The earliest printing presses in Australia were the ones that printers in the United Kingdom no longer wanted, mainly wooden presses. In the ‘mother country’, wooden presses had been replaced by iron presses such as the Stanhope, Albion, Ruthven and Columbian.
This timeline gives a brief view on such a wooden press, the Fawkner Press. John Pascoe Fawkner published and printed the first newspaper in Melbourne. The press’s story probably began sometime in the first half of the 18th Century, but this timeline starts with the arrival of the press in Melbourne.
12 February 1838: Wooden press arrives in Melbourne, on board a ship owned by Fawkner. Fawkner later states he bought the press. 1st issue of the Melbourne Advertiser was handwritten and published on 1 January 1838.
5 March 1838: 1st printed issue (#10) of Melbourne Advertiser.
23 April 1838: Final issue (#17) of Melbourne Advertiser.
6 February 1839: 1st issue Port Phillip Patriot & Melbourne Advertiser, published by Fawkner
21 May 1840: Last issue of the Port Phillip Patriot & Melbourne Advertiser, to be printed on the wooden press
21 November 1840: 1st issue Geelong Advertiser, printed on the wooden press by Fawkner’s nephew
11 April 1846: wooden press advertised for sale by James Harrison, who had owned the press since September 1842. Press was not sold.
4 January 1848: wooden press used to print the Geelong Advertiser, when the press, normally used, breaks down.
1 November 1861: wooden press offered for sale in a Public Auction, following James Harrison filing for bankruptcy
22 October 1866: Geelong Advertiser reports that the wooden press is being sent to Melbourne for display in the Intercolonial Exhibition. At the time, the press was owned by Frederick Moore.
1866 – 1867: wooden press, labelled as being Fawkner’s, on display at the Intercolonial Exhibition
September 1870: Technological Museum opens; wooden press exhibited and described as ‘first printing press used in Victoria (by J. P. Fawkner, Esq.). Presumably, it was donated to the Museum by Frederick Moore.
1873: first printed catalogue of the Museum mentions the wooden press as being ‘first in Victoria’
1884 – 1890: various mentions in newspapers connecting the wooden press in the Museum with Fawkner
1896 - 1935: the wooden press was displayed on various occasions, at the Intercolonial Library and Australian Library Conferences, by the Historical Society of Victoria and the Victorian Master Printers’ Association, and for the Victorian Centenary celebrations
1970s – 1980s: Museum refurbished and replaced some parts of the wooden press
1985 – 1992: displayed by Museum in the exhibition called ‘The Story of Victoria’
1996: first attempt at a provenance in the La Trobe Journal, by Brian Hubber
2006: wooden press changed to its original configuration
2006 – Now: wooden press on display in the Melbourne Story exhibition at Melbourne Museum
Hubber, Brian. 'The Fawkner Printing Press: a provenance study'. La Trobe Library Journal no. 57 Autumn 1996 pp. 15-25.