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What is a Private Press Book?

Woodcut of a book

"[A] private press may be defined as the typographic expression of a personal ideal, conceived in freedom and maintained in independence."

(Will Ransom 1)

Woodcut of a book

PRIVATE PRESS BOOKS ARE IDENTIFIED by the characteristics of the press that made them. How to define private press printing, and how to distinguish it from such projects as small press printing, artist's books, livres d'artiste and livre-objets can be difficult.

Marilyn Rueter, one of a few Canadian researchers on private press printing in Canada, writes that there are "two elements which are basic to the idea of the true private press. The first is the individual, personal response of the printer who normally performs most or all aspects of the craft himself (selection of the text, editing, design, typesetting, illustration, printing and binding) the books he produces therefore express his creative sense and reflect his ideals and personality. The second is the idea of complete freedom from outside control or interference; operating a private press is essentially the work of one person, the proprietor, who prints to please himself. 2"

This website is designed to introduce the reader to the unique story of private press printing in Canada and to showcase a selection of presses, both historical and contemporary. The resources used in the creation of this site comprise a departure point for further study. The site also offers a comprehensive list of private presses in Canada from the 1930s to the present day.

1. Will Ransom. Private Presses and Their Books. New York: P.C. Duschnes, 1963. Page 22.

2. Marilyn Rueter. "The Private Press in Canada: A Brief Survey." Sticks and Stones, Some Aspects of Canadian Printing History. John Gibson, Laurie Lewis, eds. Toronto: Toronto Typographic Association, 1980. Page 93.