# 35815

HOWE, George (1771-1821) (printer)

[EARLY SYDNEY PRINTING] Receipt for payment of quit rent made to the Crown by Edward Robinson. Sydney, 29 January 1806.

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Sydney, NSW : [George Howe, Government Printer], [printed 1802-06]. Printed in black ink on laid paper, 40 x 98 mm; manuscript date of 29 January 1806, with further clerical entries recording the receipt from Edwd. Robinson of 11 shillings, ‘being the Amount of one Year’s Quit-Rent due to the Crown the 28th of Sept. 1805 on one Grant and one Lease.’; signed D.D. Mann (David Dickenson Mann, government clerk); complete and fine.

There can be little doubt that this official receipt from the Crown, made out to Edward Robinson for his (slightly overdue) annual quit rent payments for the year 1805, was printed by George Howe on the same wooden screw-press that had arrived with the First Fleet, and had been used by George Hughes to print the oldest known Australian imprints. It is an extremely early example of an ephemeral Australian printing, which could conceivably have been printed anywhere between 1802, when Howe was made Government Printer, and January 1806, when the receipt was dated and signed by Mann. Its diminutive size reflects the imperative to conserve the limited stocks of paper and ink in the fledgling colony.


George Howe (1771-1821) was the son of a government printer on Basseterre, Saint Christopher Island (Saint Kitts). As a young man he went to London and worked as a journeyman printer for The Times newspaper. In 1799 he was convicted of larceny and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to transportation for life to New South Wales. Howe arrived in Sydney in November 1800.

The first issue of Australia’s first newspaper, The Sydney Gazette, and New South Wales Advertiser, was published on Saturday, March 5, 1803, by Howe, who had been appointed Government Printer due to his experience working on the London Times. In a despatch to Lord Hobart dated May 9, 1803, Governor King refers to George Howe as an ‘ingenious man’ (Ferguson 383). Howe not only printed but was also the editor of the Gazette, although the content of the newspaper – published under the initiative of Governor King – was under strict government censorship. The paper was printed on a small wooden screw-press which had been brought to the colony by Arthur Phillip in the First Fleet, along with some metal type, paper and ink. (It would not be long before ink had to be improvised using local resources: a charcoal base mixed with fat, whale and fish oils, and tree resins). David Collins (Account of the English Colony in New South Wales) noted in November 1795 that a young printer, George Hughes, had used the press to print numerous government notices and orders. Copies of some of these ephemeral printed items are held in the Record Office, London (Ferguson, Foster & Green.The Howes and their Press, p 15). This almost certainly makes Hughes responsible for the very earliest Australian imprints (Ferguson, op. cit.), of which the oldest to have survived is a playbill dated 30 July 1796 (now in the National Library of Australia). George Howe used the same press to print the colony’s first book, The New South Wales General Standing Orders, in 1802 – probably confirming him as the colony’s second printer – and also its second, the first edition of the New South Wales pocket almanack and colonial remembrancer, in 1806. In May 1804 a complete set of new type had been brought from London, although it would not be until 1814 that a replacement for the wooden screw-press – a new iron Stanhope printing press, ordered by Governor Macquarie – would arrive.


Yorkshireman Edward Robinson (c.1754-1820) arrived in Australia as a convict on the Third Fleet in October 1791. He went on to become a respected citizen of the Hawkesbury River district – a landowner, sheep farmer and, later in life, an innkeeper. He had been granted 30 acres of land on the river at Hawkesbury in the District of Mulgrove Place in December 1794. In September 1802 he was granted a further 100 acres at a lagoon nearby, which was called Robinson’s Lagoon. The 1805 quit rent of 11 shillings which Robinson paid the Crown was for these two holdings. Around this time he had a flock of around 200 sheep, and it is known that he informed Governor King of his wish to experiment with merinos. In 1809 he would receive a further grant to lease 1 3/4 acres 25 rods in Sydney Town, and be granted 80 acres at Upper Nelson. Robinson was the proprietor of a tavern known as the Sign of the York Roses from 1809 through to 1815. A short time before his death in June 1820, he was issued a hotel licence for an establishment on the Sydney Road. He died at the Half Way House, an inn on the Parramatta Road today known as the Horse and Jockey, on 6 June 1820, and was buried in the Devonshire Street Cemetery.