State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 57 Autumn 1996


The Fawkner Printing Press: a provenance study*

The Press as Icon

Peter Luck in his recent book Australian Icons: things that make us think (1992) defined the icon at a number of levels — at its simplest as a picture or image; more complexly as a sign or representation of an object or concept. Among his one hundred icons Luck includes the magnificent Stanhope press of Andrew Bent, used to produce the Hobart Town Gazette. This press is said to embody the struggle for freedom of the press so important in a democratic country. Paradoxically, this same press was also the vehicle for expressing barbarous opinions about the Tasmanian Aborigines, thus hardening public opinion and furthering the cause of the exterminists.
The ideal of the printing press embodied many of the significant movements of the nineteenth century — universal suffrage, universal education, individual freedom of expression, industrial and material progress, and the globalisation of ideas. It was recognised as an icon by the inhabitants of the nineteenth century who wrote an endless number of paeans of praise to its democratising influence. James Harrison of the Geelong Advertiser addressed the readers of the paper's first issue thus:
Bring forth the Press!
When first that mighty shout was heard,
Truth rose in radiant light ensphered,
The nation to address.1
Melburnians recognised the Printing Press as an engine for the transmission of ideas and progress; they literally wheeled it out on the back of a wagon to celebrate occasions such as the separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1850, the arrival of Governor Hotham in 1854, and the opening of the Melbourne-Geelong rail line in 1855.2 The press was close to the heart and mind and temperament of the nineteenth century.
The Fawkner Press in particular is a Victorian icon. In what was then the Port Phillip District, it was the first press to produce a newspaper, a staple of the reading public throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Moreover, like the vast tide of men and sheep that washed over the coast and hinterland of Australia Felix, the Fawkner Press was extremely mobile. It travelled from Launceston to Melbourne in the late 1830s and then on to Geelong in 1840. Finally, the Fawkner Press represents the go-aheadativeness of men such as Fawkner and Harrison, typical men of the nineteenth century who bullied and bullocked their way ahead. The Fawkner Press truly is an icon then, and something that should make us think.
Returning to more immediate matters, I would also claim that the Fawkner Press is important to the State Library of Victoria because it is within that library that so many of the collections with Fawkner associations are housed — the Fawkner manuscript papers (which have undergone a major conservation program funded by the Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School), various artefacts such as his smoking cap, money purse and music box, his books, pictures, some furniture and many personal news papers, some of which were printed on the Fawkner Press. Given these strong associations with the collections of the State Library it is clear that the provenance of the press is important.

Working Life

Ideally, a provenance should be established from the point of manufacture and first ownership, but for the purposes of this paper I will concentrate on the period from 1838 when the press was used to produce Melbourne's first newspaper, the Melbourne Advertiser. Having treated this period we might then speculate about the press's earlier history.
John Pascoe Fawkner had probably intended to publish a newspaper in Port Phillip from the time of its first settlement. John Fawkner senior had informed Bent's News of his son's intentions as early as July 1836, and in December 1837 Fawkner approached Police Magistrate William Lonsdale seeking information about what was required by the government before he could publish. Lonsdale wrote off to Governor Bourke in Sydney but in the mean-time gave Fawkner tacit approval to go ahead. So, on 1 January 1838 Fawkner produced a manuscript version of the Melbourne Advertiser. There are several examples of early colonial newssheets in manuscript: the Fremantle Journal of 1830 was a manuscript, and more notably the first three numbers of Andrew Bent's Hobart Town Gazette were handwritten because of the shortage of type. Fawkner would certainly have known about this latter example.
There remains the question of why Fawkner began his newspaper in manuscript: why did he not simply wait until he had acquired a press? There are several possible answers to this question. First, there was money to be made in subscriptions and advertising revenue: not a lot of money, it's true, but some. Secondly, the newspaper provided Fawkner with the means of advertising his own various entrepreneurial activities. Thirdly, the newspaper provided Fawkner with a vehicle for his ego. Fourthly, Fawkner probably knew that George Arden and Thomas Strode had also approached Lonsdale about establishing a newspaper, and Johnny Fawkner did like to be firs Being first was not only a commercial advantage but also ensured Fawkner his place in history, of which fact he was acutely aware. Finally, and perhaps characteristically, it was neat to begin the newspaper on the first day of the year, even without a press.
Whatever the reasons for producing in manuscript, Fawkner only had to produce ten numbers by this means before he was able to obtain an old wooden press and some worn type. In fact, it was in the course of writing the tenth number that the press arrived: ‘This number was not fully Written out when press and Type arrived, and No. 10 was printed, But unfortunately was lost or stolen, and so lost to JOHN PASCOE FAWKNER, ME 4th, 1838’.3
Garryowen (Edmund Finn) gives a lively account of this first printed newspaper in Melbourne, and, given the fact that Finn arrived in Port Phillip only a few years after the event and that he was personally associated with Fawkner, I think we can accept his account as being accurate.
Whilst Fawkner was working away at his pen-and-ink Sketcher, a rare stroke of good fortune placed him in possession of some used-up type and an old press, which had been superannuated in Launceston, and he was in ecstasies over the valuable ‘find’. But though the ‘pica’ was there, no regular ‘picanier’ or compositor was to be found. After much hunting up a very ‘grassy’ hand, in the person of a Van Diemonian youth, who seven years before, had worked for a twelvemonth ‘at case’ was ferreted out, and how he and Fawkner contrived to get the paper ‘set-up’ is one of those mysteries which time has never unravelled. The Advertiser did, however, appear in all the battered glory of half-defaced type, and its first issue contains an agglomeration of news almost as seedy as the letter-press. The leader thus concludes: — ‘We earnestly

