Letterpress is still alive in St Ives

St Ives has been home to craft pottery, creative joinery, textile design, sculpture, painting and writing.

With Guido Morris’s Latin Press, the town also hosted fine printing.

Since 1986, Denis Stevens of St Ives has been setting Andrew Lanyon’s letterpress books, printing on mould-made paper.

Although letterpress is gasping its last worldwide, Denis’s son Antony is continuing to print these handmade books. Thread-sewn and casebound by Jo and Lil Lanyon, they are illustrated with tipped-in colour plates printed by St Ives Printing and Publishing Company.

Whenever the lead type begins to wear, the delicate Bembo italic ‘f’ is the first letter to expire. Then, for a while, before new type is purchased, Andrew avoids ‘f’s. Due to the labour involved, he is well aware that what he writes had better be worthwhile.

At Cornwall Design Fair, from August 14-15, 2015, he will be showing over one 100 published books, as well as launching six new titles with Debbie Prosser, Chris James, Nina Royle and Derek Guthrie. He will also be inviting subscribers for The Rowley Claimant. This is about an ancient family who fled from Ireland in an apartment block cut in a glacier. When these early Rowleys arrived in Cornwall, they were still hairy.

For those who know nothing about the Rowleys, ‘Circular Walks around Rowley Hall’ (Atlas Press) is still just in print. Painstakingly editing by Alastair Brotchie, this is an amalgam of the first 12 Rowley books.

The latest unsolicited comments about this book have come from America:

“It is the most original book I have ever read. I am not embarrassed to admit that it changed my life, the wonderful Vera in particular. I would like to own every book, if money were not an obstacle.” Bianca Stewart.

“A singular and captivating work. It’s enriched my reading life.” Stephen Sparks, bookseller, San Francisco.

Visitors to the Design Fair can see mock-ups of three of next year’s productions:

Fairy Interiors, incorporating Factories, Lifts and Flats: is a sequel to A Fairy Find (Portobello Books).

The Invention of Laughter: is about a world that does not know laughter, until it is discovered by Humphry Davy in 1799.

Cervantes and Rabelais in Cornwall: in this book it is the author’s conceit to show how, while the young Cervantes and Rabelais were travelling to see the tin mines, they came to write their great works as a result of their trip to Cornwall in 1790.

The meeting with Shakespeare, during which the bard explains to whom he is writing the sonnets and why, is a tale on its own.


Andrew Lanyon who uses the camera and the pen to write, filming fairies holed up in a matchbox for ‘The Fairy Wars’.
Andrew Lanyon writing years ago on Rosewall, St. Ives.
Still from a film in which art and food are confused.
A film with Dave Slater playing Alfred Wallis as a first world war fighter pilot shot down over a wood near Madrid.
Hollow book. ‘Fruit of Thought’
Hollow book. ‘A Short Cut for Text’