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Object: ’Columbian’ printing press

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Title ’Columbian’ printing press
Production Clymer and Dixon (manufacturer(s)), 1841, England
Clymer, George (inventor)
Materials cast iron, steel, brass, wood
Classification printing presses
Dimensions Overall: 2290mm (Height) x 1570mm (Width) x 1710mm (Depth)
Overall: 2280mm (Height) x 1710mm (Length) x 1430mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Gift of Kerslake, Billens and Humphrey Ltd, 1974
Registration number T000412

In 1842 the Church Missionary Society of England sent this 'Columbian' press to their workers in Paihia, in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. It was an essential tool in the missionaries' work, and was used to print translations of the Bible, prayer books, and hymns in Mäori for those they had taught to read and write.

Many functions
The press has had many uses. William Colenso, an early New Zealand missionary and printer used the press, as did his successor John Telford. Telford possibly printed the first edition of missionary William William's Dictionary of the New Zealand Language (1844) on this press.

In 1845 the press was taken to Auckland when the Church Missionary Society moved its printing shop. It was auctioned off in 1875 and became a newspaper press at Akaroa on Banks Peninsula. In 1890 it came into the possession of R C Harding, an early historian of New Zealand printing and a friend of Colenso. Harding leased the press to a newspaper in Otaki. It was later acquired by the Levin Chronicle and remained in use well into the twentieth century. The newspaper's owners gifted it to the National Museum in 1974.

Decoration and performance
The press was built by the English company Clymer and Dixon. George E Clymer (1752-1834), an American, immigrated to England to manufacture and sell his printing press after it wasn't well received in his homeland - probably because of its great weight.

To aid sales Clymer decorated the press elaborately, adding serpents and an eagle to ensure it was unforgettable. The 'Columbian' press was held in such high regard by printers that its manufacture continued for a century.

Related information

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