The Rise and Fall of Letterpress printing in Hong Kong

HF: Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing using a printing press, a process by which many copies are produced by repeated direct impression of an inked, raised surface against sheets or a continuous roll of paper. A worker composes and locks movable type into the “bed” or “chase” of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper. (1)

The SCMP of 15th November 2016 contained an article of interest about Peter Lam On who spent six decades in this trade in Hong Kong until his retirement three years ago when he closed his business, Wing On Printing Press, in Aberdeen Street, Central. He has donated his Heidelberg letterpress printer to the Hong Kong Open Printshop at the Jockey Club Creative Art Centre in Shek Kip Mei.

‘For Peter Lam On, printing was his life – and maybe his lifesaver: from a troubled family, he was homeless and roaming the streets of Hong Kong’s Central district when he was apprenticed to a printer at the age of 10. “At least you’ll have food to eat and a place to stay,” said the friend who recommended he enter the trade…

… The word “apprentice” brings to mind a diligent trainee receiving instructions and tips from a master; however, that was hardly the case. To retain their skilled employees and avoid a brain drain, masters at the time would not immediately pass on the skills of operating a printing press or directly teach the apprentices. Instead, Lam learnt most of the trade’s techniques by secretly observing the more experienced workers at the printing shop in Gutzlaff Street, Central. (2)


The Heidelberg letterpress on display at the Jockey Club Creative Art Centre in Shek Kip Mei. Photo: Rachel Cheung Courtesy: SCMP

This article was first posted on 14th December 2016.


  1. Letterpress Printing – wikipedia
  2. Vanishing Hong Kong crafts: the unique magic of movable type SCMP 15th November 2016


  1. Wing Lee Street’s last working letterpress saved for posterity SCMP 16th December 2012

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Kwong Wah Printing Company – traditional letterpress printing – vanishing HK trades
  2. Lee Yat-Ngok, the Local Printing Press Company and the Development of the Hong Kong Printing Industry

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