Private press  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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

The term 'Private Press' is often used to refer to a movement in book production which flourished at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries 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 off-shoot 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 (hand-made 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.

Notable private presses


  • 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.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Private press" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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