OH. Frewin Printing Museum

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Experience the past

OH, Frewin was established in 1903 by Mr Oscar Henry Frewin using the printing process of Letterpress in the form of wooden letters, loose lead type and casted lead pictures. Majority of the work was done on letterpress printing machines on which the paper was hand fed, and all lose type had to be composed onto a composing stick in a reverse reading position by hand letter setters which was a trade that required immense concentration and skill. Each sheet that was produced was a testimony to the dedication and pride of all those involved.

My journey with print began in 1973 at O.H. Frewin, when I was employed by Mr. John Frewin, the grandson of the founding father Mr. Oscar Henry Frewin. In my apprentice years I witnessed numerous versions of the printing trade and knew that these methods are worth saving for future generations. As I completed my trade, the print industry was almost completely modernised with Litho print machines that took over letterpress printing since the 1960’s. Already, in this early time in my life as a printer, I had the urge to Preserve, Protect and Maintain this specialised trade as well as equipment used from the late 1800’s unto early 1900’s.

In around 2018 as I scaled down my managerial duties, and I could focus on my dream to create a legacy of print. A space was created in our working factory and the journey began. With renovations, restorations and a lot of hard work, the vision started coming to life. I bought antique equipment and restored it to its former glory, such as loose type spacing equipment, printer trays and type cutting machines. Through the dusty archives we were able to find rich historical information and print works to frame and display from Middelburg and surrounding areas. The museum was then a functional reminder of the art of print. The museums existence is to preserve the rich history of print and the impact it had on our towns economy for all who would like to enrich their knowledge.

For the museum being in a functional manufacturing factory, certain rules and regulations must be maintained when visiting to provide a safe experience, therefor the museum can be visited by appointments in advance.

The Evolution of Printing

Around 600 AD

The ancient Chinese, after the invention of ink and paper, used carved blocks of wood to print. Although this was a very tedious process (every page was carved on a block of wood), it still stands as a great breakthrough in creating multiple copies of the same text.

Around 1450

Although the Sing dynasty of the China in year 960 developed a movable printing technique by burning the clay blocks to be formed on an iron plate, the same technology was improved by the development os metal characters by a German named Johannes Gutenberg

Around 1473

Considered the first retailer of books in England, Caxton produced the book “Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye”, the first English book to be printed (a translation from the French). He ws the first to establish a press in England. He printed about 100 books in his lifetime.

15th - 17th Century

Towards the far end of the 16th century, the print media started booming, which later grew by multifold in the successive centuries.

Early 19th Century

The pace of paper printing grew by great extent in the initial decades of the 19th century with th invention os the steam powered press by Friedrich Gottlob Koenig, who was granted a patent too. Koenig & Bauer later improved the rate of printing copies per hour from 480 of the previous technology to 2400 in just 18 years.


Also called Chromolithography, this ws the first attempt to print multicolour patterns. Although there was an idea in the year 1818, a Frenchman – Godefroy Engelmann got the patents for the technology.

Early 20th Century

Rotary Letterpress printing was the technology that made the newspapers much more affordable to all the sections of society. It was widely used till offset print was developed in the 20th century.

Late 20th Century

Although many groundbreaking technologies broke previous ones, digital printing really revolutionised the World with no need for the replacement of the printing plates. The modern printers are the digital laser and inkjet printers that are simple to use.

For Visits

Please contact Dries Venter Snr at 013 242 5550 or 083 627 5222


41A Meyer street, Middelburg , Mpumalanga, 1050

Some of the Museum Photos