Summary

Printer's tray with pieces of moveable type that have melted and fused to the tray. The tray was found in the ashes of Viewfield, a house in Mt. Macedon belonging to John and Zelma Gartner, after the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983. The tray had been located, along with others objects associated with The Hawthorn Press, in a studio on the ground floor of the house. The Hawthorn Press was established by John Gartner, who was also a noted collector and numismatist, in the 1930s and flourished until the 1980s. It played a pioneering role in publishing the works of Australian immigrant poets and specialised in local and organisational histories, poetry, war memoirs and other works of Australiana. After the Press closed, John moved some of the equipment up to his house in Mt Macedon, where he a had specialised studio he called the print room.

The small community of Mt Macedon, northwest of Melbourne, was engulfed by bushfire on the night of 16 February, when a late wind change directed the fire from East Trentham up onto the mountain. 7 people died and 628 homes were destroyed in East Trentham and Mt Macedon. This tray, with pieces of type used for hand-setting books and pamphlets, was one of the few recognisable objects retrieved from the ashes of Viewfield.

Physical Description

Rectangular printer's tray with individual type blocks fused to the surface in horizontal rows. The type is legible in the first few rows, but becomes increasingly blurred in the lower rows as the type melted from the heat of the fire.

Significance

The Ash Wednesday bushfires of February 1983 were one of Australia's greatest natural disasters, as 'holocaust fires' swept through Victoria and South Australia. In the space of a single day in Victoria, 47 people were killed and nearly 3000 homes and other buildings destroyed. This object, along with others from the same house, demonstrates the severity and extent of the fire in Mt Macedon. It is an eloquent symbol of the destruction of the specific property in which it was found, but it also represents the universal power of fire to irrevocably change objects, homes and lives.

More Information