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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

Down South

page 42

Down South

Last month Typo paid a brief visit—all too brief—to the three big cities of the south. In Wellington, our stay was limited to a few hours; but owing to delays at Port Lyttelton, both going and returning, we saw a little more of Christchnrch than we expected, though we were unable to visit all the printing-offices. In plain view of all passengers who leave the railway-station is the office of the War Cry—and a tidy well-appointed well-conducted little office it is, under the able management of Mr T. E. Fraser. The War Cry can boast the largest sale of any newspaper in the colony; and its big edition is run off on a two-feeder, which, like all the rest of the machinery (and the Army needs a great deal, for it prints a great quantity of office forms and stationery), is in excellent order. We next found our way to the office of the Referee, where we have quite a company of subscribers. We did not manage to see the Times office, and called on the Press on a Saturday when the hands were away; but Mr Corlett, the obliging manager, showed us round, and we saw for the first time a first-class web newspaper machine with all its appurtenances. We also visited the establishment of Mr G. Mitchell, printers' broker, who keeps a big stock of inks and office sundries.

Our stay in Dunedin was very short, and we were unable, as we fain would have done, to lengthen it. The only office we went through was the Star—one of the best-appointed news-and job-offices in the colony. There, too, Typo found a good company of subscribers, and added more to their number. Dunedin is pre-eminently a city of printing and publishing—and hence it was the more tantalising to make so brief a stay.

The exhibition,—now closed—was the great centre of interest; and to us, from a trade point of view, it was a grevious disappointment. As a great fancy fair—as a museum of New Zealand antiquities and curiosities—as a display of colonial wools, textile fabrics, and other raw products and manufactured goods—it was undoubtedly a success: but to the typographer it was almost utterly barren. Both in Sydney and Melbourne, the exhibits of printing machinery and appliances, typefounding &c, were a great feature. Various patterns of machine were in full work; daily papers and illustrated weeklies were printed on the premises—here the sole exhibit of printing-material was a pyramid of labelled ink-cans by Wimble, of Melbourne and Sydney! We had heard that manufacturers were becoming tired of exhibiting, inasmuch as it did not pay; and such really seems the case.

Of printing and engraving there were exhibits. The Government printers, both of Victoria and New South Wales, made an excellent show—we particularly noticed the beautiful photo-mechanical printing exhibited by the latter—but strange to say, we did not see anything from the New Zealand Government printer, who certainly has no need to be ashamed of his work. In ordinary job and book printing we saw no New Zealand exhibits of conspicuous excellence; but the quality of plain manufactured stationery and bookbinding left nothing to be desired. We cannot say the same of the library bookbinding, much of which, with its profusion of gilding and deep blocking, was in the hopelessly-depraved style of Yankee manufacturers, and suggestive more of the « book-fiend » than of the bookseller. Detmold, of Melbourne, showed some high-class bookbinding.

In wood-engraving, excellent work was shown by Miss Maxwell, of Dunedin; and Kemnitz & Nicholson, of the same city, made a good display, both in wood and copper. Sands & M'Dougall, Melbourne, showed a fine display of electros and stereos, and the Sydney Mail exhibited woodcuts, process-blocks, and stereo-plates curved for the web-machine. The woodcuts were black-leaded to a high polish, and the interstices filled with chalk, which gave them the appearance of very fine prints. Innumerable photographs of scenery decorated the Australian courts: some of those from Victoria being remarkable for their extraordinary size. In the little « bay » devoted to Ceylon we saw some large and beautiful photos of native flowers. We coveted them; but they were « not for sale until the close of the exhibition. »

In the Early History court the old newspapers (principally exhibited by Dr Hocken) were of great interest. There was the first number of the Southern Cross, and there the still earlier Auckland Times, turned off, in the absence of a press, from a patent mangle—a fact of which the ingenious proprietor seemed rather vain.

The great attraction of the exhibition was the art gallery. Never before has such a collection of original works been brought together in New Zealand. There were gems of landscape and ocean scenes by British artists that would be a « joy for ever » to the fortunate possessors. The finest work of this kind is at a disadvantage in a gallery, where the large paintings partly extinguish the smaller subjects. « Pharaoh's Daughter, » by E. Long, is the most popular of the large works, and of course « art critics » find a hundred faults with it. The beauty of the figures, the perfect composition, and the admirable rendering of the accessories, are indescribable, and the charm of the picture grows upon the observer the more it is studied. We understand that the painting has been bought by a Dunedin gentleman. It is priced at £2,100, and to this amount must be added a terrific sum for Customs duty. (Thus does an enlightened Government encourage the arts.) « Phryne, » Leighton's great work, is a magnificent nude study, but the colors are strangely chosen. The attitude is characteristic of the painter—one arm uplifted high above the head, throwing off a robe of deep red, the flesh-tint being a very high pink. The picture is scarcely true to its title, and would serve to illustrate the gulf separating English from French art. The French painter, whether his subject be the everlasting « Léda » or « Eve » or « L'Tnnocence, » paints the same subject—a smirking female in affected pose, and most consciously and ostentatiously naked. The English artist, depicting a courtezan, represents a lovely virginal figure, of the highest type of womanhood, with an expression of calm dignity and intelligence. Watt's « Spirit of Christianity » is one of the strangest pieces of emblematic work ever attempted. A seated figure in female garb, her head in the clouds and thrown backward, and a settled melancholy in her face, with sprawling infants all unnoticed at her feet! No human being could guess the subject, nor having found it in the catalogue, could he trace the connexion. The grand execution of the work ill atones for the absurdity of the idea. There is wonderful power in Millais's « Enemy sowing Tares, » but the work is only fit for a gallery. Who could endure to have that demoniac Hebrew face—the very incarnation of malignity—gazing upon him daily from the wall of his dwelling? There are tricks in the composition. The enemy is in human form, but his dark locks are so arranged as to indicate horns, while—worse still—the lines of lurid light in the dark sky suggest the conventional bat's wings! Thus an otherwise finely conceived work becomes a kind of puzzle-picture. « This is Old ___: find his wings. » We read that it is in the painter's « early style, » which was marked by eccentricities.

Returning, we had another long stay at Lyttelton; but there in the reading-room, we made a « find » —nothing less than the early bound volumes of some of the oldest New Zealand papers. No particular care seems to be taken of these treasures, which ought to be in the Museum, and under special guardianship. Does anyone know their value? We went through several of these old volumes and made a good many notes therefrom, which may afford material for an article in a future issue.