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The Romance of Letterpress

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From Gutenberg’s invention in 1455 to Australia and America in the 1910s, the printing industry was essentially the same. Type was metal or wood, assembled into pages and printed with letterpress. Printing skillsets were the same no matter what the language or geographic location.

Thus, it was possible for a young man from Australia to make the trek to America just after the first decade of the 20th Century and work his way across the country. He could find work at the many weekly newspapers, small printers, or other print shops in towns and cities big and small…Frank Romano (Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology: President, Museum of Printing, Massachusetts, USA)

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Always in stock. “Printed On Demand” in Australia by Intertype

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The Romance of Letterpress gives an account of life in Australia and America within the Printing Industry at the turn of the 20th Century.

This is the story of Wal Cryer, a freshly-minted letterpress printer from Sydney.

In November 1913, at the tender age of 21, he packed his bags and jumped on board a steamer to try his luck working his way across America as a printer.

The Romance of Letterpress is a story about what society looked like at that time: that uniquely fragile era just before the Great War, which hovered tentatively on the brink of modernity, when, if you ventured out onto the road you could be trampled to death by a horse, or run over by a car.

It is also a story with a romantic undercurrent, as he left behind a fiancé in Sydney, to whom he sent a veritable treasure-trove of postcards as he wended his way across the Mid-west, facing both unemployment queues and tough bosses – and getting work in Chicago before heading to New York and then via several ships back to Australia when the war broke out.

(There is also the mysterious “L” which we will touch upon, ever so discreetly.)

It is, therefore, the story of a collision of two cultures (America’s and Australia’s), which could not have been more different and which still are today!

Finally, The Romance of Letterpress is a story of how printing at that time was beginning to penetrate into the nooks and crannies of people’s everyday lives, in ways both amusing and pervasive, that we now take for granted today.

None of this would have been brought to light, however, if it wasn’t for a remarkable discovery – not only the diary itself, tucked away in a long-forgotten cupboard, but also a much-battered album bulging with post-cards. This then is a look down a time-tunnel, 1914 under a microscope!

There is, however, yet another deeper theme underpinning all this – what is the nature of the relationship we have with our grandparents?

Interested in the history of printing in Australia? Visit The Penrith Museum of Printing

Always in stock. “Printed On Demand” in Australia by Intertype

2 reviews for The Romance of Letterpress

  1. ‘WS” Sydney

    Good afternoon James,

    Thank you for your book. I have read it from cover to cover. What a great production.
    Your Grandfather would be immensely proud of you, that his grandson saw fit to bring to life his interesting investigative journey to the USA.
    Your family and your relatives I am sure are also proud of your efforts to capture an important piece of family history in print.
    I certainly appreciate the mammoth task involved.
    Congratulations again….’WS” Sydney

  2. Peter

    The Romance of Letterpress…what indeed a book – one I shall take time out to scrupulously read…after ALL [big confession of mine] I am a Diarist of longstanding– since 1st January, 1964. Hey!

    Thank You for same, The Romance of Letterpress is a book I will add to my prestigious collection and never part with. The message with your autograph and the embossed ex libris is both sincere and heartfelt – therefore valued, as well.

    Oh, never forget that for many years I was a Print Broker and the printing industry, as a whole, is part of me…Peter

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