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Special Collections & Archives logo : Private Press Books

SC&A includes manuscripts and archives, medieval to modern; early and finely printed books, and science fiction collections.

Private Press Books

The most significant holdings of private press books in the collections are found in the William Noble and Walter Lyon Blease collections, which jointly span the 1880s to the 1950s.

Initial G from The Wild Cherry of Gregynog [ref. SPEC S/Z239(p.c.59)]Initial G on cover of S/Z239 (PC.59)

William Noble (1838-1912) assiduously collected the output of the great presses of his lifetime, from the Daniel Press's Hymni ecclesiae (1882), through the complete set of William Morris's Kelmscott Press publications (1891-1898), to an all but complete set of Lucien Pissarro's Eragny Press publications (1894-1914).

The Ashendene, Dun Emer/Cuala, Doves and Vale Presses are also well represented. Noble's contemporary, John Fraser (1836-1902), collected and sold Kelmscott Press titles, but retained the ephemera; his collection also complements Noble's in its holdings of books and ephemera from the Essex House Press (1898-1909).

The gift of books from the collection of Prof. Walter Lyon Blease (1884-1963) significantly enriches the Library's holdings of the great presses of the inter-war years, particularly the Golden Cockerel, Nonesuch, Shakespeare Head and Gregynog Presses. Other presses of this period, for example the Hogarth and Seizin Presses, are represented incidentally in the Graves collection.

Purchases and gifts supplement and extend these collections, including works from later British and American presses such as Gwasg Gregynog, the Rampant Lions Press and the Whittington Press. Browse catalogue records by name of press.

More information

The William Noble Collection featured in the past Special Collections and Archives exhibition Charles Ricketts and the Vale Press, 1896-1903. For more information see the exhibition catalogue page.  

The Kelmscott Press features in the Special Collections and Archives blog, Manuscripts and More. Read the blog post K is for Kelmscott here

Private Press highlights

Illustration from Arthur Gaskin's Good King Wenceslaus

Arthur Gaskin's Good King Wenceslaus (1895)

Arthur Joseph Gaskin (1862-1928) was one of The Birmingham Group in the Arts and Crafts movement with strong links to William Morris and his Kelmscott Press. This work was printed in 125 copies only at The Birmingham Guild of Handicraft. JUV.566


Front cover of Vale Press edition of John Keats: A Book Beautiful

Vale Press edition of John Keats, 1898

The special binding, in a severe rectilinear style illustrating Charles Ricketts's conception of the "Book Beautiful", was commissioned by William Noble, a Liverpool book collector. SPEC Y88.3.184

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