Sunday, July 10, 2005
In the weekend I enjoyed another long-anticipated Northland experience by going to Pompellier House in Russel. Not so interested in the Catholic history of the house, I was keen to see the printing, tanning and binding operation that the brother's ran there. I was not disappointed.
The house, which is lovely, was full of beautifully restored book making equipment which the French brothers used to print and bind Maori translations of Catholic texts in the 1830s and 40s. The Anglican's and Wesleyans were already publishing religious and anti-papist tracts across the water, so it seemed a matter of some urgency for the Catholics to get their point of view into print also.
An excellent guide showed us round the printing presses (one of them pictured here), extensive tannery (for the leather book covers) and binding room. This later interested me the most with its large sewing frames, enormous book press made of kauri, a plough cutter for trimming the pages and other book making tools similar to slightly more modern equipment I have seen and/or used before in Barbara Schmeltzer's workshops. What was lovely about Pompellier house was that everything was on a large scale, all the wood was beautiful native timbers, and the guide demonstrated how many of the tools worked. I do recommend this Historic Place for anyone interested in books.