Museum of Printing


Museum of Printing houses a historically significant collection of printing machinery and equipment which comprise the FT Wimble & Co. Collection.  The collection includes printing presses, a Linotype machine, guillotines, book binding equipment, wooden and metal type and a history of printing in Australia from 1850 to the early 1900s.

There are over 1000 printing blocks and a comprehensive library of books on printing and technical manuals. Displays of small equipment and printed products change regularly.

MOP is a must for anyone interested in the history of printing in Australia, or the importance of that industry to rural and regional New South Wales.  It is also an ideal stop for schools with a curriculum which encourages students to think about the foundations of the technology they use today.

Click here to see a Slideshow of Museum of Printing images

Click here to see The Cabinet of Typographical Monstrosities

Open by appointment.

School tours need to be pre-booked.


When Fred T. Wimble made his first batch of ink in Melbourne in 1868, he was the first to produce an Australian manufactured printers’ ink. Born in London in 1846, Wimble came from a strong family tradition in the industry. His father, Benjamin Wimble, had pioneered coloured printing ink in England, creating the first supply of red ink to Cambridge University Press.

Fred travelled to Austria at the age of twenty-one. Suffering from ill health his doctor had advised a sea voyage, which his father financed to Australia. Arriving in Melbourne in July 1867 with a selection of lithographic materials, bronzes and a large consignment of inks, Wimble soon recognised that there was an opportunity to manufacture the first Australian made printing inks. This was an obvious benefit to local printers, providing greater profit than using imported inks. Fred wrote to his father in England asking for fresh supplies and permission to use his recipes. His father not only granted his request but also sent an ink mill, steam engine and other equipment.

The year of 1868 was a year of beginnings in Australian manufacture with the opening of Australia’s first woollen mills, first paper mill and first printing ink. It was also the first year an Australian newspaper, the Melbourne Star, was printed using Australian made paper (produced by Ramsden Paper Mills) printed in F.T. Wimble’s blue ink.

It soon became clear that Melbourne alone could not provide the market Wimble desired and from 1869 he began to travel extensively throughout Australia introducing local printers to his inks while emphasising the need for people to support and develop Australian industries. Gaining the tender for the first Australian manufactured coloured stamp, the South Australian ‘penny red’ printed in 1869, Wimble acquired other government printing contracts for Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and New Zealand. By 1875, seven years after he had arrived in the colony, his inks were being used across Australia and New Zealand.

During 1876 Wimble travelled home to England via America securing the Australian agency for a number of American and English firms. Only a few months after his return Australia, Fred Wimble moved headquarters to Sydney where he proceeded to establish the first electrotyping and stereotyping processes. At this time J.W. Goddard and Henry Franks became partners in the company which became F.T. Wimble & Co..

By 1880, F.T. Wimble & Co. was in a position to supply everything a printer needed. Its agencies in England and America could import the latest machinery and its own plant could meet any requirements for ink, rollers and type.

Between 1882 and 1893 Fred Wimble moved his attention away from the day-to-day running of his company. He focussed on establishing the Cairns Post and spent five years in the Queensland Parliament as a Liberal candidate.

Fred T. Wimble has been described as a kind and considerate employer who expected and received loyalty from his employees. He helped in the establishment of the Sydney Printers’ Technical Club (later transferred to the Sydney Technical College) which held printing classes at a time when apprentices had no other way of learning than on the job. During his time Wimble also witnessed the development of his company, first to Sydney and then its expansion at Clarence Street and the building of the Mascot plant. He was friend and confidant of the early newspaper families in Australia such as Bonython, Fairfax, Murdoch, Syme, MacDonald (The Age) and Archibald. He remained the company’s Chairman from when it was floated on the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1920 until his death in 1936 at the age of eighty-nine.

The family continued to stay in control of the company until 1970 when the Board arranged for an investment company to acquire control under Mr. H.L. Wallace. Wallace acquired total control of the company in 1975, introducing it to the Asia Pacific region. Wallace also began to collect printing machinery and equipment relating to the early history of F.T. Wimble & Co.. F.T. Wimble Museum curator Ralph Grisdale was the last employee to work under the company’s founder, starting in 1934 at the age of fourteen. He ‘retired’ in 1984 to devote two days a week for the next sixteen years to the restoration of the machines. In 1998 the collection was offered to the New England Regional Art Museum.

