The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts




Printing using hand setting (composition) of type and material and a variety of presses.


Status Endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance London, Edinburgh, Norwich, Bristol, Yorkshire and thinly in the countryside of England, Scotland and Wales.
Area currently practised London, Bristol, Bath, Manchester, Shipley, Cheltenham, York and in the countryside.
Origin in the UK 15th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 6-10
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required



Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century until the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. Letterpress printing remained the primary way to print and distribute information until the 20th century, when offset printing was developed, which largely supplanted its role in printing books and newspapers, but letterpress has survived thanks to small presses and artisan printers.





Local forms




  • Bookbinding
  • Form cutting
  • Lino and wood engraving


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

Letterpress printing mostly has moved from being a skilled trade to becoming more craft based (less quantity, more short run art based results). The process is inherently slow and so competing with modern processes through cost is a non starter. One issue is keeping the materials, presses and type together and in working order.


Support organisations

  • St Brides Foundation
  • Oxford Guild of Printers
  • British Printing Society
  • Printing Historical Society


Craftspeople currently known

Individual makers:

Businesses employing two or more makers:


Other information

Workshops teaching people the craft skills have blossomed lately and are keeping the industry going along with a renewed appreciation of the tactile results.