Plate 13: Fawkner's First Printing Office, c. 1870. (Royal Historical Society of Victoria)

beg the public to excuse this our first appearance, in the absence of the compositor, who was engaged. We were under the necessity of trusting our first number to a Van diemonian youth of eighteen, and this lad only worked at his business about a year, from his tenth to his eleventh, 1830 to 1831. Next the honest printer, from whom the type was bought, has swept up all his old waste letter and called it type, and we at present labour under many wants; we even have not as much as Pearl Ash to clean the Dirty Type'.4
The Melbourne Advertiser only continued to number 17 issued on 23 April. Lonsdale had received a reply from Sydney which indicated that Fawkner had to go to Sydney in order to enter bonds of good behaviour and give sureties of solvency. The newspaper therefore ceased publication.
It was not until 16 February 1839 that Fawkner was again able to publish, this time under the masthead of the Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser. The old wooden press continued to be used, although, as early as 14 November 1838 Fawkner had been negotiating with his agents in Launceston — John S. Hill at first, and then Henry Dowling (the same Dowling who published the famous pirated Pickwick Papers). It was not until the spring of 1840 before the new press — a double demy — finally arrived, allowing Fawkner to compete with the Port Phillip Gazette for advertising and subscriptions.
But what was to happen to the old wooden press now that it was no longer needed?
According to James Harrison, the first editor of the Geelong Advertiser, Fawkner engaged him to take the old press and its stock of type to Geelong and start up a newspaper there. Harrison, having great faith in his own abilities, was only too willing to oblige, seeing it as an opportunity to strike out on his own. The following account was given in 1848 in an open letter in which Harrison defended himself against a charge of ingratitude made by Fawkner:
When your new presses and types arrived from England, in 1840, your old wooden press and worn-out types were likely to become little better than useless lumber. It was therefore a fortunate event FOR YOU that you obtained the services of a man who was able and willing to take upon himself the whole duties appertaining to the production of a provincial newspaper … After eighteen months trial (not three years, as you assert,) I was so sanguine of success that I offered to purchase your materials, for three hundred pounds, being three times the amount at which my then partner (Mr Scramble) valued them. You grumbled at the price, but consented. The payment was made by Bills at long dates; these you discounted, one at the Bank of Australasia, and two others at the Port Phillip Bank, thus realising at a time of unparralleled [sic] depression, a very handsome amount upon what, but for my good management, would not have been worth three hundred farthings.5
A second account was given by the anonymous writer — thought to be Daniel Harrison, James's younger brother — of a feature in the Geelong Advertiser of 24 November 1890, the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the newspaper.
Mr Harrison was provided by Mr Fawkner with the historical old wooden press, now in the Melbourne museum, some type, and other discarded fittings of the Port Phillip Patriot office. He put all the material on board the schooner Currency Lass, then the ‘crack’ clipper trading to Corio Bay, where after a twelve hours' voyage it duly arrived. There was no jetty in those days, but the precious swag on which the early progress of Geelong so much depended was humped ashore somehow.
It is clear from these accounts that Fawkner again achieved a significant double. He was the proprietor of the first newspaper in Geelong, and he made a substantial amount of money out of the transaction.
It is thought that the wooden press was not used for long before it was replaced by more modern plant. Certainly by 1848 Harrison indicates in the letter already quoted that he is trying to sell the old press and type but without success — even at £50! Furthermore, it has been reported in modern times that the press was put up for auction in 1850 but that no bids were made.6 After this time the whereabouts of the press are not known until it resurfaces at the Intercolonial Exhibition of 1866. Where had it been in the meantime? A speculative answer to this question is offered here, but it should be remembered that the evidence is circumstantial.
The press was certainly to be found in Geelong in 1848: it had been superseded at the Advertiser's office and was on sale for £50. A buyer could not be found. In August of that same year there arrived in the colony a man by the name of Edward Khull.7 Khull had been a printer in Glasgow and for some time had employed a young James Harrison. Having arrived in the colony Khull stayed for several months with George Russell at the Golf Hill station, about thirty miles from Geelong, and it is possible — even probable — that Khull would have renewed his acquaintance with Harrison at this time.
After a brief, unsuccessful career as a pastoralist, Khull returned to Melbourne and was engaged in 1850 to establish the first government printing office. Khull was authorised to spend £355 locally on buying second-hand equipment while awaiting the
