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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Men and women of the trade

Men and women of the trade

The initial task of identifying who was engaged in the trade in any given locality must be pursued through general sources. Jury lists, electoral rolls and directories are standard tools in family history and these can, sometimes painfully, be scanned for those with the relevant occupations. Directories are among the most useful sources for those in business (as distinct from employees) and there is an excellent bibliography by Hansen, The Directory Directory (1994), which indicates the categories of information supplied in each title, as well as library holdings. The six-volume Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1897-1908) contains articles, locality by locality, on the businesses and prominent residents, and newspapers and printing firms are well covered in the set. All identifiable entries were extracted and reproduced separately, in alphabetical order, as Printing, Bookselling and their Allied Trades in New Zealand c.1900, in 1980, and this will be a convenient starting point for many searches.

Once individuals have been identified the pursuit of this specific biography will take the researcher into the area of family history, particularly for those who did not have prominent public careers. Family history is an area which receives much attention from libraries and archives, and there are a number of research guides: the most comprehensive is Anne Bromell's Tracing Family History in New Zealand (rev. ed. 1996). Many families have had a formal family history prepared, which may provide the desired information on the printer member. However, family historians seldom have an active understanding of the character of the occupations of family members and either ignore them, or get significant details wrong. This is unfortunate, because such histories are often the only extensive account of an individual's life. An otherwise useful example is Melva G. Vincent's The Vincent Printers (1980) which compresses two substantial typescript accounts of William E. Vincent, an early Wellington printer, and his descendants in New England, New South Wales. Although accurate on most technical details (such as makes of printing presses), there are substantive errors in, for example, the account of William Vincent's London apprenticeship. In contrast, however, the modest account by Struan Robertson, The Life and Times of Samuel Revans (1989), is reliable at all points where it has been tested, and the collective account prepared by Edgar Gregory and Nevill Wilson, Gregorys-Camerons, Printers to Dunedin, of two connected families is enlightening in its coverage of printing history as well as the family links.

Some other early printers have been the subject of formal biographies. The most substantial of these is the biography William Colenso, by A.G. Bagnall and G.C. Petersen (1948). Colenso's career was so varied, and the time of his active involvement in printing is so well-documented in his own account (1888) that it is not remarkable that almost no new significant detail is added, except as already reported by Hill (1901). For the historian of printing this is disappointing, but the whole work is rightly regarded as an excellent biography.

Peter Kennett's Unsung Hero (1991) on Barzillai Quaife, first newspaper editor in the Bay of Islands, is a work of considerable interest, dealing primarily with Quaife's political struggles. It draws usefully upon Quaife's own, quite rare, publication The Vindicator (1865) which records his problems, both technical and political, in some detail.

Other biographies of political figures who came from a background in the printing industry have usually treated their early careers very superficially, if at all. Some attention may be paid to the journalism, and possibly to the economic aspects of their newspaper involvement, but even this will normally
Black and white photograph

A carving, possibly in plaster, made especially for the 1906 Christmas issue of the New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal and signed J. E. Ward (photographer unknown). It was reproduced as a full-page (tabloid size) half-tone photograph with the caption 'With Maoriland's best wishes for Christmas and the coming year', as the first page of the 38-page pictorial section. While Christmas issues were largely pictorial, the regular issues of up to 64 pages were mainly text and advertisements, catering for the whole family, including children's pages. (Auckland Star Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, reference number F-3160-1/1-)

be subordinated to the political career. The recent political biography of John Ballance by T. McIvor, The Rainmaker (1989), is a welcome exception which even incorporates some paragraphs on the technical side of newspaper management.

Those printers, newspaper proprietors, and similar figures, who were elected to the House of Representatives or appointed to the Legislative Council at any stage in their careers, will have received a parliamentary tribute after their deaths. Some of these tributes are very brief, such as that for Joseph Ivess, in the Parliamentary Debates on 11 September 1919 (vol.184, pp.428-29), but others could be quite lengthy, with contributions by members other than party leaders, such as that for John Rigg on 23 February 1944 (vol.264, pp.9-11 in the Legislative Council, and pp.19-22 in the House of Representatives). Tributes can be located by means of the Sessional Indexes to the Debates, under the name of the deceased member.

