ELSTED, Crispin




Author Tags: Poetry, Publishing

Poet, typographer, jazz musician, compositor, translator, essayist, Shakespearean actor and theatrical director Crispin Elsted is mostly known as someone who operates a private press, making books 'by hand' using old fashioned technology, setting the type, rolling the ink and printing the pages by hand, on handmade paper. He has been publishing in this manner for decades with his partner Jan Elsted at Barbarian Press, 12375 Ainsworth Road, R.R. 8; Mission, B.C. V2V 5X4. Jan and Crispin Elsted founded Barbarian Press during their stay in Kent, England, in 1977 when they studied printing with Graham Williams of Florin Press. They set up shop in Mission, B.C. in 1978. Their work has brought them into a friendship with typography expert and fellow poet Robert Bringhurst. Chris Elsted's only title from a trade publisher is Climate and the Affections: Poems 1970-1995 (Sono Nis, 1996 $12.95) 1-55039-064-3.

In 2013, Crispin Elsted wrote on the Barbarian Press website: "I can see, I guess, why some people, in some circumstances, might, perhaps, want to own an e.reader, I suppose. Some people like wearing latex. I once knew a boy who liked to stick stones up his nose. Perhaps this young man likes to put his e.book in odd places. De gustibus non est disputandem. But just in case some of you have heard this report and are concerned, we would like to assure you that the book is not broken. As I write I can hear the Vandercook downstairs rolling out copies of a page from Simon Brett: an Engraver’s Progress. When the sheets are printed, and the book is bound, it will be a carrier of knowledge, a purveyor of information, and a delight to see and to hold and to smell. (Though perhaps regrettably, for some of you who are not regular readers of this site, it will be too big to fit in your nose.)"

[BCBW 2014] "Publishing" "Poetry"

Hoi Barbaroi
Press Release 2004



Hoi Barbaroi is a retrospective of the first 25 years’ work from Barbarian Press, one of the oldest and best known private presses in Canada. The book will include sample pages, new essays by Robert Bringhurst and English wood engraver Simon Brett, and an extended photo essay on the press by David Evans. As with all Barbarian Press books, Hoi Barbaroi is printed by hand at the studio near Mission.

Elsteds receive Robert Reid Award
Press Release (2014)



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.