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John Lang's first book signed by him.

John Lang's first novel Violet or the Danseuse was published in 1836 anonymously in London. I have written about the discovery of this book in my biography, John Lang Australia's Larrikin Writer. However Lang published a book under his own in 1835 in Sydney. It was a translation from the Latin of the first satire of Horace and was a free translation with John Lang using his facility in verse writing to give an interpretation of the satire.

The book is interesting because it is a printed object quite apart from its importance as the first signed work by the young writer. It is important because it was printed, not with the conventional printing from metal type but by the then relatively new method of lithography. This method of printing was more often used to reproduce drawings and other illustrations. It used the method of drawing on a specially prepared stone with the prints taken off this stone. It was also successfully used for printing music although it was necessary to use a reverse process to ensure the work was not back to front like a work seen in a mirror. This did not matter so much with a picture but with a written text or with music that was vital.

The other interesting aspect of this first book was that it was in the author's handwriting. Just as the picture is transferred to the stone from the drawing so in the case of the text it is transferred from the author's manuscript. It was not very often used to print a book because the Lithography usually produced a limited number of copies. The result was that the finished work appeared like a manuscript. This is much the same as using a photocopier to reproduce a manuscript in today's technological world. Thus we are able to see John Lang's handwriting even though the original is not available.

The printer of John Lang's small book was John Gardiner Austin who came to Sydney in 1834 and was listed as a lithographer of Phillip and Hunter Streets, Sydney. He published a series of twelve portraits of Aborigines of New South Wales in 1836 available from his premises at 12 Bridge Street. He became quite famous for his portraits and his views of buildings in Sydney.

Lithography was discovered in Germany in 1799. The first lithographic book illustration was published in Britain in 1807 and the first lithographic map was published in 1808. By 1820 lithography was often being used for illustrating books.

J. G. Austin must have been one of the earliest men to practice lithography in Australia. He sold his lithographic equipment to Raphael Clint in 1838 but continued his business and did all types of printing and sold stationery as well as offering profile portraits. John Lang's book is known as one of Austin's publications because he signed the book as printer.
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Title Annotation:John Lang Page
Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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