new presses and types ordered from England. For £25 he obtained from the Argus newspaper an old press ‘worth about its weight in iron’ according to Garryowen.8 We might speculate that in the process of purchasing second-hand printing equipment Khull also picked up the old wooden press from his former apprentice, James Harrison. An 1851 inventory of plant and machinery at the Government Printing Office lists two Super-Royal presses and a Foolscap Broadside press.9 The latter may well be a description of the Fawkner press.
When the new plant arrived from England, the older equipment would have been superseded, though perhaps it continued to be used for proof work. Eventually it may have been put into storage. Certainly by 1866 the Fawner Press had resurfaced at the Intercolonial Exhibition where it was displayed by one F. F. Moore. And who was F. F. Moore? None other than the Government Storekeeper, the most likely recipient of a press when it was no longer required by the government printer.10 A speculative provenance then has the Fawkner press picked up by Khull when establishing the government printing office. The press then goes into storage out of which it is retrieved by the Government Storekeeper who displays it at the Intercolonial Exhibition of 1866.
It cannot be denied however that there is a hiatus in our knowledge, and this raises another very important question. How can we be sure that the press exhibited in the 1866 Exhibition is the Fawkner press? The entry in the exhibition catalogue is explicit:
Intercolonial Exhibition. Class VI Machinery Section 26 — Miscellaneous. Entry 1043. Moore, F. F., King Street, Melbourne — The press used by the Hon. J.P. Fawkner for printing the ‘Colonist’ [sic], the first paper published in Melbourne.11
And yet Fawkner himself makes no mention of the press in a letter in which he describes his visit to the exhibition.12 Fortunately we have a number of testimonies published in the 1880s and 1890s by men who had firsthand working knowledge of the old press and who clearly believed it to be the one in the museum. Firstly, there is William Beaver:
I am in a position to prove the above statements, as I was apprenticed to John Pascoe Fawkner in June, 1839, and was the first apprentice in any trade in Victoria. In 1840 Mr. Richard Osburne (whose letter of reminiscences appeared in the Herald of October 24 last) became the second apprentice, and probably he and I are the two oldest apprentices (and also among the oldest colonists) now living in Victoria. I was at work on The Argus when it was first published, and well remember the difficulties we experienced in turning out the paper. As an illustration of the difference between that period and now in printing papers, I may mention that when I first went in Mr. Fawkner's office we used to get out the Patriot with the assistance of Mr. Watkins, another compositor facetiously called Tar-box' and myself. Mr. Fawkner used to assist a little by setting up type. The press was a wooden two-pull one, and we used ink balls for rollers. The old press can still be seen in the Museum attached to the Public Library, and I think it used to take us all day to print two or three hundred copies.13
Secondly, there is A. Macdonald:
I was engaged in the Port Phillip Patriot office under Fawkner, Kerr, and Boursiquot and assisted in the general work of printing the paper, which was then all done by hand power … Fawkner's old printing press well deserves a conspicuous place in the museum, inasmuch as it was a factor in publishing some wholesome truths, and denouncing abuses in high places, at the time when its rumble and click used to be heard at Collins-street west. Whilst the strictures of the Patriot used to blister those that fell under its censure,
feeding the type with the needful ink. with hand rollers, often blistered my hands.14
Finally, there is the testimony of William Downie of Ballarat:
In view of the jubilee anniversary of the [Geelong] Advertiser, it struck the present writer (as the first apprentice to the journal named — having been bound to Messrs Harrison and Scamble on the 19th August, 1841) if acceptable, to give a brief sketch of the history of the journal and its surroundings during an almost unknown period … The plant by which the paper was produced was one of the most primitive description — the press (which is now preserved as a curio in the Melbourne Public Library Museum) being a worm-eaten wooden structure that might have been used by the first discoverer of the art of printing, while the type had very many years before seen its best days, and the material generally was of the most ancient and obsolete character.15
I think we can accept that the wooden press which was in the collections of the Melbourne Public Library was that used by Fawkner and Harrison from 1838 to 1848.
In the final part of this section of my paper I will address some other claims relating to the history of the Fawkner press prior to 1838. It will be remembered from the quotation above that Garryowen claimed that the press had come from Launceston under most fortuitous circumstances. That this should be the case is consistent with Fawkner's strong connection with Launceston. Most of his supplies came from Launceston via his agents, John S. Hill, James Underwood, Henry Dowling and a number of others, and it was in Launceston that Fawkner had published his first newspaper — the Launceston Advertiser — in 1829. Henry Button in his autobiographical reminiscences — Flotsam

