Historians fascinated by discovery of more than century old Warwick newspapers

Printmakers Eileen Mair and Jill Birtwistle were fascinated by the discovery of a whole year's worth of Warwick Argus editions from 1890. Pictures: Jeremy Cook

By Jeremy Cook

How did a year’s worth of Warwick newspapers from the 19th century wind up amongst the cobwebs of a primary school library in Brisbane?

That’s the question historians have asked after getting their hands on a whole year’s worth of Warwick Argus editions from 1890.

Launched as a bi-weekly broadsheet in 1879 and later becoming a tri-weekly, the Warwick Argus served its namesake for 40 years, running alongside the “Warwick Examiner and Times” before the two papers merged to become the “Warwick Daily News” in 1919.

At some point, a book bound together with editions of the Argus from 1890, left town only to resurface at Brisbane’s Ithaca Creek State School about 124 years after they went to print.

For local historians, how it wound up there is a mystery.

“That is a real, real find,” Warwick Historical Society president Greg Ziser said.

“Somebody has, one way or another, got their hands on it and maybe they went and lived in Brisbane and their kids went to that school,” Mr Ziser said.

“In what era? Well who knows.”

The papers were discovered in a delicate state, but predominantly intact, during a clean-up of the school’s library earlier this year.

And the library technician who found them was similarly perplexed at the discovery.

Terri Bainbridge, who called Warwick home for a brief period early on in life, said she found the book during a “tidy up” but had “no idea” how it got there.

“I’d hate to see it not used as it’s a fascinating historical object,” Ms Bainbridge said.

Mr Ziser said he was grateful to see the artifact hadn’t been destroyed

“We probably have lost a lot of stuff because it just gets thrown in the skip,” he said.

Dating back to Australia’s pre-federation era, the 1890 Argus editions show just how much life and even newspapers have changed in the 124 years since.

For the past two years, Warwick printmakers Jill Birtwistle and Eileen Mair have volunteered in the Warwick Museum’s print room, sorting through an extensive collection of old newspapers and printing relics.

They were fascinated by the find and even recognised some of the images printed in each paper.

Up until the early 20th century, movable blocks displaying images or individual letters would be arranged by hand and transferred into what was called a case. This process was repeated until a full page’s worth of content had been arranged. A completed page would then be sent to the printing press.

Some of the blocks used to print the Argus can be found on display at the Warwick Museum.

“We have the blocks with these images on them,” Ms Birtwistle said.

“Some of them we found a bit confusing … so it’s interesting because I think the whole thing over the last couple of years has been a bit of a discovery journey.”

For Warwick’s historians, the Argus’ discovery shone a light on a bygone era.

The papers have been donated to the Warwick Museum where Mr Ziser said they will likely be put on display for visitors to “appreciate it” like he does.

“We have quite a bit of stuff in storage but this certainly won’t be one of them,” he said.

But first, Ms Birtwistle said she wanted to “have a good read of it”.