School of Information Management

Wai-te-ata Press Celebrates a Rich 50 Year Legacy

22 March 2012

Dr Sydney Shep with an 1813 Stanhope Press, the oldest printing press in New Zealand and still in use

Dr Sydney Shep, pictured with an 1813 Stanhope Press

Victoria University's unique letterpress printery Wai-te-ata Press celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a number of public events.

A space to explore books and print in all their myriad forms, the Wai-te-ata Press boasts a collection of 15 working printing presses dating from 1813 to 1963. Originally located in two garages on Wai-te-ata Road, the Press moved to Victoria University’s main Library on the Kelburn Campus in 2008.

Dr Sydney Shep, Senior Lecturer in Print and Book Culture and Director of Wai-te-ata Press, says the Press is a place to make books as well as study them.

"Our students really respond to getting their hands on something tangible and making something that looks like nothing else out there."

The first acquisition by Wai-te-ata Press was an 1813 Stanhope Press which remains on indefinite loan from Cambridge University Press, UK and takes pride of place. One of only 16 left in the world, it is the oldest printing press in New Zealand and is still being used.

Wai-te-ata Press was founded in 1962 by Professor Emeritus D. F. McKenzie, and has provided generations of students with the opportunity to learn the process of hand printing and fine design. It thrives on a rich legacy of preserving historic printing equipment, teaching the intricacies of print, communication and culture, undertaking special printing and publishing commissions, and as a centre for traditional and digital historical research.

Several significant New Zealand’s writers including Alistair Campbell, Vincent O’Sullivan and Bill Manhire were first printed and published by Wai-te-ata Press during the 1960s and 1970s, a key period for the development of New Zealand literature. The Press is also used by professional designers wanting an aesthetic edge to their designs.

Most recently the lead designer of Te Papa’s exhibition Oceania visited Wai-te-ata Press to photograph individual wooden types which were then digitised and reassembled for the exhibition displays.

"I cannot wait to see how new technology and print continue to evolve side by side for the next 50 years," Dr Shep says.

Invitation to Public Lecture

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Wai-te-ata Press, you are invited to attend a lecture in honour of its founder, Professor Emeritus Donald F. McKenzie. The lecture delivered by Professor Leslie Howsam pays homage to McKenzie’s contributions to international book history scholarship. D.F. McKenzie

  • When: 6pm, Thursday 22 March
  • Where: Hunter Council Chamber, Level 2, Hunter Building, Gate 1 or 2, Kelburn Parade, Wellington
Digital History Workshop

This inaugural invitation-only Digital History Workshop, sponsored by the Marsden Fund and Wai-te-ata Press, provides a space to share new frameworks for, approaches to, and methods of historical research. It brings together seasoned practitioners, cultural heritage specialists, information managers, keen students, and emergent digital historians to talk about challenges and opportunities for the twenty-first century and beyond. You are encouraged to participate fully, bring your projects and puzzles to the table, and take away new ways of looking and knowing.

  • When: 23-24 March 2012
  • Where: Room 103, Alan MacDiarmid Building, Gate 6/7, Kelburn Parade, Victoria University of Wellington