Private press

In 1910 De Zilverdistel, the first private press in the Netherlands, was established. Twenty years earlier, the Kelmscott Press of William Morris, the first modern private press, had unleashed a revolution in typographical ideas and in book design, which had deteriorated to a worrying degree in the course of the nineteenth century. The example of Morris was widely imitated, first in England, then in other countries and, after some delay, in the Netherlands. Various artists, typographers and other interested parties acquired their own printing presses on which they printed beautifully designed books in small editions, often on special handmade paper. They also adopted other characteristics of Morris: exclusive typefaces were designed for their printing shops, they used a specific printer’s device and with their strict views on the layout they strove to produce The Ideal Book.

Strictly speaking, a private press is literally a private printing press set up in a private residence to produce well-designed printing with no commercial motives. But the practice is fickle: some private presses were not in people’s homes, in other cases profit was indeed made and not all the printing was well designed. The main characteristic of the private press is that one person designs and prints the book.

This site presents the development since 1910 including the earlier forerunners and foreign examples, the first idealistic private presses, the special editions from the Second World War, the dramatic increase in ‘printing for pleasure’ and illustrated ‘marginal’ editions in the years after 1975 and modern hybrids of the exceptional book made using the computer and printer. Specific themes such as the collection of private press editions and financial aspects are also covered.

The list of private presses in the Netherlands 1910-2010 includes the years of activity and the last known location.

This website is based on the publication, The ideal book: private presses in the Netherlands, 1910-2010. Edited by Paul Capelleveen and Clemens de Wolf, published by Uitgeverij Vantilt of Nijmegen, in collaboration with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands and Museum Meermanno | House of the Book, 2010.

The website contains hundreds of additional images. Bibliographical references and notes refer to the book edition in which other topics are also discussed (De Leidsche Drukpers 1897-1898, the private press in debate, bibliophile series between the wars, Dutch literature and the private press and the origin of the term ‘private press’).


  • Paul van Capelleveen (PvC)
  • Marieke van Delft (MvD)
  • Sjoerd van Faassen (SvF)
  • Lisa Kuitert (LK)
  • Ellen van Oers (EvO)
  • Reinder Storm (RS)
  • Kees Thomassen (KT)
  • Clemens de Wolf (CdW)

List of Dutch private presses

A number of experts have worked the first version of the list Dutch private presses 1910-2010. The late Lizanne and Ronald Breugelmans, Jan Keijser, Bubb Kuyper, Gerard Post van der Molen, Nol Sanders, Rickey Tax en Kees Thomassen suggested necessary improvements and additions, thus making valuable contributions. We are most grateful to them.

The ideal book

‘The ideal book’ is a joint project of the National Library and Museum Meermanno | House of the Book. Besides this website, the project includes an exhibition on private presses in the Netherlands 1910-2010 (November 19, 2010 to February 20, 2011) at Museum Meermanno | House of the Book.