Plate 14: Blamire Young, Woodcuts and verse, printed on Fawkner's press, 1902. (H13012, La Trobe Library Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)

and Jetsam
(1909) — gives a stirring, amusing and, more importantly, entirely authentic account of Fawkner's vaudevillian efforts to transport his newly acquired printing press from Hobart to Launceston prior to commencing the Launceston Advertiser.
Mr. William Monds, a compositor who was employed on the Examiner for several years — indeed until his death, 23rd June, 1863 — was connected with one of the very first attempts to start a newspaper on the northern side of the colony. He enjoyed recounting his adventures quite as much as I did listening to them, and eventually I induced him to write a sketch of his experiences, which appeared in the Examiner of 23rd December, 1862, and 24th January, 1863. My old friend arrived in Launceston early in December, 1828, and was introduced to Mr. J. P. Fawkner. There was not a newspaper in Launceston then, but the inhabitants were very desirous to have one, and Mr. Fawkner had expressed his willingness to start one if there was a promise of sufficient subscribers,
and he could procure the necessary plant. As the outcome of their interview, Mr. Fawkner resolved that both should go to Hobart and endeavour to obtain the requisites for a paper. The first week in January, 1829, they started in a light horse cart belonging to Mr. Fawkner; it was a Tuesday afternoon, and after a series of misfortunes which commenced a few miles from Launceston. they reached Hobart the following Friday night. Next day they met Mr. Andrew Bent, proprietor of the Colonial Times, from whom they purchased a quantity of second-hand type, an old wooden press, and a small stock of ink and paper, for all of which high prices were paid. Mr. Bent, it may be remarked, had established the Hobart Town Gazette, the first permanent newspaper in the island, and the wooden press was no doubt the one to which I have already referred. Having purchased his printing plant, Mr. Fawkner and his assistant had to get it to Launceston. But an unexpected and disturbing element got into their plans. When at Ross on their way down they learnt that Mr. Dowsett and his son had passed them on the road: they were going to Launceston to start a newspaper! Not a moment was to be lost. Mr. Fawkner met with a northern resident who was returning in a cart drawn by two bullocks, with whom he arranged for the carriage of his goods. Misfortune again met them at the outset. Scarcely had they started from Hobart when the driver stopped to speak to a person, leaving the bullocks to go on alone. Some tempting grass induced the animals to climb a bank, the cart capsized, and its contents were reduced to ‘pie’. The scattered potentialities of a newspaper were scrambled up again, and two extra bullocks were borrowed to make successful journey certain. But ‘the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley’. The two fresh bullocks were only half broken in, and caused no end of trouble. At Ross Mr. Fawkner got bogged with his horse and cart in trying to find the Macquarie river. With some difficulty the horse was extricated, and then a couple of bullocks were hitched on to the cart to drag it out. Instead of taking the two old and tried bullocks for this purpose, the borrowed ones were used. Having pulled out the cart and finding it light, the creatures varied the proceedings by bolting, whirling the precious goods about in all directions! When at last they finished their little joke, and the things had again been picked up, the driver refused to take them any further! Fortunately a local police official took compassion on the disconsolate pair, and through his good offices another team was secured, and Launceston was eventually reached with everything safe except a galley, which was afterwards picked up on the road and restored to its rightful owner.16
In the La Trobe Library Manuscripts Collection there is an account dated 10 January 1829 for this press and type, bought from Andrew Bent for £188.12.11, and this account refers to the press Fawkner bought to establish the Launceston Advertiser.17 It has been assumed by many that this is the same press that Fawkner acquired from Launceston in 1838, and there is clearly strong circumstantial evidence for this assumption. However, Button, in the same book that describes Fawkner's epic journey, also gives the following description of a press that he saw at the office of the Launceston Examiner sometime after 1845 when he was taken on as an apprentice.
The plant of my apprentice days included a curiosity the loss of which I long and greatly deplored. This was an old wooden press ide.jpgied with the kind used by Benjamin Franklin, and Franklin's was only a slight improvement on the press employed towards the close of the fourteenth century. Power was obtained by means of a wooden screw with a wide pitch to give rapid motion. The platen was a thick block of wood, and the bed was a slab of freestone levelled on sawdust. The primitive implement was sometimes used

