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Print museum patiently handcrafted
By JOEL MAXWELL
Presidential press: Printing Museum president Bill Nairn operates the Albion hand-press, which printed the first
issue of The Evening Post in 1865.
Grand opening: Former managing
director of The Evening Post Neil
Blundell at the re-commissioning of
the paper's first Albion hand-press.
The information super-
highway used to be hand-
cranked back when the
Evening Post started in 1865.
Pages would drip out of the
newspaper s hand-press printer at
a rate of 200 an hour.
But Bill Nairn, of Hutt Valley,
said even at 19th century speeds,
printing was a vital part of com-
munication for colonial New Zea-
Mr Nairn spoke to The Welling-
tonian as regional printing group
The Printing Museum looks ahead
to a promising 2013, after decades
of planning for a real home.
A planned museum looks
tantalisingly close, with the
Department of Conservation con-
sidering a concession for the group
to operate at Queen Elizabeth
Park in Kapiti.
Mr Nairn said the museum
would be a very large
865-square-metre building with
an area dedicated to newspaper
history, including the old printer.
We ve got the original Evening
Post hand-press that they used in
There will be a large printing
section with general printing his-
tory, a binding section, and an
area for special displays.
At a cost of $500,000, the
museum will come at a hefty price
for the group. It need to raise
money for the new base, sited
near the park s MacKay s Cross-
Until a museum is created, the
group stores its printing machin-
ery in an old Ministry of Defence
building in Upper Hutt.
That was a mammoth job, I m
telling you, to shift them [there],
Mr Nairn said.
The presses probably go up to
four tonnes, the old linotype is a
tonne, in the corner. It s all heavy
stuff. You don t want to shift it too
Mr Nairn worked at the Even-
ing Post till the 1980s, when he
realised that hot metal presses
were on the way out. He then
went to work for the old printing
The people who set up the
printing museum [group] contac-
ted us for a subscription. I heard
about it in 1986 and that s how it
Mr Nairn worked on the lino-
type machines at the Evening Post
-- technology dating back to the
19th century that allowed lines of
words to be cast in metal for print-
The group s hand-press dates
back to the 19th century as well --
but is in working order.
Next up in the evolution of
printers in New Zealand is a type
of stop cylinder press, which the
group also has an example of.
It s hand-fed. You feed the
paper in, but it prints at about
2000 [pages] an hour as against
200 an hour for the hand press.
The group s most modern press,
an automatic cylinder press, can
print about 5000 pages an hour.
Off-set presses commonly used for
newspapers today run about twice
Speed, however, has not been
part of the process of finding a
home for the museum.
Mr Nairn said the group had
been trying since 1986.
We ve tried all sorts of ideas.
We ve published a list of all the
various projects that haven t wor-
Having a home for the museum
would be fitting, given the import-
ance of printing presses in New
Zealand s settler history, he said.
It was hugely important in the
early colonial days because that
was the only medium of communi-
cation. [In] every little town and
village, one of the first things that
somebody did was set up a print
An incredible number of news-
papers were set up between 1865
and 1890, he said.
Of course, most of them didn t
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