The latest set of private press books to be catalogued in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection come from the High House Press. This was a small press that was set up by a school master, James Edwin Masters, in 1924 and was located in the High Street in Shaftesbury, Dorset; taking its name from the building it was located in. All the work at the press was done by Masters, and his wife Beatrice who is credited with the type-setting in many of the books. In 1937 the press moved to Westbury-on Trym near Bristol, and work continued until Masters died in 1943. At Cardiff we have 30 publications from the High House Press, out of (an approximate) 43 that were produced, the majority dating to the Shaftesbury era. Many of these contain the High House printer’s device located under the colophon; and several items are signed by James Masters, these include: “The poem of Amriolkais : one of the seven Arabian poems or Moallaka which were suspended on the temple at Mecca” which contains 4 wood engravings by Eileen Mayo who has also signed this copy; “Three hundred & sixty-five short quotations from Horace : with modern titles and varied metrical versions in English by H. Darnley Naylor” ; and “Twenty-six sonnets of the divine poet M. Francesco Petrarca : made on Laura dead and now done into English by William J. Ibbett” these two were both also signed by their respective translators.
The output of the press seems to be a mix of contemporary poetry and reprints of much older material, such as 16th century songs and ballads. In 1932 Masters brought out a book on Shaftesbury itself which included nine engravings by John R. Biggs, and five by Masters; this was entitled “Shaftesbury: The Shaston of Thomas Hardy”; and recorded ‘picturesque spots and corners’ in an attempt to capture the flavour of the town at that period in time. Both Biggs and Masters signed this book too. An article in Dorset Life (2008) discusses the production of “Shaftesbury” and looks at High House Press in general. One of the illustrations from this book, a vignette of High House itself was subsequently used in other publications including “How a merchant did his wife betray” published in 1933. Within the town of Shaftesbury the building still remains, but sadly no longer houses a press.