Plate 15: John Pascoe Fawkner, Carte-de-visite [by George William Perry,]. 1863, (H4303, La Trobe Library Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)

to pull galleys on when the other presses were engaged. Even this simple work it did badly, yet I have never ceased to regret its loss. I believe it was the identical press that Mr. Fawkner purchased from Mr. Bent as narrated a little later. What eventually became of it I have not the remotest idea, unless that being regarded as worthless, it was broken up to avoid removal from one office to another. All the same it was a most interesting relic, and it would have served as a connecting link between fourteenth and twentieth centuries.18
Button's evidence is convincing. He saw this press with his own eyes; possibly he even worked it. He was well acquainted with William Monds, the man who had accompanied Fawkner when the press was first got up from Hobart, and presumably Monds would have recognised the press if he saw it. Furthermore, Button's account of the later history of this press agrees substantially with that of ‘J. M. R.’ writing in the Age in 1931. J. M. R. claimed that the wooden press which Fawkner had used on the Launceston Advertiser was ‘up to 40 years ago (1890) … in occasional use for the purpose of pulling “galley proofs”’ but the press soon ‘became relegated to a corner. Some of the “Examiner's” oldest employees remember it quite well, but of it nothing remains today. Careful search was made some years ago, but nothing was found of the famous implement.’ I think we must accept Button's and J. M. R.'s evidence, and. that being the case, Fawkner's press of 1829 cannot to be ide.jpgied with his press of 1838 because the former was in Launceston in the early 1840s and was remembered as still being there in the 1890s.19
So from where did the press of 1838 come? Fawkner actually tells us in the Port Phillip Patriot of 26 December 1839 that he purchased the ‘small press, and a nearly useless set of type (furnished to our Agent by Mr. Lushington Goodwin, of the Launceston Chronicle)’. The Cornwall Chronicle was a weekly which first began publication on 18 April 1835 under the proprietorship of William Mann, though William Lushington Goodwin soon took over. At the end of 1836 the newspaper was substantially reformatted which may have been the result of the acquisition of new type and press equipment. This would explain why Goodwin had a press available at the very time that Fawkner was establishing the Melbourne Advertiser.20
How did the press get to Launceston? Nothing specific is known of its early history, but a few speculations might be made here. There were a limited number of routes by which the press might have travelled to Launceston. It may have come from Sydney; after all, George Terry Howe of the Sydney
Gazette Howes had founded the Tasmanian and Port Dalrymple Advertiser in 1825 at Launceston and had then moved to Hobart to manage the government authorised Hobart Town Gazette later that same year. It may have come from one of the Hobart printing establishments. Or it may have been indented directly from Great Britain. Certainly we know that, at about this time, typographical equipment was being indented directly from London suppliers. And at the London end we have the testimony of Charles Timperley (1842) which can be allowed to speak for itself:
Now and then some solitary adventurer would bless the inhabitants [of the colonies] with an ‘instrument’ — i.e. a melange of ill-sorted goods banished from the lumber rooms of London, for the express accommodation of the good folk at ‘Botany Bay’, for whom, in sooth, ‘anything was good enough!’21
In other words, London entrepreneurs were simply ‘dumping’ superseded and outmoded equipment and supplies on colonial printers. It should also be remembered that a great number of wooden common presses such as the Fawkner press had been superseded at about this time by the development of more efficient iron presses such as the Stanhope (c. 1800), the Albion (1822), the Ruthven (c. 1813) and the Columbian (c. 1813).22

