Fine press editions are the jewels of the publishing world: exceptional written works are combined with artistic binding, lettering, and images in limited editions for bibliophiles to enjoy. Whether these specimens are printed in offset or letterpress or enhanced with woodcuts or illustrations, enthusiasts will find that publishers of fine press editions pay close attention to even the smallest of details.
The fine press movement can be traced back to 1891 in England. William Morris, an intellectual, was inspired to create books that included all the artistry of a craftsman, from handmade paper and his own unique typeface to, of course, his own labor. Morris eventually printed a number of collectible fine press editions by literary greats like Shelly, Keats, and Swinburne. Morris' Kelmscott Press nudged other publishers to make the leap into creating beautiful, limited edition tomes. These works were meant to be enjoyed as works of art that accentuated and magnified the text. Modern fine press editions are now created all over the world, with many publishers based in the UK and the USA.
There are numerous resources that provide entrée into the world of fine press editions. Martin Hutner and Jerry Kelly wrote A Century for the Century: Fine Printed Books from 1900 to 1999 (Revised Expanded Edition), which provides a start to understanding some of these works. Beauty and the Book: Fine Editions and Cultural Distinction in America presents Megan L. Benton's understanding of what fine press editions reveal about culture. The Well-Made Book: Lectures by Daniel Berkeley Updike (edited by William S. Peterson) unveils the soul of one of America's most distinguished book designers; Updike was the owner of the Merrymount Press in Boston and influenced by William Morris.
Bibliophiles who buy fine press editions to expand their collections will find a treasure trove of quality works. From rare works printed in the late 1890s to contemporary volumes, there is something for every aesthetic desire.