“I MUST BEFORE I DIE, create the type for today of ‘The Book Beautiful’ and actualize it –paper, ink, writing, printing, ornament and binding. I will learn to write, to print and to decorate.” T. J. Cobden-Sanderson
The private press flourishes under the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement influenced by William Morris (1834-1896) and Sir Emery Walker (1851-1933). The book beautiful is named in honor of the statement above made by Walker’s partner T. J. Cobden Sanderson. The two men operated the famous Doves Press and bindery in Hammersmith, London from 1900 until a dispute dissolved the press in 1909. Contemporary private presses produce books of high quality, taking into consideration the elements of the book beautiful as Cobden Sanderson (1840-1922) defines it.
Traditionally private presses use historic and elegant forms of typesetting and printing. Handset foundry type, Linotype and Monotype casting, and letterpress printing on historic iron and platen presses were performed by master craftspeople. Today, digital type used by means of polymer plates; and the Vandercook proof press is popular as well as the historic methods. The quality of the materials use, as in the paper and binding, are of special stature. Paper can be hand-made with a unique watermark for that particular edition, and that edition alone. Private press books are normally produced as limited editions and quite collectible. Libraries and private collectors are the primary buyers for these handsome books.
A description of the materials and methods used to create a private press book can be found on the book’s colophon page. The colophon will often list the paper and type used, printer, and number of copies produced for that edition as well as indicate the number of that particular copy. The colophon will also list additional large paper or other unique editions.
Another special element often found in private press books is the printer’s device. The use of a printer’s device can be traced back to incunabula as visual signature of the printer’s work and generally appear on the title page. In today’s commercial books, publisher’s logos claim this space. A short list of historic and contemporary private presses can be found listed below next to their printer’s mark.