Museum Piece

If the working life of the Fawkner press finished c. 1848, it was not long before it took on a new function — that of museum piece. The first institutional record of the Fawkner press is in the catalogue for the Intercolonial Exhibition in 1866, as has already been noted. The press was not one of the attractions of the exhibition, being tucked away in the Annexe with other miscellaneous exhibits; but the newspapers did not neglect their heritage. The Argus had the following to say:
Of printing machines and presses there is a tolerable collection, and the old wooden engine with which Mr Fawkner printed the Patriot in the early days of Port Phillip settlement, looks like a ghost among them. A more remarkable contrast there could hardly be than between this rude and primitive implement and the clockwork-looking machine of the present day.23
Having been displayed before the public, the press was then accessioned in 1870 by the newly established Industrial and Technological Museum.24
From 1870 there are numerous references to the press so we can assume that it was on display in this early period. We have seen above that several printers who worked with the press give accounts in letters published in the 1880s and 1890s. To these might be added the following sonnet from the Australian Printers Keepsake of 1885.
Relique of bygone years, when I behold
Thy framework so uncouth and primitive,
Thy tiny platen, and thy ribs so old
And carriage shod with tin, as I do live!
I think not of the patriarchal John,
Nor of the early pressmen of this clime
Who must, while working thee with puff and groan,
Have bann'd thy creaky crankness all the time.
No, no! my thoughts revert to scenes afar,
For thou couldst ne'er be fashioned in this age;
Wynkyn de Worde hath pulled thy glossy bar,
Or Caxton's self, our typographic sage.
The first chase placed on thee, my fancy tells,
Contained ‘Ye Boke of Chesse’ — or something else.
The quality of the verse may be dubious, but the professional pride is evident. This sonnet was again reproduced on the Fawkner press
by A. R. Turnbull for the Fawkner Sesquicentenary in 1942 when the press was in use, almost certainly for the last time.25
In 1896 the press was put into the exhibition accompanying the Intercolonial Library Conference. Although it was one of more than 5,000 exhibits, the newspapers were again quick to note its presence and significance. It was at this 1896 conference that the Library Association of Australasia was established, and when the Association's conference returned in 1902 the Fawkner press was again wheeled out to educate and amuse. On this occasion Blamire Young executed two woodcuts on the old wooden press, though, as the accompanying verse exclaims, the quality was poor.26
A print — and that a poor one — for the press
Of Fawkner, publican and printing jobber.
Yet Fawkners sheet was welcome none the less
Where men wore curly hats and funny clobber.
A print from Johnny Fawkner's press
Brings thoughts to gentle minds unbidden
If Johnny then had printed less
Should we be now so hard press-ridden.
This second print depicts a young lady in the foreground holding one of the keepsakes, while in the background a pressman plies his trade (Plate 14). Several years later A. H. Chisholm reproduced these prints photographically and rubricated them.27
We lose track of the press for some thirty years, but it was displayed in the 1932 Great Printing Exhibition at the Melbourne Town Hall and in the Victorian Centenary Exhibition of 1934. Furthermore, John Gartner refers to the press as being in the Melbourne Public Library's Historical Collection in his Victorian Printing History (1935).
As mentioned above, the press was actually in use in 1942, the year of the Fawkner Sesquicentenary, but by 1960 A. J. Hopton in his monograph on John Pascoe Fawkner states: ‘The first press used to print the Patriot lies dusty and forlorn among disused furniture in the basement of the Public Library of Victoria'.28
In early 1966 the La Trobe Librarian apparently made enquiries by letter to the Assistant Director of the Institute of Applied Science of Victoria — the forerunner of the Science and Technology Museum. This letter has not been located, but the institute's response indicates several things: (1) the press was still in the Library; (2) the La Trobe Librarian was making enquiries about ownership, perhaps with a view to passing the press over to the Museum; and (3) the Institute was interested in acquiring the press in order to mount a comprehensive display on the technology of printing.29
By 1974 the press was in the Science Museum, in a printing exhibition in Thorpe Hall, and that is many people's first recollection of it. Since then the press has undergone extensive, though not comprehensive, refurbishment and was displayed in the Story of Victoria Exhibition from 1985 to 1992.30 It is currently stored at Scienceworks in Spotswood, though it did see the light of day briefly in October-November 1992 when the State Library of Victoria commemorated the 200th anniversary of Fawkner's birth.
Brian Rubber
State Library of Victoria


