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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

In the Empire City

page 38

In the Empire City.

Taking advantage of the Easter holidays, Typo paid a visit (all too brief) to Wellington by the Masterton route. By way of Palmerston the journey is made in a day—a long and weary one; but by the Wairarapa, though a little more expedition on the part of the train—especially on the Napier side—could bring about the same result, it is not at present possible. We started early on Easter Monday, reaching Woodville shortly after noon. Here there was a « wait » of about two hours. The business places were all closed; but knowing how newspaper men keep their holidays, we knocked at the door of the Examiner office, and sure enough, we found Mr Haggen, the genial proprietor, hard at work at his desk. There is a large book-shop in connexion with the office, and the whole establishment is neat and orderly, as befits the abiding-place of the Fourth Estate in so large and thriving a district. From Woodville the journey is by coach to Eketahuna, a distance of twenty-seven miles. On the way we passed Pahiatua, and had a view through the large front windows of the office, of the comps at work on the Star, as the coach passed. The shades of evening had fallen, and the last train for Wellington had left some hours before we reached Eketahuna, a settlement in a bush clearing in a valley. Stumps were smouldering in various parts of the village, and a tall pine-trunk, with a spiral coil of flame from base to summit, made a fair substitute for a town gas-lamp. Thrice-a-week an early train leaves for Wellington, reaching its destination before 1 o'clock. Unfortunately this was not the case on Tuesdays, and we had to wait till 2 p.m. The day was showery, and Eketahuna clay tenacious, and there was not much to see. The primeval forest was too far away—only represented near at hand by prostrate and blackened logs. The buildings consist chiefly of hotels. There was no printing-office, for Eketahuna possesses a local paper in name only, it being a reprint, with altered title, of a Wairarapa sheet. As, however, a good-sized (empty) building bore the name of the newspaper in large letters, it may be that the present sheet is only intended to « hold the fort » till arrangements can be made for a genuine local production. The same paper, by the way, under another title, is made to do duty for Pahiatua, which has long had its own journal, and is only a few miles from Woodville; but more than fifty miles from the place where this Protean sheet is printed. The village store bears the name of « Emporium, » in gigantic letters above its two little windows. (This is, however, outdone by a small ironmongery shop at Newtown, Wellington, which bears the classic title of « The Pantheon. » Alas! it was deserted by the divinities, and the shutters were up when Typo saw it.) At 2 p.m. we started, and soon entered the Wairarapa district, passing successively the thriving towns of Masterton, Carterton, and Featherston, each of which possesses its local papers. Then up the stiff incline of the Rimutaka, two engines laboriously toiling to draw the train to the summit. The leading locomotive has a pair of horizontal wheels, gripping a high central rail, which prevents the train being carried backward by the force of gravity. With much puffing and blowing, and vast expenditure of steam at high pressure, the train climbed the four or five miles' ascent at a moderate walking pace. Evening fell as we left the summit, and raced swiftly down the curves towards the the Hutt. Here the gradient is much more moderate, and there is no extra safety-rail. It was dark as we passed through the Hutt, and towards 8 p.m. the train entered the Wellington station—the lights of the big city having a very pretty effect as we approached.

Wellington has materially changed since we saw it some four years ago. The Te Aro reclamation has not only allowed room for great extension, but has provided a short cut between the two ends of the city, and has greatly diverted traffic and business from Willis-street and Lambton Quay. It has been a grand thing for many owners of « water » frontages, who had valuable city sites given them at a low figure in consideration of the loss of a few feet of mud-flat, where the rubbish of the neighborhood was formerly thrown. Among the new buildings is the college of the Church of Rome on a prominent site, but completely overshadowed by the new jail—the most conspicuous building in the city. Electric street lamps have been erected in all parts of the city, but the new light has not yet been « installed. » Another novelty is the « Destructor, » for the cremation of city refuse. It is situated on the newly-reclaimed land, close to the harbor, and was not yet in actual work. It is said to be sufficient for a far more populous place than Wellington, and that the whole city will not be able to provide enough rubbish to keep the furnaces at work. The arrangement of kilns and air-shafts is very intricate, and the chimney is a great circular shaft of dizzy height.

We were not able to visit many of the numerous printing-offices. We looked into the Times job-room, now conducted by Messrs Haggett & Percy. Mr Haggett is a thorough job printer, and is, moreover, a good amateur engraver. We also saw the Post, putting through an issue of nearly nine thousand in a four-feeder. Close beside this machine was a two-feeder, used for the outside form and supplements. In another part of the city is a duplicate plant of type and machinery—a standby in case of fire. We also visited the Press editorial rooms, but did not see the printing-office.

