Q&A: James Freemantle Proprietor, St James Park Press


James Freemantle is 38 and set up the Press in 2015 to focus on hand-made limited-edition letterpress printed books and ephemera.

He was particularly interested in stepping back from the current vogue of using cylinder proof, sheet-fed or electric presses and concentrating on the early hand-presses. As someone once said to him, “if you can print well on a hand-press, you can print on anything”

Why did you get into printing? 

I started as a collector of the types of letterpress books and prints I now produce myself. My passion for personal creativity made my step into hand-printing a natural progression

What would be your dream job? 

A lot of my spare time is spent researching and writing on the history of the private presses and related subjects. I wrote a detailed monograph on the history of printing on Vellum, and a book on the History of the Caradoc Press is just about to be published. I also curated an exhibition on private presses last year. So my dream job would probably involve things like that – albeit full time!

What is your dream bit of kit?

I own it. An Albion Press. No finer press was ever built

Who do you admire most in the industry? 

I admire so many printers for what they have achieved, but I would say John Randle of The Whittington Press and Ian Mortimer of IM Imprimit

What is your favourite album? 

I have a cringe-worthy playlist while I print that I shouldn’t really admit to. I recently spent about three hours printing with ‘Come a Little Bit Closer’ by Jay & The Americans on repeat 

What book are you reading at the moment?

A book about Roman Letters, as my next planned publication is a book entitled ‘Glyphic’, all about the history of inscriptional lettering in type 

What is your greatest luxury in life?

A ‘shooting stick’, which is used with a mallet to force a wedge to tighten in a chase. Of all the equipment I have for printing, it is the only one that feels like an eccentric extravagance

What’s your greatest fear? 

Deciding that printing on a Heidelberg makes life so much easier that I stop printing on hand-presses

Most embarrassing moment?

Jamming a piece of furniture down the inside of one of the oldest Albions still in existence, as a potential fix to a wobbly printing bed 

Which superpower would you like? 

The ability to print without having to throw anything away. Getting it perfect first time every time. Hence why it’s a superpower; it isn’t possible 

Who would be your favourite party guests?

Everyone who attends the quarterly Double Crown Club suppers; a printing club to which I proudly belong

Where would you go if you could time-travel? 

I would love to see the first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost being printed 

What is the worst kind of print? 

I am a great believer in form and function and have little time for printing that does not embrace both

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Create something. And keep creating for the rest of your life. Even if it brings you neither wealth nor fame 

How would you like to be remembered? 

For St James Park Press and everything I contributed to in the world of the private presses

Life is…? 

…n’t over yet. Keep printing 

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