*A preliminary draft of this paper was given to a combined meeting of the Book Collectors Society and the Printing Historical Society, 25 September 1992.


James Harrison in the editorial to the first issue of the Geelong Advertiser, 21 November 1840.


B. J. McMullin, ‘An Excursion into Printed Keepsakes: II: Colonial Celebrations’. Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, vol. 11, 1987, pp. 97–107; for Hotham celebrations see Melbourne Morning Herald 22 and 24 June 1854, Argus 22 and 24 June 1854.


Melbourne Advertiser, 5 March 1838.


Garryowen [Edmund Finn], Chronicles of Early Melbourne, Fergusson & Mitchell, Melbourne, 1888, p. 823.


Geelong Advertiser, 28 September 1848.


Geelong Advertiser, 21 November 1990.


For details of the life of Edward Khull see the Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 5.


Michael Cannon, Old Melbourne Town, Loch Haven Books, Main Ridge, Victoria, 1991, p. 198.


One Hundred Years of Service, Government Printing Office, Melbourne, 1958, p. 2.


Sands & McDougall's Melbourne and Suburban Directory, 1866–1868.


Intercolonial Exhibition 1866: official catalogue. 1866.


Herald, 29 October 1866.


Argus, 10 November 1884.


Argus, 18 November 1884.


Geelong Advertiser, 24 November 1890.


Henry Button, Flotsam and Jetsam: floating fragments of life in England and Tasmania, A. W. Birchall, Launceston, Hobart, J. Walch & Sons, 1909, pp. 105–107.


State Library of Victoria, Manuscripts Collection, H1130.


Button, ibid., p. 99.


J. M. R. illustrates his account with a drawing of a wooden press that has a wooden screw. All this is believable as it appears to be based on personal recollections. What is less believable — although not beyond the realms of possibility — is J.M.R.'s claim that the press brought to Launceston in 1829 by Fawkner was the same one brought out by Lieutenant Governor David Collins to Sullivan's Bay in 1803 and to Hobart Town in 1804. Further muddying the waters is the belief held by some historians of Australian printing that the Collins press is held in the Western Australian Museum, but this press is a Ruthven iron press and the Ruthven press was not patented until 1813. Clearly, further investigation is required.


James Bonwick. Early Struggles of the Australian Press, Gordon & Gotch, London, 1890, p. 39.


C. H. Timperley, Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdotes, 2nd ed., H. G. Bohn, London, 1842, pp. 879–881.


Glaister's Glossary of the Book, 2nd ed., George Allen & Unwin Limited, London, 1979.


Argus, October 1866. Sighted in a collection of newspaper cuttings relating to the Intercolonial Exhibition. State Library of Victoria. Manuscripts Collection.


See the Donations Register Exhibit no. 90; and the Catalogue of the Industrial and Technological Museum, 1873. Melbourne, 1873, no. 409.


State Library of Victoria, Picture Collection, H12686, Map Case 5, Drawer 12, Envelope 1.


State Library of Victoria. Picture Collection, Map Case 6, Drawer 4, Envelope 1.


La Trobe Library, Picture Collection, Located in the Field Historian's Office as at September 1992.


A. J. Hopton, ‘A Pioneer of Two Colonies: John Pascoe Fawkner, 1792–1869’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. 30, nos. 1–4, 1960.


F. J. Kendall to Miss P. Reynolds, 24 March 1966.