Irwin and McLaren is a dynamic company with a long history. We have worked hard to combine our deep respect for the traditional crafts of paper manufacture and binding with the best of today’s technology and wisdom. We bring to our business a high level of service and detail, not because it is our job, but rather, because it is our passion.



James McLaren (Snr) is apprenticed as a bookbinder/paper-ruler to William Newland, a manufacturing stationer of Castlemaine.


Jim McLaren (eldest son of James), formerly a salesman for Sands & McDougall, which operated a large printing and bookbinding plant at the top end of Spencer Street Melbourne, establishes James McLaren Pty Ltd, a bookbinding and paper-ruling business operating in a three-storey building in Little Bourke Street. At this time the family is living in Richmond. It is a true family business, Jim employing his father James, his son James (Jnr), his brother George as company secretary, and later his youngest brother Robert Clarence. Other siblings are employed in the bindery as well as some cousins from his father's family, including Robin Lathlean McLaren as office manager. In the early days of the business, Robert Clarence, still at school, carries buckets of home-made paste by tram to the city (the tradition of making our own flour paste continues). When work finishes at 1pm every Saturday, the family heads off to the races. 

Robert Clarence McLaren is apprenticed to his father James McLaren (Snr). 


Jim McLaren (Jnr) dies in his sleep after losing much in the depression. His only son, James (Jnr), takes over. 

James McLaren (Snr) dies and his son and nephew, Robert Clarence & Robin Lathlean McLaren, join Gordon Irwin, sole proprietor of a small manufacturing stationery in Kirks Lane off Little Bourke Street, and Irwin & McLaren is formed. Six weeks after the joint venture begins, Irwin sells his shares and joins his brother-in-law in real estate. 

Phillip Clarence, son of Robert Clarence McLaren and Mary Young of Maldon, joins the company, later buying shares from both his father and Robin Lathlean. Robin Lathlean leaves the business to run Malmsbury general store to accommodate an asthmatic son. 

A fire caused by an unattended iron left on by an upstairs neighbour destroys almost half the factory. After the fire, a 36-inch diamond guillotine is retrieved from its resting place in midair on two charred rafters and is repaired. It runs for another 10 years. 

After Irwin & McLaren's trading premises in the city are sold by Ezywalking shoes, Phllip Clarence McLaren and his wife Beth buy a site at 64 Cubitt St Richmond. The rundown Victorian cottage on the premises is demolished and the present factory is built in record time, becoming occupied before the city lease expires. 

Beth McLaren, whose father is also connected with printing and bookbinding (he was a gold finisher and gilder and ran a library binding service with her family during the war), purchases Robert C. McLaren's holdings in Irwin & McLaren when Robert Clarence (father of Beths's husband Phillip McLaren) retires.

James McLaren (Jnr) buys back minority-share holdings held by the family and then sells his business, James McLaren Pty Ltd, to the Herald Gravure. He remains with the Herald Gravure and supervises the book publishing until his retirement. 

Robert James McLaren, son of Philip and Beth McLaren, joins the company and takes an interest in paper marbling and the private press. 

62 Cubitt Street is purchased and the site is cleared for car parking.


Beth and Phillip McLaren still take an interest in the business and are 'moonlighting', binding books for friends and family.


Robert McLaren semi retires and moves to the country, to continue marbling and raise sheep.