The Cresset Press was a fine art printing press established in the ‘second wave’ heyday of small presses, in the interwar period of 1927 to 1966. It became known for an elegant approach to traditional printing, recalling the Arts and Crafts Movement of William Morris, and specializing in fine art books with woodcut prints such as Gulliver’s Travels, Pilgrims Progress, and The Apocrypha.
The Cresset Press separated itself from the crowd of other independent printers by avoiding the modernist trends (exemplified by the Hogarth Press, for example) and instead focussing on a printing ‘tone’ that recaptured the early days of the hand press movement; fable, religion, ornamentation. This approach awarded it much respect, but little sales in the later years of the 1930s, as the bibliophile audience wanted younger, more modern, fiction output.
The Cresset Press was founded by the wealthy London philanthropist Dennis Cohen, whose private wealth he brought to bear on the press, employing literary and artistic consultants John Howard and James Shand to help him navigate the tricky contemporary wants and needs of a modern audience. The Cresset Press successfully took to fiction, and managed to garner some fame with the bestselling Southern Gothic writer Carson McCullers. It can probably be recognised now that none of Cresset’s later successes however, were ever so fine as their early work on fine art pieces such as Gulliver’s Travels or Pilgrim’s Progress.
When collecting, these earliest pieces (roughly 1927-1937) can be regarded as the most desirable, with some of their finest plate and woodcut illustration work. The most expensive of these can be prohibitively expensive Gulliver’s Travels, Paradise Lost for over six thousand US dollars. However, the lesser-known pieces from the same period such as John Nash’s A Shepherd’s Calander or D.H.Lawrence’s Birds, Beasts, and Flowers. Poems. Are all excellent investments, available for a few hundred USD. These all have the advantage of being works of art as well as literary merit, with unique woodcuts accompanying the text.