Nicolas and Frances McDowall at The Old Stile Press

Frances & Nicolas McDowall

This photograph is of Frances and Nicolas McDowall. Married for more than fifty years, they were not only soul mates but the two were also Partners in The Old Stile Press… and in the early days, its total workforce!

Nicolas designed and printed the books, working closely with the artist involved and sometimes with the author… where the text is not, as it often is, an established or rediscovered classic. Occasionally he is himself author and / or artist.

Frances was the Press’s link with the outside world – promotion, fairs, response to orders, despatching parcel etc. In the past, and when the other tasks allowed, she produced sheets of delicious handmade paper. A number of our books were printed on her paper and copies of one of them (The Affectionate Shepheard) are still available to purchase.

Since their deaths, The Old Stile Press has become a limited company with their children, Daniel and daughter Cressida as directors. Cressida has assumed the management role that used to be the providence of Frances. It is she who will nowadays be at the end of most calls or emails!

Nicolas and Frances McDowall examining a finished book
Nicolas McDowall at The Old Stile Press

What We Do

We have always looked back to the great private presses of the past with respect and for inspiration, but we do not seek to replicate their style or, very often, even their methods. Rather we are trying to carry their standards and their creative spirit forward into this new century. As our starting point for each production is, almost always, the desire to work with a particular artist-printmaker, our books often differ greatly one from another. An almost theatrical initial impact and a specific and appropriate ‘feel’ for each book are all-important to us.

An example of one of the books published by The Old Stile Press
Pages drying
Typography is one of the keys to the books published by The Old Stile Press

High technical standards are paramount, whether we use older printing methods or take advantage of new technologies and materials to achieve the results we desire. Above all the operation has always been (and will remain) ‘hands-on’ and entirely bounded by our capabilities, enthusiasms and energies at any given moment.

Where We Do ItTintern Abbey, on the banks of The Wye

When actively printing, the press was based in the beautiful Wye Valley, into Wales and two miles upstream from Tintern Abbey. No longer a working press, we continue to sell existing stock and look to create new exciting bindings for some of the unbound editions.

This website is designed so that you can study, through extensive descriptive texts and photographs, all our books in print and, also, consult (or download) a simple catalogue*.

To find out what is happening here at the moment, you can visit our Blog for news and work in progress.
To find details of how to order books from us, you can go to how to order. It you wish to e-mail us with an order or an enquiry, please contact us.

A Bit of History

The Press started in 1979, while Nicolas was working full time with an academic publishing house, Frances was teaching music to young children in school, our own children were growing up and we all lived in London. The full story of its development can be read in The Old Stile Press . . . in the twentieth century, a Bibliography 1979-1999 and its continuation The Old Stile Press . . . the next ten years, a Bibliography 2000-2010 .

As years went by, the Press grew in importance to us and, in 1986, Nicolas reduced his work in London to three days a week and we moved to Catchmays Court . . . where the Press will surely remain . . .