“Present amusement is all my object.”
Amid a multiplicity of responses and much discussion, a single concise definition of a private press has yet to emerge. Perhaps it is this very uncertainty that is the stimulus for the popularity of the private press among bibliophiles. Many acknowledged authorities have attempted to clarify or define this fascinating, complex, and illusive publishing and collecting area. Here are a few of the better attempts at such a definition.
“For a press to be private a double qualification seems necessary: the books it prints must not be obtainable by any chance purchaser who offers a price for them and the owner must print for his own pleasure and not work for hire for other people.” wrote Alfred W. Pollard. Will Ransom defined “ private” as “personal freedom in thought and expression and exemption from exterior influence or compulsion.” Falconer Madan opined “A press carried on unofficially by a person or group of persons for his or their private purposes.” Virtually all private presses, at least at times, have failed to observe some or all of these criteria.
When all is said and done, Horace Walpole may have best expressed the intent of many a private press when he wrote “Present amusement is all my object.” A private press, like a private library, be it humble or pretentious, is just that: “private.” Presses have been and still are as different from each other as the individuals who operate them. As Paul Hayden Duensing has so aptly put it, “. . . one of the luxuries of the private printer is the copiousness of time at his disposal — time to contemplate, to investigate, to ponder and weigh, time to experiment, and fail; and time to try again.”
While this Web site, by definition, violates the basic tenet of “privacy,” it is hoped it will shed a little light on the nature of The Printery and give you a sense of the sheer joy we experience by printing privately for pleasure (and, a little income now and then, too).
Kay Michael Kramer, proprietor