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Rocket Press publications and ephemera collection

 Collection
Identifier: MS2338
This collection contains various publications and ephemera printed by or about The Rocket Press of Jonathan Stephenson. The material dates from 1981-1994. The material is from the personal collection of Ralph Heller, brother of Joshua Heller who, along with his wife Phyllis, established Joshua Heller Rare Books, Inc. in Washington, D.C. in 1985.

Dates

  • 1981-1994

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Extent

3 Linear Feet (Contains 4 document boxes and 1 oversized flat box)

Overview

This collection contains various publications and ephemera printed by The Rocket Press from the personal collection of Ralph Heller. Ralph is the brother of Joshua Heller who, along with his wife Phyllis, established Joshua Heller Rare Books, Inc. in Washington, D.C. in 1985. The material in this collection dates from 1981 to 1994, and it provides a representative example of the work produced by The Rocket Press. The Rocket Press was a private British press started by Jonathan Stephenson in 1981 to create aesthetically unique and high quality printed material.

Fine, small, or private presses are generally owned by an individual or small group and tend to publish items of distinctive content or form. These presses may focus on publishing unconventional writings, artists’ books, illustrated literary texts, little magazines, and other unique items. Fine presses often generate limited runs of works that appeal to the tastes of the printer and a select audience, rather than producing items of broad commercial interest. Also characteristic of fine presses is meticulous attention to craftsmanship with regard to materials and process. Exceptional design as well as the use of premium or handmade paper, high quality inks, and traditional printing methods (such as letterpress) is often emphasized.

Biographical / Historical

From 1981 to 1994, The Rocket Press was one of the few modern private presses in Britain that operated full-time. The main function of the press was to create aesthetically unique and high quality letterpress books both under its own imprint as well as for other publishers. Ephemeral printing was also done to allow for new design challenges and to generate additional cashflow. Most notably, The Rocket Press was commissioned by McMillan Publishers, London, to print Sir John Tenniel's illustrations for Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass" from the original 92 wood blocks which were discovered in the vaults of the National Westiminster Bank, Covent Garden, London, in 1985. The Rocket Press was started in 1981 by Jonathan Stephenson. Stephenson first started experimenting with printing at school at the age of eleven. Eventually, he set up his own workshop in his bedroom. By the age of sixteen, Stephenson had outgrown the space and moved his workshop into the stable house at his father's church in Steventon near Abingdon. It is in this location where he officially started The Rocket Press and published his first real books. In 1984, the press relocated to a corner of Steve Donoghue's former racing stables at Blewbury in Oxfordshire. Jonathan coordinated the entire printmaking process himself. However, he also enlisted the help of his brother, David, for folding and editorial work as well as Mr. John Bowley of the Oxford University Press for hand-setting and page make-up.

In 1994, Jonathan Stephenson shifted his focus to art and opened Rocket Gallery in London.

Arrangement

Organized into 2 series: Publications and Ephemera

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ralph Heller, April 14. 2015 (2015.026)

Bibliography: Rocket Press

Part One: The Steventon Books 1981-1985: 1981 The Art of Printing ; 1982 The Shadow on the Plain ; 1982 Shakespeare's Sonnets ; 1983 Salute to Celia Fiennes ; 1983 The Vacant Femme ; 1983 Keble's Assize Sermon on National Apostasy ; 1983 Nineteenth Century Trade Binding ; 1983 A Posy of Wildflowers ; 1984 Vines ; 1984 Extracts from the Bermuda Gazette ; 1984 Farewell to the True Bookshops ; 1985 Private View

Part Two: The Blewbury books 1985: ; 1985 Tract One ; Bookish Quotations

Citation: An Offprint from The Private Library Volume 8:3 Autumn 1985

Creator

Source

Title
Guide to the Rocket Press publications and ephemera collection, 1981-1994
Status
completed
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2015
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America