Private Press V: Vale Press


We’ve written previously in this blog of the illustrator and designer Charles Ricketts (1886-1931) and his work for The Pageant. Ricketts is also noted for his role in the Private Press movement at the end of the 19th century, which, inspired by the writings of William Morris and others, sought to rediscover some of the arts of printing lost during rapid industrialisation. Our previous posts on Doves Press, Golden Cockerel PressEssex House Press and Ashendene Press shed further light on this movement.

Ricketts established his own press the Vale Press, named after his house in the Vale, Chelsea, London. Its books mix literary classics, work by Ricketts’s friends, and books Ricketts himself enjoyed reading. Ricketts used three typefaces of his own design, hand-made paper, and ornaments and illustrations that he designed and engraved to produce forty-six titles that embody the clarity of a single craftsman’s vision. Ricketts arranged with the master printer Charles McCall to have Vale Press books printed at the Ballantyne Press on hand-presses by a carefully chosen selection of printers. The first book issued from the Press in 1896 was Milton’s Early Poems. Ricketts’s Vale typeface was used in most of the books, although a smaller face known as the Avon fount was designed by him to print Shakespeare’s plays. His final typeface the Kings’s fount was a curious mixture of experimental letterforms and was not well received.

We hold a copy of the two-volume Life of Benvenuto Cellini, published by the Press in 1900. It features the beautifully stylised VP flower device to the rear of volume two.


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