The Guild is comprised primarily of Orthodox Christian Faithful and was formed by them for a two-fold purpose, to follow St. Benedict's mandate 'Ora et Labora', that is to pray and work. Therefore, the members of the Guild are bound in a fraternal bond of charity to pray for one another and for the intentions of the Guild as well as to keep a rule of prayer, as well as undertaking the primary work of the Guild. Taking for its patron St Alban, the Protomartyr of Britain, the Guild aims, in its work, to contribute to the rich liturgical and aesthetic heritage of Christianity in the British Isles, through scholarly research, practical contributions, as well as in making available a limited range of products, mostly produced by the Guild, for the enrichment of the faithful. We believe in creating products which are beautiful, of the highest quality, and priced as accessibly as possible. We hope that, in so doing, we participate, even in a small way, in the Divine Economy.
The Mission of the Guild of St Alban is to increase and enrich the cultural and artistic manifestation of Christianity, in particular in ways relating to the unique patrimony of British Christianity, and to produce quality goods within this and related traditions. The Guild's press, the Press of St. Aethelwold works in the tradition of both the British and American tradition of Private Presses, exemplified by the Kelmscott Press of William Morris and the quest for the 'Book Beautiful' as well as the venerable tradition of presses operated by Religious Guilds, from the presses of the Middle Ages to that of the Guild of St. Dominic and St. Joseph in the 20th century. The use of the Hand-Press printing and hand-binding for the Guild's works well exemplifies the devotion to traditional craft techniques which the Guild seeks to perpetuate, and the hand crafting of books leads to works whose appearance truly befits their contents.
Letterpress printing, especially that done on the hand press, is a rare undertaking in our modern age, and many people are unexposed to the true craftsmanship and time that goes into this process. In light of this, we provide a link to a short video demonstrating how this craft is carried out, from setting the type to binding the pages of a book. We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we have.
Our Press and Equipment
The Handpress used by the Guild is a large Paul Shniedewend & Co. '20th Century Reliance' Washington-style Hand-Press (serial No.958), manufactured in Chicago c.1900, and is amongst the last traditional hand-presses built. Originally sold for proofing work to be printed on the newly introduced automated platen presses, iron hand-presses such as ours are the last direct descendants of the wooden presses of Caxton and Gutenberg. Many were sadly scrapped and replaced with automated presses, which in turn were discarded in the 1970s and 80s in favor of offset printing. This makes our press a rare survivor, formerly one of approximately 1000 hand-presses surviving in North America and now one of an even smaller number located in the UK. Prior to its move to the UK, our press spent the majority of its working life in California and was previously owned by noted printer Peter Koch of Berkeley, and before him by Andre Chaves of the Clinker Press. We have also acquired two H.S. Cropper treadle platen presses, made in Nottingham, which are useful for longer runs and for jobbing work. The Grey Cropper Treadle is in full working order, and was kindly given to us by a member of the British Printing Society, who had owned it since the 1970s. The blue press is an c.1876 'Minerva' treadle Press (serial No. 3634), and formerly in use at an Optical Supply company in Bridgeton, Glasgow for their general printing. This we plan to restore and bring back to useable condition. Also in the Guild's possession are two smaller presses, a Kelsey 3x5 tabletop press, dating from c.1950, and a larger tabletop press, a c.1890s W.E. Cook 'Model No. 3'. Kim Lowe, of the Kirkcudbright Working Print Studio has brought her own Model No. 3 (which belonged to her father), as well as several Adana Presses. Two more Adana presses are currently on loan to the Buittle Craft Guild from a local artist and bookbinder.
In addition to the presses, and our early 20th century cast iron paper-cutter by 'Strong' of Bristol, most of the equipment, type and blocks used date from approximately 1890-1960, although a few carved boxwood blocks in the guild's possession date back to the 18th century. However, not all our equipment is antique- we also posses a number of large fonts of book and display type recently cast by the late Dale Guild Foundry in New Jersey, the Bixler Foundry of New York, Skyline Type Foundry of Arizona and M&H Type of San Francisco.