The Art of Private Press books.

In one part of the printed book collection of Sir George Grey Special Collections there is a section of books grouped by Private Press publisher name. Private Press books can be defined as books printed by hand, in limited editions, with as much emphasis on making an object of beauty as on reproducing a text. Private Press books are excellent sources of inspiration for artists and can be appreciated by anyone who admires carefully crafted things.

Examples of books from some of the many Private Press publishers featured in the collection include exquisite first editions from Arts and Crafts era printers the Doves Press and Kelmscott Press, intricate book art from Flying Fish Press and The Whittington Press, and a wide range of lovely books from New Zealand printers like The Holloway Press, Otakou PressPuriri Press and The Pear Tree Press.

Alongside these fine books are journals that promote, review and critique the work of Private Presses and related individuals, like illustrators or typographers. Two examples of journals in Sir George Grey Special Collections which focus on books as objects of art and beauty, are Parenthesis and Matrix.

Ref: Fine Press Book Association website, Parenthesis journal page

These journals -- the word 'magazine' does not seem elegant enough! -- showcase examples of paper types, marbling, engraving, typography and photography. In the case of Matrix, physical examples are interleaved or carefully added to a page. Aimed at bibliophiles, it is unsurprising that these journals are wonderful items in their own right. In the Spring 2013 issue of Parenthesis there is an article by Tara McLeod, founder of the Orewa based Pear Tree Press. The article includes a brief history of the press and details about the technical processes of working with type. His letterpress work is featured on the cover too!

Ref: The Pear Tree Press website, Ulysses broadsheet page

Author: Zoë Colling, Sir George Grey Special Collections