Summary biographical information for some members of the trade can be found in standard biographical sources such as Who's Who in New Zealand (1st ed. 1908, 12th (most recent) ed. 1991) and the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1990- ). The biographical database on individuals nominated for the Dictionary is preserved in the office of the Dictionary secretariat, in the Department of Internal Affairs, whether or not the individuals are included in the published volumes. The database is available for consultation by researchers on application to the office. A larger representation of the Otago trade will be covered in Southern People, to be published by Dunedin City Council in 1998. The earlier Dictionary of New Zealand Biography compiled by Guy Scholefield in 1940 includes a number of individuals not covered in the more recent work but the standard of the essays is very variable and many entries are very brief.

Short articles on individuals may appear in many locations. McKay (1940) includes 'Men of the industry', with brief biographical notes on a range of men, and the various trade journals have always printed obituary notices. Coleridge has published an essay, 'Edward Catchpool', in An Index of Civilisation (1993), on the printer and publisher of Wellington's short-lived newspaper The New Zealand Colonist, and Harvey has published on Joseph Ivess in the Turnbull Library Record (1988). Two printing-related essays in family history deal with J.H. Claridge, appearing in Historical Journal Auckland-Waikato (April 1975) by J.C. Claridge, and by Stella Jones in Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal (April 1980). These are most useful. Frank Fyfe of Greytown included material on Sam Revans (Revans: Father of the Press, with Adam Fyfe, and Gullible Sam, together with two collections of Revans's letters, Letters from Woodside, and Letters from Huangarua) and on Richard Wakelin (Wakelin: Father of Journalism) in the series of booklets on Wairarapa history that he published from Wakelin House and Broadoak Press. These all need to be checked for factual accuracy.

Other biographical material must be sought through such sources as newspaper obituaries, and the occasional local history. The newspaper trade has always followed the custom of writing up their own people, and every newspaper centennial issue will include an article on the founders, on some of the editorial staff, and sometimes also on the printers. The Greymouth Evening Star: Centennial Supplement (1966) is a good example of this. Journalists' memoirs may occasionally discuss printers as well as journalists; most of Lawlor's accounts of journalists have no references to printers, but his Pat Lawlor's Wellington (1976) does include a chapter 'The Blundell Brothers'.

In-house journals such as Coulls Somerville Wilkie's Invicta News, or the Government Printing Office's Print (1949-50), provide some information about printing employees. So also do trade union publications, such as Imprint, and those for special anniversaries. Trade journals such as Printing Prestige and Printers' News sometimes include short articles about notable people who have retired or died. For the Government Printing Office, the volume presented to Marcus Marks on his retirement in 1922 includes the signatures of all its employees at that time, in their respective departments.

Where names are known, there are volumes of newspaper clippings, 'New Zealand Biographies,' and 'New Zealand Obituaries', in the Alexander Turnbull Library, recently made more widely available in a microfiche edition. In the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, there is the George Randall McDonald Biographical Dictionary.

Printing trades workers went overseas in the armed forces in both world wars, and those who died often received obituaries. Some of them wrote and printed newsletters, miscellanies, and official items, both on troopships and in the countries they were based in. A.B. Clark and J.C. Andersen's article in McKay (1940) on the troopship publications in World War I is noticed above. For World War II, information about the producers of publications in the 2NZEF in North Africa and Italy, such as Kiwi News, and in the 3rd Division in the Pacific, can be sought in official war histories, and in autobiographies and biographies.

Finally, printers who did not become journalists have occasionally prepared their memoirs. J.H. Claridge prepared and printed two collections of anecdotes, Odd Notes (1928) and 75 Years in New Zealand (1938?) which include some personal experiences. Marcus Marks, the New Zealand Government Printer from 1916 to 1922, published Memories (Mainly Merry) in 1934. This contains almost no technical information on his working career but has interesting anecdotes of his life as an apprentice and as a journeyman. The family of the Wellington printer Lemuel Watkins published privately in 1992 his Mellowed Memories which describes his career as a printer in considerable, sometimes technical, detail. As a source for printing history rather than biographical detail it is the best work discussed here.