Private press is a term used in the field of book collecting to describe a printing press operated as an artistic or craft-based endeavor, rather than as a purely commercial venture. The term is also used in the record collecting field to describe records released in small runs by individuals, as opposed to records released by record labels.
Private press movement
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The term "private press" is often used to refer to a movement in book production which flourished around the turn of the 20th century under the influence of the scholar-artisans William Morris, Sir Emery Walker and their followers. The movement is often considered to have begun with the founding of Morris' Kelmscott Press in 1890, following a lecture on printing given by Walker at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in November 1888. Those involved in the movement created books by traditional printing and binding methods, with an emphasis on the book as a work of art and manual skill, as well as a medium for the transmission of information. Morris was greatly influenced by medieval printed books and the 'Kelmscott style' had a great, and not always positive, influence on later private presses and commercial book-design. The movement was an offshoot of the Arts and Crafts movement, and represented a rejection of the cheap mechanised book-production methods which developed in the Victorian era. The books were made with high-quality materials (handmade paper, traditional inks and, in some cases, specially designed typefaces), and were often bound by hand. Careful consideration was given to format, page design, type, illustration and binding, in order to produce a unified whole. The movement dwindled during the worldwide depression of the 1930s, as the market for luxury goods evaporated. Since the 1950s, there has been a resurgence of interest, especially among artists, in the experimental use of letterpress printing, paper-making and hand-bookbinding in producing small editions of 'artists' books', and among amateur (and a few professional) enthusiasts for traditional printing methods and for the production 'values' of the private press movement.
In New Zealand university private presses have been significant in the private press movement. Private presses are active at three New Zealand universities: Auckland (Holloway Press), Victoria (Wai-te-ata Press) and Otago (Otakou Press).
Selected private presses
- Strawberry Hill Press — the Officina Arbuteana — of Horace Walpole.
- Gaetano Polidori, a private press in London c. 1800.
- Daniel Press in Oxford from 1874 to 1903.
- Kelmscott Press set up by William Morris in 1891.
- Kynoch Press
- The Mosher Press set up by Thomas Bird Mosher in 1891 in Portland, Maine.
- Roycroft Press set up by Elbert Hubbard in 1895.
- Doves Press founded by T. J. Cobden Sanderson and Emery Walker in 1900.
- Dun Emer Press, founded by Elizabeth Yeats in 1903
- Gregynog Press (1922-) Founded by Gwendoline and Margaret Davis
- Trovillion Press at the Sign of the Silver Horse, set up by Hal W. Trovillion in Herrin, Illinois in 1908.
- The Golden Cockerel Press founded by Harold Midgley Taylor in 1920.
- Jericho Press, founded by J.F. Coakley
- Nonesuch Press founded in 1922 by Francis and Vera Meynell, and David Garnett.
- Locks' Press founded in 1979 by Fred and Margaret Lock.
- Rampant Lions Press founded by Will Carter in 1924 and continued by his son Sebastian until 2008.
- Nancy Cunard's Hours Press in France from 1928 to 1931.
- The Perishable Press Limited founded by Walter Hamady in 1964.
- Black Rock Press, founded by Kenneth Carpenter at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1965
- M. Bernard Loates, A Private Press, founded in 1968.
- Happy Dragons' Press founded in 1969.
- Something Else Press operated by Dick Higgins from 1964 to 1973.
- Stanbrook Abbey Press, which was revived by Dames Hildelith Cumming and Felicitas Corrigan.
- John Fass The Hammer Creek Press, founded by John Fass in 1950.
- Finlay Press founded and operated by Phil Day (artist) and Ingeborg Hansen in Australia. 1997-2009.
- Vangioni, Peter (2012). Pressed Letters: Fine Printing in New Zealand since 1975, 30 August – 24 September 2012 (PDF). Christchurch, NZ: Christchurch Art Gallery. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- "The Holloway Press". The University of Auckland. The University of Auckland. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- "Wai-te-Ata Press". Victoria University of Wellington. Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- "Otakou Press". University of Otago Library, Special Collections Exhibitions. University of Otago. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- Archer, Caroline. The Kynoch Press: The Anatomy of a Printing House ISBN 9780712347044
- Lock, Fred. Locks' Press, Kingston, Ontario. Locks Press, 2013, p. 1.
- Will Ransom, Private Presses and their Books, R.R. Bowker, N.Y.C., 1929.
- Roderick Cave, The private presses. 2nd edition. London: Bowker, 1983.
- Johanna Drucker, The century of artists' books. New York: Granary Books, 1995.
- Colin Franklin, The private press. 2nd edition. Aldershot: Scolar, 1991.
- ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter