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History of the Happy Dragons Press


Forty Years of Printing

The Happy Dragons’ Press imprint is 40 this year! And it just so happens that 2009 also marks 60 years since Stafford started printing. Find out how we got where we are today with this brief history.


Graphic Art by Julius Stafford-Baker

The Bell and Baker Press

A hardback with 107 pages, with the extremely limited run of just 19 copies, ‘Graphic Art’ catalogues some of the wood-engravings and lino cuts of Julius B Stafford-Baker's (father of the Julius who runs The Happy Dragons’ Press). The illustrations on this page (Kikue-San, above right, and Greater Black Backed Gull, below) are from that book. The ‘Bell and Baker Press’ was a collaboration with Colin Bell.

Gull by Julius B Stafford-Baker

Together they produced a large volume of small scale semi-commercial jobbing work in the early 50s. Julius B Stafford-Baker was a celebrated R.A.F. war artist - frequently exhibited by the Royal Academy and still on exhibit in national collections from Poland to Japan — and is well known for drawing popular children's cartoon characters such as ‘Tiger Tim’ of Mrs Bruin's Boys.

Roy Lewis (Keepsake Press)
Roy Lewis at work.


Collaborations with the Keepsake Press

From this time onwards Julius was involved with journalist Roy Lewis's renowned Keepsake Press, which published work of unique literary worth.

They were introduced by a mutual friend, David Chambers, with a view to Julius using his industry experience to help improve the technical quality of Roy's work. It lead to a life-long friendship and an intermittent involvement with The Keepsake Press.

Julius sometimes had the privilege of printing illustrations for Roy. On other occasions, he had the somewhat lesser privilege of dissing his type (putting it back in the case).

Julius says of Roy, ‘He worked harder at letterpress printing than any of his contemporary presses by a very long way. He was a truly remarkable man.’


Solma-ri by CP Healey

St Anthony Press, Leicester

Part of being a member of the letterpress community is the sharing of knowledge, time and equipment. There have been collaborations with innumerable presses down the years, and here's a good example. ‘Solma-ri’ is a hard back of about eight pages, featuring the poetry of CP Healey about the Korean war printed by his St Anthony Press, with a wood engraved illustration by Julius Julius B Stafford-Baker, printed by The Happy Dragons’ Press.


The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway

By EJS Gadsden, CFD Whetmath and J Stafford-Baker

Grove Press

A history of the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway, printed by the Grove Press in both hard and paperback editions. Such was its success, it went on to be reprinted commercially several times. After The Bell and Baker Press, Julius used The Grove Press as his imprint when he went it alone for the first time, while he was living at Grove Avenue in Muswell Hill. Another notable publication under this imprint was Shetland Engravings, featuring more of his father's work. Serious book collectors will understand why this imprint name had to be changed.

Julius Stafford-Baker with his old Albion
Julius pegs up the laundry.


The Happy Dragons Press

The Happy Dragons’ Press imprint first appeared, when Julius and his then fiancée Jacquie printed the Order of Service for their wedding.


Smuff by Jacquie Stafford-Baker

The Happy Dragons Press

A short childrens' story about a friendly dragon, illustrated with colour lino-cuts.


The Harlot's House by Oscar Wilde

Illustrated by Daphne Lord

Keepsake Press

Another example of the collaborations with The Keepsake Press, this was a remarkable collaboration between two presses and the artist, Daphne Lord. The innovative Lord-process was employed to illustrate the poem, with Daphne's drawings being translated into lino-cuts by Julius and then over-stencilled by her with sprayed colour. Technically cutting edge in its day and still unique.


Tiddlers to Teens - Recipes for Kids

By Jacquie Stafford-Baker

The Happy DragonsPress

Published as a contribution for ‘An Infant's Library’, as part of the Private Libraries Exchange. Also assisted in printing the contributions from Peter Stockham and Keepsake. A history of the press was also published for the Private Libraries Exchange, with display set in Union Pearl bought especially for the job!

Mid 70s - mid 90s

Reproduction Railway Tickets

The Happy Dragons Press

Arising from Julius's life long enthusiasm for railways, The Happy Dragons’ Press has produced a huge quantity of Edmundson style railway tickets for various preserved steam railways over several decades. It's pleasing to record that Edmundson and his dating machine, once found in every railway booking office in Britain, used ordinary printers type (unsurprisingly, as he was a former compositor).


Lowbury and Lewis, Two Literary Landmarks

George Szirtes

The Happy Dragons Press (Composition) The Happy Dragons’ Press did the specially adjusted composition for this title, written by Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, George Szirtes, and printed by the Keepsake Press.


The New Garland Series and Dragon Poems in Translation

The Happy Dragons Press

After the sad death of Roy Lewis in 1996, The Happy Dragons’ Press inherited the type, machinery and spirit of The Keepsake Press. Shirley Toulson — a noted author, poet and editor — introduced Roy to many of the poets he went on to publish. With her guidance, and that of Rosemary Grant, The Happy Dragons’ Press continues the Keepsake's programme of poetry publication.

The ‘New Garland’ series features illustrated collections of poems by the likes of Bernard Kops, Karen Gershon, Gerda Mayer, Edward Lowbury, Dennis O'Driscoll, John Cotton and Wes Magee, as well as talented newcomers such as Rosemary Lynne Grant who has gone on to become our new Literary Editor, with Shirley staying on as Senior Editor.

The ‘Dragon Poems in Translation’ series features single poems translated from various foreign languages into English, with original illustrations.

See Also