Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Colour Printing in the Uttermost Part of the Sea: a Study of the Colour Print Products, Printers, Technology and Markets in New Zealand, 1830-1914

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posted on 2021-11-08, 19:56 authored by Johnston, Rosslyn Joan

This thesis is an historical study of the development and the relationships between some aspects of colour printing in New Zealand from 1830 to 1914, including the practitioners, the technology and the products, in the context of printing in New Zealand beginning as a largely British inheritance, but within an Australasian setting. A review of the printing history literature has shown that there have been relatively few works in the English language devoted specifically to the history of colour printing. Much of the literature bearing on the topic in relation to British colour printing history deals with specialized aspects such as colour plate books or technical processes. There has been no previous specific scholarly study of New Zealand colour printing history. The research for this aspect of thesis has been in the nature of exploratory work. An historical methodology was employed to approach the gathering and analysis of data from a wide array of sources, both secondary and primary. A theoretical framework suitable to an academic historical study, of which history' of print culture is a part, has been developed using the new model proposed by Thomas R. Adams and Nicolas Barker (1993) as an appropriate foundation framework. This model shows the phases of the 'book cycle', publication, manufacture, distribution, reception and survival, as being central to the whole socio-economic conjuncture. The paradigm developed for the present study is based on the section of the framework relating to the manufacture or production phase, using themes that emerged from the literature to facilitate analysis and explanation of New Zealand patterns and relationships with comparison to British colour printing history. Within this setting more detailed study was made of some of the colour printers. Especially those of the lower North Island, including a case study of the Wanganui firm of A.D. Willis where colour printing was a specialty. A genre study of special numbers from the New Zealand weeklies has also been presented. Rather than attempting to provide a definitive colour printing history the research has provided an interpretive thematic study that has aimed to increase understanding of some aspects of New Zealand colour printing history, and accordingly, responses to research questions have been tentative. It was found that although colour printing practice continued with strong ties to the British craft' from the beginning, new relationships were being forged particularly with the neigbouring Australian colonies whence immigrant printers and lithographers were arriving. After local lithographic colour printing had begun to develop in New Zealand in the eighteen sixties, in the period to 1914 local printers were found to have used colour in diverse ways, especially in the context of jobbing printing, chiefly to produce letterpress and lithographic items. The later New Zealand photomechanical colour methods developed within these styles. By the end of the nineteenth century, New Zealand colour printers were following international trends, and more influence was arriving from America, but such trends were still chiefly coming to New Zealand via Britain and Australia, although in a technical sense, New Zealand was generally in a following position. After the eighteen sixties colour printers were found to have been in business in all the main centres of New Zealand, and in some of the smaller centres. It was apparent that many of the global and technological factors that had driven colour printing were common to both Britain and New Zealand, but that local conditions had also been important. Although print products tailored to local demand and often featuring local images had been produced using a variety of available technologies in each place, limiting factors present in New Zealand, particularly its isolation from the larger markets coupled with a small local population, had dictated that colour was appearing from colonial printers in a more circumscribed way than was the case in Britain. In the main, New Zealand colour printers appear to have responded to marketplace differences by choosing appropriate genre and cutting format costs.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

History of Book & Print Culture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management


Gorman, Gary; Traue, James; Shep, Sydney