The Rampant Lions Press

Founded by Will Carter in 1924, the Rampant Lions Press in Cambridge, England, established itself as one of the leading letterpress workshops in the decades after the Second World War. Will was joined by his son Sebastian in the 1960s, and the business became known worldwide for its craftsmanship and design skills. Sebastian retired in 2008, and closed the workshop.

    Here are three of the comments made over the years about the Press’s work.

Areopagitica and Cupid and Psyche, both from the Rampant Lions Press in Cambridge, convince one that the best printing being done in England today (or anywhere) is being done by Will and Sebastian Carter.

August Heckscher in Fine Print (1980)

The potential demonstrated and the fecundity of ideas in this book make it an important statement on the the state of fine printiing, and a hopeful indicator of where the fine press book may be going.

Alastair Johnson reviewing A Printer’s Dozen (1993) in Bookways

If obliged to choose a favourite among contemporary British letterpress printers, I would sweat profusely for a while before selecting Rampant Lions ... Sebastian Carter’s eye for design, and skill in the magic of making marks on paper with inked type and blocks, seems to me almost beyond criticism.                                                                  Paul W Nash in Matrix (2004)

This Catalogue is divided into four parts, covering the periods 1924–41, 1942–63, 1964–90, and 1991–2008, and includes descriptions of all 321 books printed at the Press. Each part has an introductory section with the story of that period. All the entries have notes on the background of the production, partly based on the Press’s book files, which are now in Cambridge University Library. Prospectuses are described. There are also appendices on the pressmarks, types, papers and publicity material of the Press, and an index of titles.

It is published by Oak Knoll Press of New Castle, Delaware, designed by the author, and printed in the USA. There are 130 black and white illustrations, and 16 pages of colour.   $65.                                         

Reviewing the book in Parenthesis, Jerry Kelly described ‘the aesthetic effect that can only be experienced by holding an actual example of Rampant Lions printing in one’s hands. Add to this careful typesetting, mostly by hand, with meticulous letterspacing of caps and other typographical niceties, and one gets some of the finest printing in the 500-year history of letterpress. ... Now Sebastian Carter’s definitive – and highly readable and enjoyable – bibliography of this pre-eminent Press is available.’


Sebastian Carter was born in 1941 in Cambridge, England. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital, and King’s College, Cambridge, reading English and Architecture and Fine Arts. He then worked as a designer with the London publisher John Murray, followed by two years in Paris with the Trianon Press. Back in London he worked for the  Stellar Press and Ruari McLean Associates, as well as working freelance. In 1966 he married Penelope Kerr and moved back to Cambridge to join his father Will Carter at the Rampant Lions Press. He became a partner in 1971 and took over the business in 1991, retiring in 2008.

Alongside his work at the Rampant Lions Press, Sebastian Carter has written extensively on typographical and other subjects, beginning with editing the Christ’s Hospital literary magazine The Outlook, and continuing with contributions to Granta at Cambridge. He has contributed to most of the numbers of the Whittington Press’s journal Matrix so far, and in 2008 took over the European editorship of Parenthesis, the journal of the Fine Press Book Association. He writes occasional reviews for The Times Literary Supplement.

In 1982 he produced the first catalogue of the Rampant Lions Press’s output for the exhibition of the Press’s work at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and now has greatly enlarged it into the Narrative Catalogue featured above.

In 1984 he wrote The Book Becomes, an account of the printing at the Rampant Lions Press of William Morris and Burne-Jones’s Story of Cupid and Psyche (1974), with a discussion of broader issues of fine printing.

The first edition of his Twentieth Century Type Designers was published by Trefoil (and Taplinger in the USA) in 1987, and was continuously in print until 2012, becoming the standard work. A second edition was published by Lund Humphries (Norton in the USA) in 1995, and a paperback edition in 2002.

Sebastian guest edited a number of The Monotype Recorder on Eric Gill in 1990, and contributed a section ‘The Morison Years’ to the centenary Recorder in 1997. He is a co-author of the History of the Monotype Corporation (2014) published by the Printing Historical Society and Vanbrugh Press. He contributed a number of entries to The Oxford Companion to the Book (2010) and is currently working on the book design chapter for The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume 7, 1914–2000.

A full list of his writings is available as a Word attachment on request.

In 2013, Sebastian received the American Printing History Association invidual laureate award for ‘a distinguished contribution to the study, recording, preservation or dissemination of printing history’.