Terry Foster, a long time contributor to Metal Type, describes the uphill struggle he faces trying to get public backing for preserving letterpress machinery in New Zealand.
While the recent increase in public interest in letterpress printing is welcome, it would seem to be centered around the “craft and artisan” areas, not so much larger, more industrial equipment.
The article reperoduced below, from the Taranaki News, suffers from the usual journalistic faux pas of describing every piece of machinery associated with the printing industry as a “printing press.”
The newspaper article:
The machines which once produced thousands of newspapers for Taranaki will soon be forgotten, the men preserving them fear.
The Taranaki Aviation Transport and Technology Museum held a demonstration day yesterday to show people how to operate the four vintage printing presses. Not a soul turned up.
Museum mechanic Terry Foster said the no-show was a sign of the times. If nobody was willing to learn how to operate the machines they would either be disposed of or put in static storage, he said.
“I think when we go it might be the end of it.” He said there was value in preserving the machines. “It shows people where we come from as far as development of our printed word. Youngsters look at the machine and see a line of type pop out and say, ‘Where does the paper go?'”
When Mr Foster started at the museum he thought one of the print presses (sic) seemed familiar. “I realised it was the machine I used as an apprentice at Taranaki Newspapers about 40 years ago.”
When he was a commercial machine typographer the machines were the creme de la creme of their time, Mr Foster said. He enjoyed working to preserve them.
“If anyone’s got a 60-year-old Rolls Royce they’ll be working on it too.” The coming of the digital age meant a lot of changes to the industry, but he still preferred the old way.
“It’s a sad thing, to see what has been happening all around me. “I find it quite boring to look at a screen. I like to have my paper that’s local with local news in it.
The typesetting machines at the museum mould hot metal into words and lines of text and then bind them together to make a page called a forme. The forme was then mounted in a press, inked, and an impression then made on paper.