Wellington Scoop

Parliament’s bindery machines being moved to Printing Museum

Parliamentary bindery in 1949

News from NZ Parliament
For over a century, the Parliamentary Library housed its own bindery – all those books covered in cloth and crested, were bound right here on the premises.

The bindery was established in 1901. Historically, all books that were ever published in New Zealand were collected by the library, and all books that came into the library were bound.

At that time, books were heavily used and transported around the country as there were limited copies of resources. They were very susceptible to wear and tear so binding made them more durable, as well as protecting them from the elements. Newspapers, Hansards and periodicals were bound for similar reasons, as well as to keep a complete set. Sarah Jacobs, Curator of the Parliamentary Collection, recollects that “everything had its own style. Every single book had its own lettering, its own colours.”

As time passed, technology improved. This meant an increase in the number of books published in New Zealand (and a higher cost to collect and bind them), as well as a transition from print to online. Many resources were now available online, so the need to preserve hard copies was no longer so important.

In the bindery’s last few years there was only one binder with part-time assistance, and by 2012 the binding of books on precinct was stopped altogether.

For the past seven years the bindery equipment has been lying dormant in the depths of library room 1.001. That is until early February when it bid farewell to six big heavy machinery items, some tables, bookcases, fabric, gold leaf, (basically everything related to the bindery), as Whare Taonga Perehitanga, the Printing Museum, eagerly took the equipment away.

“This has actually been in the process for years,” Sarah says. “We had to go through the process of writing a letter to the Speaker, with the equipment being crown assets. Nothing could be transferred until it was all approved, but once it was, the Printing Museum made sense. We’ve kept bits and pieces as examples of the work the Bindery did but the rest we gave to the Printing Museum. They were eager, and everything was going to one place where it would actually be used and not just put into storage.”

Currently based in a WWII depot in Upper Hutt, the Printing Museum will soon be relocating to the Woolstore on Thorndon Quay. It’s not a traditional museum of exhibits, rather a more hands on experience where everything is in working order and can be used for education and book arts purposes. A fitting home for these national taonga.

Once it is set up, the public will be able to attend a myriad of printing based classes, including typography, calligraphy, book binding, paper marbling, lettering and an introduction to letterpress – all the while using our bindery equipment.

Most importantly, Sarah says, is that our equipment will no longer just be sitting around not in use and not visible to the public. Instead, “it’s going to a good home, to people who are very happy to receive it,” and where it will be able to be used and enjoyed by all.

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