Register the name of your private press

Please read the information below before starting the registration process. To emphasize what is stated below, “a private press is a print shop whose proprietor, or prop, is a personal or hobby printer producing ephemera for fun, self-expression, and occasionally utility.” If this is not made clear in your submission form and any attached web site, you may receive a decline message. Many of the submissions we receive are better suited for the Printer's Yellow Pages.

The guidelines below follow, with adjustments made for the internet age, those published in the 1982 and previous editions of The Check-Log of Private Press Names, edited by Elizabeth Koller Lieberman, then Registrar of the International Register of Private Press Names.

Before you register the name of your press, it is important to understand whether you are the proprietor of a private press. Not everyone who owns a press and prints on it operates a private press.

What qualifies as a private press?
What does not qualify as private?
What status does registration confer?
Begin the registration process

What qualifies as a private press?

A private press is a print shop whose proprietor, or prop, is a personal or hobby printer producing ephemera for fun, self-expression, and occasionally utility. Props may print journals and even books on occasion, with any money from sales being largely incidental.

There is nothing to prevent a commercial printer from also using the available equipment for hobby purposes. If one does have such a hobby interest, then the term “prop” is appropriate for activities in that context.

The Register contains the names of selected commercial presses which do or have done such important fine printing that their names deserve to be protected from adoption by others.

What does not qualify as private?

Press operators who produce work mainly for commercial ends are not props, strictly speaking, though they may well be proprietors of the presses. Whether their operations are within the limits of a “private press” (or, conversely, whether props’ presses are indeed “private presses”) is subject to a debate that is over 100 years old with no real resolution.

The Register operates under the broadest definition of private press in the belief that its purpose of avoiding the duplication of names should cover borderline cases. Historic press names, commercial as well as private, are included in the belief that they also should be kept inviolate. Routine institutional press names, (e.g., those using their institutions’ names as the key part of the press name) are omitted, however.

If your press work falls outside of the private press category, we invite you to create a listing in the Printer's Yellow Pages.

Presses such as the Buddy L printing press and the more recent L Letterpress are not considered for inclusion in the Register of Private Press Names.

What status does registration confer?

It is stressed that press names, not presses, are being registered. We believe that the private press movement represents freedom of the press at its ideal, and that the movement should avoid every precedent (such as registering presses) which might lead to abridging that freedom.

Registering your press name confers moral rather than legal status. The Register does not have and does not desire legal status. Its effectiveness rests simply on the moral strength of the principle that taking someone else’s press name (or mark) “just isn’t done.”

Begin the registration process

All private presses operating letterpress equipment and otherwise broadly defined but in actual being are eligible to register their press names. Evidence of actual being is a letterpress-printed prop card bearing the proprietor’s name, the press name, and the mailing address of the press.

Follow these steps to register your press name:

  1. Please review the discussion above to be sure that you understand what qualifies as a private press. Letterpress operations that are not private may create a listing in the Printer's Yellow Pages.
  2. Confirm that your press name is not already registered by searching the International Register of Private Press Names. Note that variations in the terms Press, Private Press, at the Sign of, House, etc., will not constitute different press names but other variations will—for example, the Smith Press and the House of Smith are the same name; the Smith Press, the Smiths’ Press and the Jane Smith Press are different.

    Names in the Register are sorted accordingly: for example, the House of Smith Press would appear under ‘S’ and not ‘H’. Likewise, personal names used as press names are listed under the first letter of the person’s last name: thus, the Jane Smith Press would appear under ‘S’ and not ‘J’.

  3. Log in to Briar Press and register your name online. If you do not want to join Briar Press, you may still register your press name; see the Register FAQ for more information. Your new registration will be listed as temporary until we receive your prop card (see next step).
  4. Mail three copies of your prop card to Briar Press at the address provided in the automatic email confirmation that you will receive when you submit the form. The prop card is required as evidence of actual being. We will not publish your prop card or share the personal information on it. More information about prop card formats. Further examples have been posted on the Discussion forum at Prop Cards

    Important. If we do not receive your prop card within 30 days of your press name registration, the name will be considered unclaimed and will be made available again.

For more information and a list of frequently-asked questions, see the Register FAQ.