Printing under another press name

I own and operate a design studio / letterpress print shop that has been in continuous operation since 1940. I’ve been owner for ten years.

In the last couple of years, I have been asked to print greeting cards or other items for other people under their own imprint, e.g. XYZ Press. It seems strange I don’t have a better understanding of this after all these years, but WHAT MAKES A PRESS?? And if you actually HAVE A PRESS, are you willing to print under someone else’s press name even though they are not printers? What if they are a local business also offering design services?

Any helpful thoughts or insights?


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Many businesses with “Press” in their name are actually only publishers and have little or no printing capability themselves. You can consider printing for them, but you will be executing their design in almost all cases, basically just applying the ink to the paper. As a designer-printer you certainly have every right to either accept the work at face value, refuse it for any reason you choose, or insist that as the printer you will put your name on the work as “Printed by The Sherwood Press” if you print it. Under differing circumstances you might choose any one of the three, or another you think of.


As long as they’re not taking on custom jobs and passing off your printing as their own, then it’s basically a designer hiring a printer to execute the work. I would think you’d have the right to promote it as your print work, just not your design.

I personally would have a problem printing something that I couldn’t put my name on, and I don’t think it good form for another press to hire you, put their name on it, and not give you proper credit. The Nonesuch Press in England published dozens of fine editions of their own design, but used other printers to do the work. It was all upfront and Francis Meynell always gave the printers credit. For a greeting card it can be more problematic. I guess the question is whether you can afford to work wholesale, and if it matters, who gets credit for the work. The few times I printed speculative work for a “publisher” it was the first and last time I ever saw them.


This looks to be a question of what are you willing to do to make some money, If integrity and pride is what you are worried about than you have to weight that against the potential income that may be obtained. If you run your press and get satisfaction of knowing that the job is done to the best of your ability and that the customer will be satisfied, does it really matter if you name is on it.

Letterpress printing is not necessary art — often it’s just a matter of ink on paper as in other commercial printing situations. If I design I put my name on - if I print others designs I put their names on and credit the design to them. And as long as they don’t says that they have printed the work it’s ok for me. In this situation I’m just the printer who is doing some commercial business. And if someone should claim that they have printed my work - yea, then it’s maybe a hint of a good quality from my press :-)
Gott grüß die Kunst

If you are a job printer, then there is absolutely no conflict printing for another publisher with their name on the work, or even for another printer.
BriarPress is also the current bastion of Private Press Philosophy as expounded by Lieberman, which is to say private presses can’t do commercial work and cannot use any pre-existing press name, as registered in their directory. But folks, that’s just a philosophy, it ain’t the law.

As long as my name is on the cheque the client can call themselves whatever they want.

The French have a slightly different system I believe, a person who publishes themselves or by commission or publishes others works can be called an “editeur” which I think gets over this problem, eg Atelier Franck Bordas when he was printing (“imprimeur”)and publishing grand format stone lithographs, artist books.
Now it is Studio Bordas as he mainly does digital.

When a printer prints for another printer or publisher or broker it is called trade printing or printing to the trade. It may be because the buyer lacks the skill or equipment to do a specific task, or for brokers who assemble a complex job done by people with different skills. This is totally normal business practice in the trade.

This is a very interesting conversation. An established letterpress printer may take a job for another press/designer who aspires to be a letterpress printer. If they soon obtain a press and set up a shop, they might try to pass off that earlier work done by the established printer as their own. Granted, there is a learning curve but it is something to consider down the road. I’m still thinking this through.
Just last week Erik Spiekermann had an interesting quote from his presentation at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum’s Wayzgoose. He said, “If you’re a printer without a print shop, you’re a designer.”