This is an Albion printing press, a type of early iron hand printing press made in London about 1850 by A. Wilson and Sons. It was originally designed and manufactured in London by Richard Whittaker Cope around 1820 and operated with a simple toggle action, unlike the complex lever-mechanism of the Columbian press and the Stanhope press. Albion printing presses continued to be manufactured, in a range of sizes, right up until the 1930s. They were used for commercial book-printing until the middle of the nineteenth century and after that mainly for jobbing work and by private presses.
After Cope's death, Albions were manufactured by his heirs and members of the Hopkinson family. From the 1850s onwards Albion presses were manufactured under licence by other firms, notably Harrild and Sons, Miller and Richard, and Frederick Ullmer Ltd. The toggle-action, and the distinctive shape and 'crown' finial of the Albion, make it instantly recognizable.
This printing press is very significant as it was imported from England and used in Sydney by Henry Parkes (later Sir Henry) to produce the newspaper the 'Empire', of which he was proprietor and editor, from 1850-1858. This newspaper was the chief organ of mid. 19th century liberalism and its pages were a forum for the sharpest radical and liberal viewpoints of the day. Parkes was elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly on 13 March 1856 and later, Premier of New South Wales in 1872.
The press was then purchased in 1856 by Walter Craigie and William Hipgrave of Armidale, in the New England area of New South Wales. They bought the press from their former boss and sent it from Maitland to Armidale on a dray pulled by a team of bullocks, a journey which took 27 days. The press printed the Armidale 'Express' newspaper from its inauguration on 5 April 1856. This was the third oldest regional newspaper in New South Wales.
The arrival of small hand printing presses enabled the publication of newspapers in country regions. Many newspapers were short-lived but several were important in influencing public opinion and debate. The printing of local newspapers in country towns with articles written from information received by the telegraph enabled members of the community to receive news faster than previously when they had to wait for deliveries from major cities. Access to the printed word also led to increased literacy.
In 1929 the Armidale Newspaper Company donated the press to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences when this firm issued the Armidale 'Express' newspaper.
(Richard Peck, Curator, print technology & philately)