We had the pleasure of being conducted by Mr Didsbury through the new Government Printing Office. This is the largest printing and publishing establishment in the colony, and to describe it in detail would be out of the question. It is a large brick building of three stories, occupying three sides, and nearly the fourth, of a hollow square. Access to the upper stories is gained by two spiral iron staircases built outside the inner angles of the square, and two lifts provide the means of transit for heavy goods. In a room outside the main building are two fine steam-engines (Wellington-made), each of 25 horse-power nominal, but capable of working up to 40, which supply the motive-power for all the machinery. The fire in the boiler-furnace is the only one in the building, which is heated by steam and lighted by electricity: Gas is also laid on, but only for the use of the stereotyping department. A complete telephone exchange is set up in the establishment, by which any department can be brought into prompt communication with any other. In the press-room, on the ground-floor, are twelve cylinder machines, and only two platens—an Arab and a Minerva. Small platen machines are not suited for an office where most of the work is in large sheets and long numbers. There are three large composing-rooms on the second floor—the time-room, piece-room, and apprentices' room. In the bookbinding department are employed twenty young women, who have a room apart from the rest of the staff. The bindery is the most extensive in the colony, and a very large quantity of material for the work is stored in the warehouse. The abundance of material in every department is almost enough to awaken envious feelings on the part of the private printer who finds that his own stock—small though it may be—represents more idle capital and taxable and insurable material than he can well afford. All the railway-printing, including tickets, is done in the Government office. The stamp-printing is not now under the care of the Government Printer, who was by no means sorry to be relieved of the responsibility; and no lithographic work of any kind is done on the premises, being all executed by the survey department. In some respects this is a drawback—works which were otherwise ready for the binders lying unfinished awaiting the plates.

page 39

Another place of great interest is the General Assembly Library—the finest in New Zealand. Mr Collier, the courteous and erudite librarian, kindly showed Typo through the different departments, and gave him a pass—of which he was unable to avail himself further during his stay. A few years ago, it was only with great difficulty that an outsider could obtain access to this institution; but a more liberal policy is now adopted, and during the recess the committee grant every facility to students wishing to make use of the library for purposes of bonâ fide research. It is rich in valuable first editions of English authors, and contains all the standard works on Parliamentary history, political economy, and kindred subjects. Its collection of books printed in the colony and relating to New Zealand is unequalled. Scarcely a pamphlet coming under these heads and issued during the past forty years is absent: and this is the more remarkable, as there is no law compelling publishers to send their books—all have been acquired either by free gift or purchase. Some two thousand volumes of New Zealand newspapers—many dating from a very early period—form a unique feature of this collection. Formerly all such were regularly filed and bound; but the multiplication of journals of very ephemeral character—in many instances not worth the trouble of filing—has led to a revision of this rule, and as far as possible, the cumbering of the shelves with useless matter is avoided. The library grows at the rate of about six thousand volumes a year. In connexion with the library, a bibliography of New Zealand (for private circulation only) is in progress, and will prove, when completed, a very valuable work. There is one very serious consideration in regard to this library—one of our chief national treasures. It is contained in a wooden building as inflammable as a match-box. In case of fire, the greater part of this fine collection would inevitably be destroyed. Should such a contingency occur, the loss of national records would be irreparable, apart from the destruction of many fine volumes of English and foreign literature, which could not be replaced.

We left Wellington early on the Monday after Easter, and returned by the same route as we had taken a week before,—the journey this time occupying a day and a half. And our chief regret was that, during our brief stay, we had not the opportunity of seeing more of our brethren of the press.

A valued London correspondent finds « a tendency in the London trade to associate Typo with German enterprise. » We have already more than once stated that we do not keep a supply house, and that we hold no agencies, English or foreign. We have not the slightest pecuniary interest in any of the novelties noted from time to time in our pages. We note, as far as possible, every new and original design in type that comes under our observation, and we make no charge for so doing. If German designs have had any special prominence, it is because German houses have been more free in sending specimen sheets of novelties—and in some cases specimen types and ornaments. We will always be willing to insert such, as well as electrotype illustrations of new inventions, machinery, and other trade novelties, free of charge. We are in receipt of regular parcels from our home agents, who will always be glad to enclose anything of the kind to us without any expense to the sender.

In the last number of the Revista Tipografica, we find an interesting article from El Comercio, on the language of the future. The writer dismisses « Volapük » as unworthy of consideration, and thinks the alternative lies between English and Spanish—which, next to English is the most widely-spoken. Spanish, he considers, has advantages which will ultimately make it the universal tongue. In the first place it is perfectly pure in construction and idiom; its affinity with Latin, and close relation to Italian, Portuguese, and the languages of central Europe, are in its favor; its phonetic spelling is contrasted with the hideous English orthography; the absence of double letters (except the double l) renders it more compact; it is not, like the English, full of equivocal words, bearing widely-different meanings, and it is less prolix, as for example: i lloverá? = « will it rain? » and « veré » = « I will see. » Some time-honored puns on the English equivocals are introduced, as « They told the sexton and the sexton tolled the bell; « Grave upon my grave a sentence grave. » [Perhaps if Typo were a Spanish scholar he could retaliate in kind. If it is impossible to pun in Spanish, that fact alone should place it at the head of all living languages.] To this terrible indictment against his mother tongue every Englishman must plead guilty, and phonetic spelling would only partially remedy the evils. Nevertheless this « cruda mezcla de normando, francés, sajón y otros dialectos, » and its literature, is rapidly subduing the earth. El Comercio overlooks one important consideration—the national characteristics behind the language.