The establishment project of the Museum of Printing at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) was to preserve this historically significant collection by building a gallery space to house it and open the collection to the public. To that end NERAM drew together a unique combination of private, corporate, philanthropic and government sponsors. These Foundation Sponsors – John B. Fairfax, AM, Timothy V. Fairfax, Rural Press Ltd, The Andrew Thyne Reid Charitable Trust and the NSW Government Ministry for the Arts – responded to the vision of the only public museum devoted to the printing trade and the vision of the only regional museum to combine art and industry under the one roof.

The building project began from the ground up – literally. The new gallery spaces occupy what was once dirt floor and concrete pilings underneath the east wing of the Art Museum. With the construction completed and the Museum of Printing now open, one phase has been completed. Yet the never ending project of the Museum of Printing – the search for the story of the print industry in Australia and, in particular, the importance of that industry to rural and regional New South Wales – has just begun.

An Introduction to Printing

An Introduction to Printing by Neville Crew and Benjamin Thorn.

Printing is the repeatable transfer of an image onto paper or other material. The main processes are:

Relief (letterpress) printing, in which the inked image is on a raised surface; the oldest examples are carved woodblocks;

Gravure, in which the image is recessed in a metal plate; etchings are an example;

Lithography in which a flat image on a plate can be reproduced because of the physical and chemical properties of oil and water, a process invented in 1796;

Screen printing, in which the ink is forced through a stencil;

Electronic printing processes like xerography and ink-jet printing.

For most of the history of printing relief (letterpress) printing has been the dominant form: it is only in the last forty years that it has been almost entirely superseded by lithography. Letterpress printing is part of the historical process and has been an essential method assisting the development of our western civilisation.

The key figure in the development of printing as we know it was Johann Gutenberg (c.1399-1468). Gutenberg lived and worked in Mainz, Germany. His key invention in around 1450 was moveable type: individual letters that could be arranged and rearranged into different texts. He was familiar with the manufacture of coins at the mint, in which a metal punch with the required image was stamped on to the blank coin or medal. His invention was to have each letter of the alphabet carved onto a punch, which was then used to make a mould into which molten metal could be poured creating individual letters that could be assembled to make words. These were locked up in a forme and ink was then applied and the forme was pressed onto paper. A second (and equally important) invention was formulating an appropriate ink that was tacky enough to stick to the type.

Thus, ink, metal, paper and a press – a wooden wine press was modified- were the foundation of the printing and publishing industry.

Gutenberg’s first printed products were 2000 religious indulgences, a Latin Grammar and the The Bible, in Latin.

It took six compositors and three presses almost two years to print the 230,000 separate pages that were collated into 180 books.

A full and readable account of the life and business of Gutenberg is: The Gutenberg Revolution by John Man (Headline Publishing: London 2002).

The advantages of printing were quickly realised. By 1480 some 122 towns in Western Europe had printing presses. By 1500 there were some 1000 printing presses employing up to 20,000 people.

Presses were found in: Germany (1450), Italy (1465), Switzerland (1466), Bohemia (1468), France and the Netherlands (1470); Spain, Hungary and Belgium (1473), Poland (1474), England (1476), Denmark and Austria (1482), Sweden (1483), Portugal (1489), Croatia (1493), Montenegro, Bulgaria and Turkey (1494).

Printed materials from before 1500 are called incunabula (i.e. from the cradle period of printing).

In 1486 the first secular censorship office was established in Mainz and the first banned book was The Bible in the vernacular. By 1500 the Bible had been translated and printed in German, Italian, Dutch, Catalan, Bohemian, French and Swedish.

The first printing in English was by William Caxton in 1474 in Bruges, Belgium. In 1476 he set up a printing pres in London and published a new version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and later Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. He effectively set standard English because his version of the language was printed before any dictionaries were complied.

The first English translation of the Bible was printed by William Tyndale in 1524-25 in Belgium. He had some 3000 copies of his New Testament smuggled into England against the orders of Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More. Such was their fury, that they had him arrested and executed near Antwerp as a heretic. He was strangled and his body burned. His translation became the basis of the King James Bible.