawford and Neuland

A reader recently identified the typeface I commented upon in this post as being Ashley Crawford, and not Neuland as I had then speculated. Thank you Marvin.

The face was designed by Ashley Havinden, Ashley Havindena noted designer of that period and produced by Monotype as Series 238 and 279 (the later for the plain font). Image from Encyclopaedia of Typefaces, Ashley Havinden_0001Blandford Press, 1953 as in my copy of Specimens of the Type Faces, Borders, Ornaments, Rules and Other Material cast on ‘Monotype’ Type Composing and Casting Machines, The Monotype Corporation, n.d it is not included, although ‘single specimen sheets…may be obtained on application’.

This is another of his works for the London store Simpson, taken from Modern Publicity 1942-48, The Studio Publications.Ashley Havinden_0004

To correct the earlier misinterpretation here is Neuland used in another ad (taken from The Typography of Newspaper Advertisements, Meynell, F, 1929).

Ashley Havinden_0002Ashley Havinden_0003

Categories
History of Lettering typographers

Mr Frederic W Goudy’s ‘curves are perhaps too round and soft’

It’s always a joy to pick up a book, any book, and find a colophon describing the typeface used in the publication. This most recently happened to me when I bought a copy of Geoff Dyer’s novel Out of Sheer Rage (Canongate Books, 2012). The typeface selected for the edition is Goudy Old Style, Goudy lettering_0001designed, it is noted, by ‘Frederic W Goudy, an American type designer, in 1915. It is a graceful, slightly eccentric typeface, and is prized by book designers for its elegance and readability’.

OK. Slightly eccentric took me to my bookshelves to see what others have written about Mr Goudy. What does Updike have to say? He writes of Kennerley, Goudy lettering another of the designer’s faces commissioned in 1911 by Mitchell Kennerly: ‘[it] is a freely designed letter which has been much praised in many quarters. Its capitals are excellent but the lower case roman, except perhaps in 10-point, seems to “roll” a little; and, as was said of another of Mr Goudy’s types, “when composed in a body, the curves of the letters – individually graceful – set up a circular, whirling sensation that detracts somewhat from legibility. That is to say, the curves are perhaps too round and soft, and lack a certain snap and acidity”.’ (Printing Types, vol II. 2nd ed, 2nd printing, 1937.)

My Oh My. They were savage critics back in the twentieth century.

What has Carter to add? ‘Goudy died in 1947,’ he concludes, ‘heaped with honours…His faces are not widely used for the setting of books: they do not fulfil the customary demands of reticence for such purposes. But for displayed work and advertising design they have always been deservedly popular’. (Twentieth century Type Designers, 1987.) Carter also notes how Goudy made a new fount, that is cutting the matrices by hand and giving them to Updike the same day – Updike having called for lunch (this was 1933) and complaining he couldn’t find the right size or style for a title page he was then designing. Now that’s what I call a good lunch.

Another writer, BH Newdigate, says of Goudy’s Kennerley face (this written in 1920): ‘…[it] is perhaps the most attractive letter which has been placed within the reach of British and AMerican printers in modern times.’  Times change.

Categories
Newspapers

The Gazette – part three

Part Three [if you missed part one click here and for part two here]

DDG IntertypeHistory of the Don Dorrigo Gazette taken from the centenary issue (Wednesday, January 20, 2010): DDG wood furniture

‘Founders of the Gazette Herb and Reg Vincent arrived in Dorrigo in 1909 and were thrilled at the country and surrounding district. They settled in the community…on January 8, 1910…the first copies of the Don Dorrigo Gazette were pulled off the old Columbian, a second-hand Double Royal “thoroughly overhauled and guaranteed in good order and condition” by FT Wimble and Co Ltd, Sydney…There have been several owners of the Gazette, starting with the Vincent Brothers sold to George Holland in 1938, Bill Beckhouse in the 1950s and John English in the late 1970s.’

DDG galley‘The original Columbian printing press was replaced by a Wharfedale hand-fed machine…This was replaced by a modern Heidelberg cylinder press still in use today…A new typesetting machine, the Intertype, was installed at a cost of £3,288 in 1953.’

‘The Wharfedale…was believed to be 114 years old before being replaced by the Heidelberg cylinder press in 1970.’

From the Don Dorrigo Gazette of Thursday, October 17, 1957:

‘The Dorrigo Gazette has installed a modern Autovic automatic printing press…[it] takes the place of a hand-fed platen which the Gazette has donated to the Dorrigo District School.’ [My note: Where is it now?]

Former editors: Reg Vincent; George Holland; Charlie Chappel; Jack Devine; ‘Flip’ Pomroy; Sel Rawson; Jim Ellis; Alan Smith; John English and [current] Michael English.

‘When John English started his apprenticeship in 1961 Alan Smith was foreman; later he took over as editor and when Alan left for a change working with the Bellingen Shire Council, John took over as editor…’

DDG front page

 

Categories
lettering printing

Three cheers for the Don Dorrigo Gazette – three cheers for Michael and Jade

How long will commercial letterpress continue? Until it becomes too expensive to source spare parts or ink or, more likely, until the craft skills are no longer passed from generation to generation.

PART ONE: In the small township of Dorrigo (pop. 1100) high in the mountains of northern NSW commercial letterpress is, at present, alive and well. The Don Dorrigo Gazette is the last Australian newspaper (the Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate to give the full title) printed letterpress, and printed letterpress not as a hobby but as a business enterprise. DDG office outside

Now in its 104th year the newspaper is valued by the community it serves, for it acts as the heart of the community, a true community newspaper in every sense. One of the house-ads states: ‘Your Printer Is Part Of Your Community’. So much part of this community that 800 copies are printed each week, the eight-page edition hand-folded before being distributed both locally and afar and sold for a dollar; so much so that the rival newspaper of the big town of Bellingen (pop 2600) down the mountain is mostly shunned by the Dorrigo folk.

I first wrote about the Don Dorrigo Gazette two years ago (click here) and it has taken me that long to make the journey – about five hours from where we live in far north NSW, down the Pacific Highway, through the seaside town of Coffs Harbour before turning inland. So when we were serching around for a week’s break and my wife mentioned Dorrigo (there are wonderful rainforest walks and waterfalls to see) I didn’t hesitate.

DDG MichaelI didn’t know what I would find, though I think in my mind I had expectations of a much larger building, perhaps with a frontage that serves as reception and ‘newsroom’. After all, in my earlier years working as a journalist all the local newspapers I worked on in England had some sort of entrance, be it modest or grand. Not so the Don Dorrigo Gazette. (Though reading through the centenary issue of the paper, published on 20 January 2010 I find that until the late 1980s there was indeed a frontage, the ‘factory’ being built on in the late 1970s.)

We had arranged to meet Michael English (left), owner, editor, advertising manager, typesetter, printer and jack-of-all-trades, on Tuesday. He told my wife on the phone that he would be in early, around 5am, to finish off that week’s edition. The night before I scanned through the previous week’s edition: the front page ‘splash’ being Ancient History Display Comes To Dorrigo while Museum Musings on the back page (page 8, single page size 29cm x 44cm) contained the information that: ‘Our museum houses the complete set of the Don Dorrigo Gazette from 1910 to the present as well as the old Wharfedale letterpress printing press used to print the newspaper until it was replaced with the current Heidelberg cylinder press’. DDG heidelberg

TO BE CONTINUED …