Putting words to paper was once a heavyweight sport. Typesetters would literally set type, using huge machinery, tiny pieces of metal and gallons of ink. It was a time-consuming, laborious process that achieved beautiful results. The Melbourne Museum of Printing displays these old letterpresses and book binding equipment. It even has an incredible 1920s linotype from New York - a groundbreaking contraption in its a day, kind of like a room-sized typewriter.
Michael Isaachson never published books per se, but traditional publishing methods have been his life-long love. He has been a printing enthusiast since the age of nine when he discovered printing shops in Adelaide. At 11, his father let him buy a small desktop printing press which he used throughout his teenage years. “It was a unique and interesting thing to do for a little pocket money,” he says. In the 1970s Michael noticed printing firms were disposing of all their old machinery to make way for more modern technology. “The notion that computers would control publishing wasn’t even on the horizon.”
Their trash became Michael’s treasure, and now his treasure trove is open to the public to see and sometimes even use. When asked what his favourite piece of publishing history is, Michael doesn’t play favourites: “I love it all.” His oldest machine, however, is a handsome 162-year-old printing press.
The Printing Museum has just moved location to West Footscray - a huge effort for Michael and the museum’s volunteers. Speaking of which, if you are a design nerd (or just someone who likes getting inky fingers) why not put your hand up to become a much-needed volunteer for one of Melbourne’s most unique museums? Contact Michael at the museum to find out how.