Christmas gift guide: Prezzies for printers

Our selection of stocking fillers for the print-mad special someone in your life

The Secret Lives of Colour

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Price £14.99

The Secret Lives of Colour looks at the world of colour through a fascinating and hugely varied range of lenses: from art history via social activism and plague-era quackery to battlefield dress codes. The book is based on author Kassia St Clair’s column for Elle Decoration and focuses on 75 hues and is full of arcane details. Scheele’s Green, for example, invented in 1775 by Swedish chemist Carl William Scheele, was manufactured using green arsenic, a substance that in small quantities will leave you with festering sores and in large enough doses will kill. Nevertheless, it was hugely popular in the 18th century and used for many years by British Arts & Crafts hero, and wallpaper printer, William Morris.

Pat the Printer

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Price £4.99

If you’d rather put your Christmas spending back into the printing industry (and if you can, then why not) Learn2print managing director Jonathan Bray published a children’s story earlier this year for any budding printers you might know. 

Pat the Printer is aimed at under-10s and follows Pat the village printer, assisted by daughter and apprentice Ruby, over a “funny crazy week as they prepare for a village garden party to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee,” according to Bray. 

Bray told Printweek: “I wanted to try and feed the print industry into the younger generation and inspire them to ask questions. It has a number of characters, Pat himself, Ruby the apprentice, Gerald the guillotine operator, Mrs Amend the proof reader, the list goes on! It has some amazing characters who all get involved and help get ready for a special visit from the Queen in person.” 

Bray said he hoped the book would be the first of a series featuring the characters.

Marvellous Maps

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Price £14.99 (for one folded map)

In a cartographic collabo with Ordnance Survey, the splendidly monikered Strumpshaw, Tincleton and Giggleswick’s Marvellous Maps, provide fun new ways to navigate the British Isles. Among the range of folded, flat and framed thematic maps of Britain is something for everyone: adventurers, curious minds, road trippers, culture vultures, outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, bookworms, film fans, and more are catered for. 

How about the Map of Great British place names that focuses on the bawdy, funny and just plain odd names found in the UK. Featuring over 2,000 genuine locations – from the Twatts of northern Scotland to the Bottoms of England, via the fabled Pants of Wales. Or why not the Great British History Map, which highlights Britain’s long and varied history – the perfect present for the travelling history buff. Britain’s history of invasions, battles, weddings, beheadings, thuggery, skullduggery and more are detailed from the Jurassic south coast to the Viking-plundered North. A ‘pick and mix’ box set of five maps is also available for £49.99.

Cold War Steve 2022 jigsaw

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Price £23

The artist known as Cold War Steve (real name Christopher Spencer) first gained prominence during the run-up to Brexit when his satirical montages of a dystopian Britain began appearing on Twitter. His now-annual jigsaws enable festive families to gather round the Christmas table, once lunch is cleared, and recreate the hellscape that was 2022 piece by piece. This 1,000-piece jigsaw is manufactured in Devon using quality industry standard 1.5mm thick millboard and water-based pigment inks.

Atlas of Imagined Places: from Lilliput to Gotham City

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Price £25

While everyone else was baking banana bread, learning an instrument or another language, or just slobbing out for a few months, two men decided the best way to spend lockdown was to create an atlas of fictional worlds. 

The result is this, well, atlas of beautifully realised maps that document the locations of places as diverse as Asterix the Gaul’s home village and Gillead (blessed be the fruit) via the palatial hermitage of Charles Foster Kane. Some of the neighbourhoods are somewhat incongruous: Orwell’s Animal Farm, for example, is located next door to Hundred Acre Wood, home of Pooh, Tigger, et al.

There are some problematic entries. The Simpsons’ Springfield defies cartography by virtue of being wherever the episode requires it to be.

Personalised Christmas tree baubles

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Price £10

If you’re still looking for something sparkly to hang on the tree, but demand a more personal touch, these elegant glass baubles may be just the thing. The 10x10cm baubles are available in two styles – glitter and feather – and can be adorned with the text of your choice in a variety of formats.

Joe Lycett Christmas card pack

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Price £15

Lycett has ‘designed’ and marketed this limited edition of five cards as statement against irresponsible business practices, following the phoenixing of stationery retailer Paperchase. He says: “When Paperchase went into administration in January 2021, they retained more than £7m worth of stock. Since reopening under new ownership, they have been selling that stock without the original artists recouping their costs. Meanwhile, Paperchase have been bragging about their return to success.”

Proceeds from the sale of these cards will be given to the artists who have been left out of pocket. These are selling like hot cakes so get yours soon.

Out of the Blue: The inside story of the unexpected rise and rapid fall of Liz Truss

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Price £7.99 (Kindle) £15 (hardback)

The gestation period for this book was only slightly longer than its subject’s term in office. Relating the “fastest political car crash in recent political history”, authors Harry Cole and James Heale began writing the book as a prologue to Truss’ stint in No 10, but, following her disastrous 44 days in the top job, have published what amounts to a political obituary. This warts-and-all account follows Truss from her early Lib Dem years through to the record-breakingly short premiership, drawing opinion and comment from friends, foes and colleagues (often both friends and foes simultaneously), including disaster chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and long-standing Tory grandee Michael Gove. 

The Chief: The Life of Lord Northcliffe Britain’s Greatest Press Baron

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Price £21.99

Born plain old Alfred Harmsworth, but ennobled as a Viscount, the scope of Lord Northcliffe’s achievements in the newspaper trade are as grand as the title they won him. This new biography, published 100 years after his death, draws Dublin boy made good Northcliffe as the progenitor of modern popular journalism. He founded both the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror and bought both the Times and the Observer. 

Author Andrew Roberts, who has previously published biographies on Churchill and George III, was given exclusive access to the Harmsworth family archive. He paints a picture of a driven, ruthless and wilfull businessman who changed the face of the publishing industry and created a style of newspaper that appealed to the the man in the street, rather than in the gentleman’s club. With his talent for “shovelling information and entertainment”, as one reviewer puts it, it’s arguable that Northcliffe stands as the inventor of social media. Roberts doesn’t gloss over Northcliffe’s significant failings – the appaling anti-semitism and other prejudices – though he does try to set them in the context of someone who was also an ardent and patriotic public servant.

The London Street Signs Map

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Price £9

The London Street Signs Map is a double-sided guide to the capital’s most iconic street signage. This might not seem that interesting an idea, but it’s worth bearing in mind that some of London’s signage dates back nearly 400 years and the map is as much an excercise in social history as it is in typographic history. If you want to gift someone the opportunity to reassess the capital city through a completely different lens, this is definitely an option. 

The earliest example is engraved in stone and dates from 1636. It identifies Yorke Street, renamed Tavistock Street in 1937, near Covent Garden.

The creator of the map, Alistair Hall, is an award-winning graphic designer and print fan who set up his own studio, We Made This, in 2004.