Wednesday 1 February 2023 2:14pm
Dr John Holmes and his daughter Danielle in the Otākou Press Room.
Recreating a piece of the past was all part of the experience for students attending ‘An Introduction to Letterpress: A Haptic History’, one of the courses offered during the Rare Book School held at Otago last month.
Dr John Holmes was at the helm of the presses; the retired public health physician is a maestro of letterpress printing.
As part of the course, students recreated a piece of New Zealand printing before Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including a Temperance Society pamphlet from 1836.
Dr Holmes’ daughter Danielle assisted with the class. When asked if she’d collaborated much with her father before, she produced a photo of herself at 18-months with a printing press and an expression of sheer delight.
Danielle Holmes at the printing press at 18 months.
Associate Professor Shef Rogers, co-Director of the Centre for the Book, co-taught the class that delved into how the business of printing shapes the books of different places and periods.
“It was great to see techniques of printing and letterforms in books up to 500 years old being put into practice. That combination of history and hands-on printing is ideal for revealing the both the full potential and the challenges of this beautiful technology,” says Associate Professor Rogers.
Student Kate Knox is a librarian at the University’s central library and has worked in the Rare Books Collection. She wanted to deepen her knowledge of earlier printing techniques and of the Otākou Press Room the class was held in, which is housed in the central library.
Letters being placed into a press plate.
“I’ve always admired medieval manuscripts and that they are done by hand. Learning about these printing processes, how skilled and artistic they are, has given me a much greater respect for it,” Kate Knox says.
The other five-day courses offered by the Rare Book School from 23 to 27 January were ‘Feminist Bibliography’, which considered what might constitute a feminist approach to studying books, and ‘Teaching with Special Collections’, which explored how to teach book history to advanced undergraduates and master’s level students.
This annual event is hosted by four Australian and New Zealand institutions on a rotating basis.
More information about Rare Book School: www.anzrbs.org
Student Derek Whaley, a Senior Research Librarian at Auckland Library, beside one of the presses.