Originally promoted in a prospectus dated 8 September 1854 by the Cooke brothers operating under the business name of Messrs. Francis Cooke and Co., General Merchants and Stock Owners, the Age was forty-eight hours from closure before the end of the year. This was avoided by compositors and other staff and supporters banding together to form a co-operative. This arrangement continued until 6 June 1856 when the chief editor Ebenezer Syme bought the paper at auction and became its sole proprietor. (In his biography of David Syme, Ambrose Pratt suggests that the Age was saved from an even earlier closure by its sympathetic coverage of the events at the Eureka Stockade.)
'The Melbourne Age newspaper dominated the newspaper stage in Australia from the 1870s to the end of the colonial period. In the 1880s its circulation was far in excess of any other daily throughout all British colonial possessions and its proprietor, the driven, talented Scotsman David Syme, was acknowledged as the leader of the Australian press. For the influence that he and his newspapers exercised, he became a legend in his lifetime and for several generations after his death in 1908.
'Drawing on family and business records as well as newly digitised nineteenth-century newspaper archives, this biography of a powerful man of many parts seeks to go behind the legend and round out the story of the life – primarily as press ‘baron’ but also as author and philosopher, financier, farmer, property developer and, not least, family man.' (Publication summary)
' Following the fortunes of Richard Delavel as a rebellious Oxford undergraduate in 1850s England and a still restless middle-aged family man in 1880s Sydney, the story presents his life and loves, work and leisure, beliefs and hopes against a background of constraints and opportunities in Britain and Australia.' (Publication summary)