Rare books are not necessarily old books. Amongst the National Library’s rare book collections is a wealth of private-press publications: modern books produced using the traditional manual printing methods that were normal until the early nineteenth century.
Notable amongst private presses operating in Wales today is the Old Stile Press near Tintern in Monmouthshire. Founded in London in 1979, the press moved to its present home in 1986, where all the work is done by the owners Nicolas and Frances McDowall. The press typically publishes a couple of books each year, printed by hand in limited editions with original artwork. The Library buys a copy of each new publication from the press.
The first two books published by the Old Stile Press this year are both in editions of just 26 copies. Hunt’s Bay is a poem by Vernon Watkins inspired by the Gower peninsula, and was first published in Cypress and Acacia in 1959. Nicolas McDowall has illustrated this edition with black and white images derived from digitally manipulated photographs and printed by hand from relief blocks.
The Corpus Christi Carol is a text by an unknown author, believed to have been written around 1504. The Old Stile Press edition of the poem is illustrated with images printed from woodcut blocks and hand-coloured by the artist, Angela Lemaire.
Members of the Aberystwyth Bibliographical Group will be visiting the Old Stile Press this summer, and will have the opportunity to see many of the books and be shown how they were created.
Rare Books Librarian