Unregulated Printing
Modern Private Press Books

Private press printing - Items on Display

Hand Platen Press

Chicago 2.5” x 4”

Made by J. Sigwalt, Chicago, ca 1910

This press is typical of the many designs aimed at the amateur market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and provided a first introduction to printing for many distinguished printers. As the handle is depressed, the two ink rollers pass over the type and up onto the circular ink-plate; at the same time the platen with blank paper is forced against the inked type. When the handle is released, the printed paper can be removed and a fresh sheet inserted, while the ink rollers pass down over the type once more.

On loan from Mrs P. H. Parker


Aries Type: Punch, matrix, type-mould and type

Designed by Eric Gill for the Stourton Press, 1932

Many private press printers, William Morris among them, have designed or commissioned their own type; examples include the Golden Cockerel type (also by Gill), the uncial designs of Victor Hammer, and Reynolds Stone’s Janet type. It seems unlikely now that any new typefaces will appear in metal, although there are occasional revivals of faces that have long been unobtainable.

Punch on deposit from Cambridge University Press; remaining items donated by James Stourton


The ballad of Thomas a’Beckett (martyr † 29 December 1170)

[Lexington, Kentucky]: Windell Press, [1988]

The text of a ballad appropriate to a new year’s trip to England, as sung by the great composer and collector of American ballads, John Jacob Niles. W. Gay Reading, a nephew of Victor and Carolyn Hammer, maintains two personal press names: the Reading Lion Press, using a motorised press, and the Windell Press, which uses a Washington hand press.


Ted Hughes

Pike: a poem; woodcut by Roger Birmelin

Northampton, Massachusetts: Gehenna Press, 1959

This illustrated edition was the first collaboration between Ted Hughes and the artist and printer Leonard Baskin. It marked the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship that lasted until 1998; other items illustrated and printed by Baskin are on display elsewhere in the exhibition.


Andrew Marvell

And, as it works, th’industrious bee...

[Los Angeles, California]: Imprenta Glorias, 1985

The verse is taken from Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘Thoughts in a garden’. The page is signed by the printer, Gloria Stuart.


Robert Brough

The vacant frame; illustrated with linocuts by John R. Smith

Steventon: Rocket Press, 1983

This poem first appeared in Tips for typos, or, Rhymes to rub off rust, published in 1890. The author, Robert Brough, was a Glasgow compositor. In addition to the text, this publication includes printing type, quoins (wedges used to hold the type in place) and a miniature type specimen book. The edition was limited to 80 copies.


Geoffrey Wakeman

Nineteenth century trade binding

Kidlington: Plough Press (text and illustrations printed at the Rocket Press, Steventon), 1983

In addition to the text, this publication was issued with samples of embossed binders’ cloth and different sorts of leather, a piece of brass type and an ornamental stamp.

This is copy number 38 of a limited edition of 150.