When James Cryer discovered his grandfather’s handwritten journal and a much-battered album bulging with postcards in a long-forgotten cupboard, he had no idea he had a historical record of the printing industry in his hands.
The Romance of Letterpress is the story of Wal Cryer, a freshly-minted letterpress printer from Sydney, who in 1913, at the tender age of 21, packed his bags and boarded a steamer to try his luck working his way across America as a printer.
The book chronicles life in the printing industry in Australia and America at the turn of the 20th century. It gives an insight into what society looked like at that time: that uniquely fragile era just before the Great War.
The Romance of Letterpress is also a story with a romantic undercurrent, as Wal left behind a fiancé in Sydney, to whom he sent a veritable treasure-trove of postcards as he wended his way across the Mid-west, facing both unemployment queues and tough bosses – and getting work in Chicago before heading to New York and then via several ships back to Australia when the war broke out.
This is a look down a time tunnel, from June 1913 to the end of July 1914! Spanning two continents, it is the story of a collision of two cultures, which could not have been more different and which still are today!
Finally, this first-hand account documents how printing at that time was beginning to penetrate into the nooks and crannies of people’s everyday lives, in ways both amusing and pervasive, that we now take for granted.
Author James Cryer says: “Many of us look at printing in an abstract way, as we’re so used to it. I have tried to put it in a historical setting, in this case 1913/14, and paint a picture of what printing looked like at that time – and how it was starting to emerge into our everyday lives. Sometimes in the most unlikely ways. For example, who knew NZ was on the brink of civil war at the time, and this may have been one of the first times print was used for propaganda purposes, as both sides – government and unions – frantically ran all over Wellington nailing freshly-printed posters to telegraph poles.”
The Romance of Letterpress is beautifully designed by typographer Roger Cole, printed using the latest digital technology (Fuji-Xerox Iridesse at Intertype, Melbourne), with a letterpress-printed ‘Ex-Libris’ card by Watermarx of Brookvale.
The Romance of Letterpress can be purchased through Books Online as a hardcover keepsake for $64.95 (including postage and handling) or as an e-book via Kindle for $19.89.