Wai-te-Ata Press

Kia ora, Bonjour, Welcome

In the new knowledge economy, "book" might be a four-letter word, but it's also an endlessly fascinating and seductive material object to make and study. Hold a page up to the light and read its distinctive signature, sniff the edges for the tell-tale aroma of vinegar, riffle a volume to hear the music of its binding, run your finger down the spine to expose the fake cords, taste the animal glue brushed onto the paper.

Books provide a fascinating window onto the transmission of human knowledge and the complex web of social, cultural, economic and political relationships which produce, consume and preserve them. Contrary to popular belief, the book's longevity is a function of its extraordinary flexibility as a portable knowledge basket over time and across space. And, far from being dead, the book is alive and well, breathing in libraries, in bookshops and on bookshelves, and informing the technical vocabulary, architectural structures and metaphors of the electronic environment.

Wai-te-ata Press is a space to explore books and print in all their myriad forms. As letterpress printer and cultural historian, I relish the unique opportunity to make books as well as study them. As an advocate for collaborative, interdisciplinary and research-led teaching and learning, I want to enthuse and inspire. Join me!


About the Press

Wai-te-ata Press : Te Whare Tā o Wai-te-ata was founded in 1962 by the late Professor Emeritus D F McKenzie. It boasts one of the finest collections of historic letterpress printing equipment, metal and wood types and industrial realia in the southern hemisphere.

As a teaching laboratory, Wai-te-ata Press is integrated into undergraduate and postgraduate courses and workshops to explore the real-life practices of historic and contemporary information technology and design. Whether you are in media studies, architecture and design, history, English, languages, theatre or music, hands-on experience in the printery will give you a deep understanding of the role of technology in society and culture. Visual communication design students can attend customised workshops and the Press also offers internships for publishing students. Throughout the year, letterpress printing and bookbinding courses for community and professional designers are organised through the Victoria University Centre for Lifelong Learning.

As a research centre funded by a range of internal and external grants, staff and students investigate topics in book history and print culture, digital humanities and material culture studies. Collaborative eResearch projects include: the New Zealand Reading Experience Database [NZ-RED] focusing on Reading in World War One with partners in the UK, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands; The Print History Project, devised by Waite-ata Press, the JC Beaglehole Room and the NZ Electronic Text Collection; and The Digital Colenso, a prosopographical collaboratorium, featuring the social and intellectual networks comprising the Victorian Republic of Letters.

As a book arts studio, Wai-te-ata Press produces limited edition, fine press and computer-generated publications by contemporary New Zealand writers and artists, including Bill Manhire, Vincent O’Sullivan, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Greg O’Brien and Miria George, by staff and students from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and by international writers in their own languages and in translation.

Although bearing a similar name and founded by Douglas Lilburn shortly after the establishment of Wai-te-ata Press, Waiteata Music Press is now a completely separate entity based at the New Zealand School of Music.

The Press is directed by The Printer, Dr Sydney J. Shep, Senior Lecturer in Print and Book Culture. Sydney specialises in a variety of book history and print culture research projects, including the history of paper and papermaking in 19th-century New Zealand, edible typography and street graffiti, Wellington’s book trade history, diasporic print cultures and transnational book history. In 2009, she was awarded a Marsden Fund grant to study 19th-century typographical journals and their networks. Sydney is also a practising letterpress printer, exhibiting book artist and designer bookbinder who undertakes creative research commissions at Wai-te-ata Press. She is joined by Max Sullivan, Research Assistants Sara Bryan, Frith Driver-Burgess, Donelle McKinley and Flora Feltham, and Jamie Norrish, a computer programmer specialising in e-research. 

Follow the Digital History blog and @wtapress on Twitter for updates