Information Services

Private Press Collections

Modern books in the great tradition.

Edinburgh University Library holds a notable number of private press books in its Special Collections, with approximately one hundred and fifty known titles from twenty four British private presses. Produced in small numbers by craftsman of the print trade during the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, these private press books have considerable artistic and literary value. The early nineteenth-century private press with the greatest number of works in the Library’s collection is the Lee Priory Press, with twenty-two titles in the catalogue. A late nineteenth-century press with the largest holding in the Library is the Kelmscott Press with six valuable titles, including the only Kelmscott book that is not in the National Library of Scotland’s collection: William Morris’s own The Well at the World’s End (JY611).

The Nonesuch Press is the best represented press from the twentieth century with thirty five titles in the collection, a number which also makes it the largest single private press holding in the Library. The Nonesuch Press produced books in the Kelmscott tradition of fine printing between the World Wars and the Main Library holds treasures such as the Nonesuch La Divina Commedia, the Miscellaneous Poems of Andrew Marvell, the Paradoxes of John Donne and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (RECA.F.275, SC 933, RECA.S.117 and Hb.5.51). The Old Stile Press, a contemporary private press, has a significant showing in the Library’s collection with nineteen stunningly illustrated books in Special Collections.

Edinburgh Library also has select holdings of books from the Doves, Ashendene, Eragny, Gregynog, Vale, Essex House, Golden Cockerel, Shakespeare Head, Hogarth, Hafod, Signet, Tragara, Cranach, Fanfrolico, Brewhouse, Hawthornden, Mandrake, Beaumont, Rampant Lion and Shoestring Presses. Many of these books came to the Main Library’s collection from Edinburgh College of Art, the library of Archibald Hunter Campbell and the Alan F. Stark bequest.

These books are not physically kept all together, but all can be located through the online catalogue and all can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections.