The Alcuin Society announced this week the winners of its seventh Robert R. Reid Award and Medal recognizing lifetime achievement or extraordinary contributions to the book arts in Canada: Jan and Crispin Elsted of Barbarian Press.
Barbarian Press is "renowned for its exquisite work, in which all details such as paper choice, colour, layout and typefaces come together to achieve elegant and timeless results," read a release issued by the Alcuin Society. "Our congratulations and thanks to Jan and Crispin Elsted for their sustained, superb, impeccable work."
The Elsteds founded Barbarian Press in Kent, England in 1977 and returned to Canada the following year where they set up shop in Mission, BC. The letterpress publisher is renowned for its exquisite publications, which include poetry and prose, translations, illustrated classics, bibliography, and books on typography and wood engraving, the latter in which they have a special interest.
“We are grateful and amazed in equal parts to have been chosen, and we are both proud and humbled to find ourselves in the company of the earlier winners,” Crispin told the Alliance.
They aim to publish "in a style which both glorifies the text and reveals it to the reader with a minimum of interference." The publication decisions and editing are shared, but generally the design, typesetting and, at times, writing are done by Crispin, and the presswork by Jan. The type for all publications produced by Barbarian Press is set entirely by hand.
Masters of their crafts, the Elsteds have for years generously shared their knowledge and experience with many apprentices and interns to help keep the craft of hand setting and letterpress printing alive.
Founded in 1965, the Alcuin Society aims to promote a wider appreciation of beautifully produced books. To that end, it presents activities and events that feature world-renowned design, typography and publishing experts, including awards that recognize and celebrate fine book design in Canada. In addition to the Robert R. Reid Award and Medal, the Society also sponsors the Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada.
Barbarian Press has received ten Alcuin Book Design Awards, and Jan Elsted served as a judge in the 2006 competition.
The first Robert R. Reid Award for Design was presented to its namesake in 2007 by Dr. Yosef Wosk. The award is given occasionally, as deserving recipients emerge. Previous recipients include Frank Newfeld, Jim Rimmer, Glenn Goluska, Stan Bevington, and William Rueter.
The award will be presented at an event in Vancouver to be announced later this year.