The Ashendene Press was founded in 1895 by Charles St John Hornby and, apart from a brief interruption caused by the First World War, continued operating until 1935. The Press is particularly associated with the Subiaco typeface, which was designed for Hornby by Emery Walker and Sidney Cockerell. This typeface, which blends both Gothic and Roman elements, is based on that used by Sweynheim and Pannartz, two German printers who set up the first press in Italy, in the town of Subiaco.
T. J. Cobden-Sanderson founded the Doves Bindery in 1893, but had expanded into printing by 1900, in which year he invited Emery Walker to become his partner at the Doves Press. Both men had previously been associated with William Morris's Kelmscott Press. Their collaboration continued until 1909, at which point they fell out over the rights to the famous Doves type, which Walker had designed for the Press. Walker played no further part in the Press; Cobden-Sanderson continued on alone, but in 1913 threw the matrices for the type into the Thames, and between 1916 and 1917 he did the same with the type itself.
While living in London, Elizabeth Yeats had been part of the circle of William Morris, and was inspired by his printing work. In 1902, Elizabeth Yeats joined Gleeson in establishing a studio in Dundrum, a town outside of Dublin. They named the studio Dun Emer after Emer, the daughter of Forgall Monach and Cú Chulainn), a woman noted for her artistic skill and beauty. The studio specialized in printing and other crafts.
The focus of the press was publishing work by Irish authors; it produced limited editions of books selected or written by W. B. Yeats, the press’s literary editor. Dun Emer used an Albion Press, with Caslon typeface in a fourteen-point size. Elizabeth focused on using white spaces and wide margins to ensure the focus of readers would be on the text itself. The text is predominately black, with red being used for titles, some notes, and colophons. The paper was handmade of linen rags at Saggart Mills in Dublin. The books were small, with page sizes of around 21 cm by 14.5 cm and bound in blue or brown paper boards with linen backs. These features give the books a soft, intimate feel and invite readings into the world of the text.
In 1894, Lucien Pissarro and his wife Esther, who had also learnt the techniques of wood engraving, established The Eragny Press in Epping (Essex), naming it after the village in Normandy where Camille Pissarro had settled, and in the same year they printed their first book, The Queen of the Fishes (number i). In 1897 the press moved to Bedford Park, before finally settling in Hammersmith in 1900, close to the sites of the Kelmscott and Doves presses, where it remained until it closed in 1914, after printing 31 titles.
The text of The Eragny Press's first book The Queen of the Fishes was reproduced by process from the calligraphic original. This exception apart, the text of the press's books was printed either in the 'Vale' or 'Brook' types. The 'Vale' type was an original face designed by Ricketts for the books published by The Vale Press, and 'in no sense a recutting or amendment of an older fount' (Tomkinson p. 163). Pissarro used the 'Vale' type for The Eragny Press's publications between 1894 and 1903 (numbers ii-xv), on the understanding that the books printed with it were issued by The Vale Press under the imprint of Hacon and Ricketts. However, in 1903 Ricketts decided to close The Vale Press and Pissarro designed his own type, the 'Brook' font, which "made no pretension to originality - my aim being restricted to a fount which would harmonise with my wood-engraving and which would, at the same time, be clear and easy to read."
The Essex House Press was founded in 1898 by Charles Robert Ashbee, an architect and designer closely associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. Ashbee attended Wellington College and read History at King's College, Cambridge, from 1883 to 1886, and studied under the architect George Frederick Bodley. Ashbee established a Guild and School of Handicraft (1888) in London, while a resident at Toynbee Hall, one of the original settlements set up to alleviate inner city poverty, in this case, in the slums of Whitechapel. The Guild of Handicraft specialized in metalworking, producing jewelery and enamels as well as hand-wrought copper and wrought ironwork, and furniture.
The Press was founded immediately followed the closing of William Morris's Kelmscott Press (1897). Ashbee bought the Kelmscott Press's Albion printing presses after William Morris's death, and employed one of the Kelmscott compositors, Thomas Binning. In 1902 "a bindery was established in the Guild, under the direction of Annie Power, who had been a student of Douglas Cockerell" (Crawford, p. 400). Power provided the illuminated letters for this work, alongside Florence Kingsford Cockerell (1871-1949), one of the leading book illuminators of the English Arts and Crafts Movement, who studied calligraphy under Edward Johnston and predominantly worked for the Ashendene Press. Essex House Press printed a limited-edition series of ten titles by famous poets of the day, all printed on vellum
The Golden Cockerel Press was founded by Harold Midgeley Taylor in 1920, but is best known for the books that it produced from 1924-1933, when it was in the hands of Robert and Moira Gibbings. The books from this period are especially notable for the original illustrations – usually wood engravings – contributed by artists such as Eric Gill, Blair Hughes-Stanton, and Eric Ravilious. From 1933 until its closure in 1961 the Press operated as a publishing house, with the actual printing being done by a commercial press, though it was still associated with high quality work.
