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The Rocket Press    founded 1977

The Rocket Press started as the schoolboy hobby of Jonathan Stephenson, aged 13 in 1977, when he was introduced to the world of hand-typesetting and letterpress printing. When Stephenson left school aged 16, The Rocket Press became a professional printing studio equipped with Monotype casting machines and cylinder printing presses. In the two decades up to 1997 more than fifty books and pamphlets were designed, type-set and printed. Several of these books won coveted recognition in the annual Printing World Awards and were selected for the National Book League Book Design & Production exhibitions. Fine Press books printed by Jonathan Stephenson were acquired by the Getty Library, Los Angeles; William Andrews Clark Library, Los Angeles; George Washington University, DC; Bodleian Library, Oxford; British Museum, London.

In 1997 Jonathan Stephenson closed the letterpress studio, invested in a Macintosh computer and started a digital typographical journey. The first major project with digital typesetting and lithographic printing was the substantial artist’s book West Bay: an anthology of specially commissioned contemporary poetry alongside photographs taken by the up and coming British photographer Martin Parr. This book was published in 1997 and launched at Rocket Gallery to coincide with Parr’s first London commercial gallery exhibition.

In 2015 the Lilly Library, University of Bloomington, Indiana purchased the the entire archive of The Rocket Press from the years when it operated as a Fine Press from 1977 to 1997 – a total of 50 archive boxes of manuscripts, sketches, proofs, correspondence and books.

Jonathan Stephenson, in parallel with the operating of Rocket Gallery, has sporadically designed and published gallery catalogues and artist’s books under The Rocket Press imprint. The most recent project – released in summer 2019 – is the first monograph on the Danish painter Peter Hedegaard.

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