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In the spotlight


From the title page of the Press's second book. Besides being a nice example of two-colour work in close register on handmade paper (not all presses attempted this), it is also the very first showing of Castellar, a display type designed by Peters at Cambridge University Press for Monotype and nowadays often seen in digital form.


Archive of the Vine Press (MS Add. 9861)

The Library has recently acquired an important archive for the history of printing in Cambridgeshire, which complements our fine collection of modern Printers' Papers. The Vine Press was the private press of John Peters and Peter Foster in the village of Hemingford Grey near Cambridge. In its active life from 1957 to 1963, the Press produced just six books. The modest size of this output reflects in part the fact that it was a spare-time occupation for its proprietors—Peters was a designer at Cambridge University Press, and Foster an architect—and in part that Peters and Foster spared no pains in their printing. The Vine Press books were carefully-chosen texts, printed on handmade paper with special-order inks and mostly illustrated with wood-engravings.

The archive represents all six Vine Press books, prospectuses, and a couple of other ephemera, with trial settings, layouts, proofs, and much correspondence with authors and suppliers; as well as almost all the blocks (wood-engraved, process, and etching plates) used for their illustrations.

The Vine Press flourished under the wing of Cambridge University. Its Imperial hand press was on loan from Cambridge University Press, who also typeset some of its texts. Some original drawings for Peters's type Castellar are already in the Library in the University Press collection in the Archives. One of the Vine Press authors was Evelyn Ansell, Deputy Librarian at the University Library. (His Twenty-five poems, 1963 was perhaps the Press's best book, with wood engravings by Diana Bloomfield.) John Dreyfus, the assistant University Printer, wrote several articles about the Vine Press, the notes and correspondence for which are in his own papers recently bequeathed to us (Add. 9815).

The archive has been purchased for the Library through the generosity of the Friends of Cambridge University Library. See the Vine Press finding aid on the Janus catalogue for further information.

J. F. Coakley


  • David Butcher, 'A bibliography of the Vine Press', Matrix, 13 (1993), 228–34.
  • John Dreyfus, 'The Vine Press' [including 'Notes on the production of Vine Press books' by John Peters], The Private Library, 7/2 (Summer 1966), 40–4.
  • John Dreyfus, 'A memoir of John Peters (1917–1989)', Fine Print, 16/1 (1990), 25–9.
  • John Dreyfus, 'The Vine Press, 1957–1963', Matrix, 13 (1993), 18–33.
  • James Moran, 'The Vine Press', Book Design and Production, 3/3, (1960), 50–4.

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