The Gregynog Press was founded by the sisters Margaret and Gwendoline Davies in 1923 and was run from their house, Gregynog Hall. The Press combined both printing and binding operations of the highest quality, the former in the hands of Herbert John Hodgson and the latter in the hands of George Fisher. Gregynog Press books also featured illustrations produced by artists such as Blair Hughes-Stanton and Agnes Miller Parker. The Press continued operations until 1940. In 1978 the press was reestablished by the University of Wales under the Welsh name Gwasg Gregynog, and continues to operate.
The Hogarth Press was established in 1917 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Unlike other private presses of the period, the Hogarth Press did not aim to produce particularly fine books. Rather, it was a literary press, the emphasis being on the quality of the content. The Press started as little more than a hobby, but owing to the success of the Press's early work, production was increasingly outsourced to commercial printers, though some Hogarth Press books continued to be printed in the Woolfs' home into the 1930s. From 1938 to 1946 the Press was run in partnership by Leonard Woolf and John Lehmann, after which it became an associate company of Chatto & Windus.
The Kelmscott Press was established by William Morris, a prominent member of the Arts and Crafts movement. This movement was broadly anti-industrialist in its aims and placed great emphasis on traditional techniques and technologies – Morris, for example, printed his books on a traditional hand press, rather than using a more mechanized press. Kelmscott Press books frequently feature the medieval-style decoration that is also associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, including many illustrations and decorative borders by the late Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. The Press's first typeface, the Golden type, was designed and cut in 1889-1890 and the first book printed in 1890. A second typeface, the Troy type, was added in 1892. Morris himself died in 1896, and the Press ceased operations in 1898. The Kelmscott Press is often considered the founding press of the modern fine press movement.
Nonesuch Press was founded in 1922 by Francis Meynell, together with David Garnett and Vera Mendel. The Press passed to George Macy in 1936, but Meynell took control again from the 1950's to the mid-1960's, when the press finally closed. While the Press did operate a small printing establishment for design purposes, and occasionally printed whole books, the great majority of its publications were printed by commercial printers. Nonesuch Press was not, therefore, a fine press in the usual sense of the word, with all the work done by hand on the premises. Nevertheless, the standards of design applied to Nonesuch Press books, the use of high quality materials, and the careful selection and supervision of the commercial presses that printed the books, all meant that the Nonesuch Press operated very much in the spirit of a traditional fine press.
Arthur Bullen founded the Shakespeare Head Press in Stratford-on-Avon in 1904 with the express purpose of printing a complete edition of Shakespeare's works in the author's home town. Bullen later claimed that he was inspired to found the Press by a dream about a visit to Stratford-on-Avon. The Shakespeare Head Press did issue the complete works of Shakespeare, as well as those of Yeats. For the first decade or so of its existence, the Press operated on the model of a fine press – indeed, some of the equipment used at the Press had previously been used by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, including one of the printing presses. The focus of the Shakespeare Head Press then became increasingly commercial, though it still produced fine quality books. After Bullen's death in 1920 the Press was operated by a partnership including the publisher and bookseller Basil Blackwell. It still exists as an imprint of the publishers Wiley-Blackwell.
The Vale Press operated from 1896 to 1904, though its founder, Charles Ricketts, had worked as a book designer and illustrator for commercial publishers since the 1880's. The print shop for the Vale Press was in fact housed in one of these commercial establishments, the Ballantyne Press, where a handpress was set aside for Ricketts's exclusive use. Ricketts designed three typefaces – Vale, Avon, and King's – for the Vale Press, the costs being underwritten by his business partner Llewellyn Hacon. Most of works in Special Collections are in fact cited as printed by Hacon & Ricketts. Ricketts ultimately threw the punches and matrices for these typefaces into the Thames and melted down the type itself, to keep it out of the hands of lesser book designers.