Arab Printing Press at the Ptolemaic Press

The Ptolemaic Press is a traditional letterpress print establishment, publishing hand-crafted publications on vintage equipment. We specialise in short print runs of magazines and occasional poetry, typically two to three titles per year.

The main printing press used is an "Arab" Foolscap Folio press, manufactured by Wades of Halifax, serial number #3803 dated 1926. Foolscap Folio refers to the size of the chase (the printable area), which in this instance is 9" x 13". The machine weighs a little over 10cwt (or 550kg).

Serial Number 3803 spent most of its working life with a company named Taylors, founded in the 1890s as a small jobbing printer in the town of Wombwell in Yorkshire. By the time this machine was purchased new, Taylors had become a limited company and were one of the leading printers of entertainment industry advertising in the United Kingdom with music halls, fairgrounds and circuses amongst their national client base. 

Our primary business is publishing the Terrascopædia, an illustrated occasional dedicated to underground rock, folk and psychedelic music. We feel that printing the magazine in letterpress gives the pages and the words thereon both weight and dignity. The magazine has depth and warmth; it's a tactile, physical counterpoint to the glossy uniformity of the scrolling acres of today's bland digital media.

As far as we know, it is the only magazine of its kind in the world, which is hardly surprising given that each page takes around 7 hours to typeset and a further two hours to print. 

The editor and publisher is Phil McMullen, a member of the Heritage Crafts Association and the Oxford Guild of Printers, who previously edited the Ptolemaic Terrascope Magazine ( a commercially printed offset litho publication ) between 1989 and 2004. 

Albeit half the size and much less ambitious in scope, the Terrascopædia carries on from where the Ptolemaic Terrascope found itself in around 1992, before the CD became ubiquitous and the World Wide Web changed everything for good. The music discussed is released on vinyl or on cassette; most of the bands organise their own tours and release records on independent labels. We have nothing against the internet or digital music as such; we do however believe that there is still a place for the printed page, the smell of fresh ink, and the touch and feel of hand-made paper.

The paper used is mould-made acid-free paper made from part cotton rag with 2 deckle edges. It is unsized so it accepts and enhances the ink, and the smooth surface gives good reproduction of fine detail. We purchase it in bulk from John Purcell's of London, who supply specialist artist papers direct from the mill to some of the most high-profile artists in the UK, as well as institutions such as the British Museum, the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum. ​The covers we use are 175gsm Colorplan paper from GF Smith of London (founded 1885). Each copy is then stitched by hand using Crawford's waxed linen thread. 

In addition to publishing the Terrascopædia, we often undertake small jobs for customers including, for example, printing postcards, paper bags, price tags, poetry and inserts for record releases.

In addition to an ever growing collection of vintage images and printing plates, we also have a large selection of both composition and display founts, including:

8pt   Microgramma

10pt Old Style No. 2

10pt Gill Sans

12pt Caslon Old Style

12pt Caslon Old Face Italic

12pt Verona Bold Condensed

12pt Plantin Bold Italic

14pt Verona Bold Condensed

14pt Burlington Old Style

16pt Poliphilus

16pt Blado Italic

18pt Cheltenham Bold compressed

18pt Verona

18pt Verona Italic

18pt Gill Sans Shadow

18pt Borghese (founders type by JG Schelter & Giesecke of Leipzig, 1904)

24pt Borghese 

24pt Verona

24pt Gill Cameo

24pt Blado Italic

24pt Haddon Condensed

24pt Figaro 

24pt Poliphilus U/C

24pt Glamour Light

36pt Glamour Light

36pt Perpetua

36pt St George

36pt Verona Bold Condensed

42pt Bold Condensed Sans

72pt Condensed Serif

72pt Festival Titling

The Staff!

The team...