Will Carter, (1912–2001)
Goudy Award Winner 7, 1975
In a period when craftsmanship is becoming the province of the amateur seeking to escape the impact of technology on his personal life, it is comforting to know that a limited number of professionals in the crafts are practicing, and even more importantly, flourishing in the current environment.
One of these is Will Carter, proprietor of the Rampant Lions Press in Cam, bridge, England. Here he produces the standard run of ephemeral items common to the small commercial printer, letterheads, announcements, menus, flyers, etc. In addition to such bread and butter jobs, though, he has also become involved in the printing of books, giving his establishment a range considerably beyond that of the average small press.
It is quite evident that the circumstances which make the Rampant Lions Press pre-eminent in its field are not simply the skills of its proprietor, but the intellectual commitment which he brings to his work. Thus, every piece of printing he produces bears the stamp of first-rate design, typography, and presswork.
Another important detail affecting Will Carter's printing is its lack of preciosity. Sound craftsmanship is apparent, but with strict avoidance of what might be termed the cult approach expressed by adherence to Fifteenth Century printing practices.
Craftsmanship has a broad range in the Carter viewpoint. "As I use the term in this context," he has said, "it covers all fields, including packing a good parcel, making our own type racks, and having an instinctive sympathy with machines."
He has, in a further departure from the normal responsibilities of a small printing office, devoted a great deal of time to the creation of letterforms. For example, he has designed two typefaces. The first of these is Klang (1955) a broadpen letter for commercial printing, and in collaboration with David Kindersley, a fine book type called Octavian (1961). This interest in type design stems from his work in cutting letters in wood, begun as early as 1935.
Since that time Will Carter has received numerous commissions to cut in wood, stone, and slate. Of particular interest to American devotees of in; scriptional lettering is the admirable series of dedications engraved in teak in 1961 for the Hopkins Art Center at Dartmouth College, where he was also artist-in-residence during the 1969 term.
For the past few years the Rampant Lions Press has become increasingly involved in the production of fine books, although by no means curtailing the smaller jobs which Carter feels to be as significant as ever in the life of the Press.
It all began in 1924, when Will Carter, then twelve years of age, visited Oxford University Press with his father, and during the visit set in type and printed a calling card for himself. The trip to Oxford also resulted in the gift from John Johnson, later Printer to the University, of a font of type, prompting him to set up a press in his home. After leaving school he went to work in a printing plant to learn all the production phases from the composing room to the bindery.
During the next few years he gained experience with other printers and two advertising agencies, but at the same time maintaining the tiny shop in his home, now carrying the imprint of the Rampant Lions Press.
In the years before the War, during which he served in the Royal Navy, Will Carter expanded the Press and became increasingly involved in design, visiting the workshop of Paul Koch, son of the great type designer, Rudolf Koch, in Frankfurt.
In 1946 he resumed his printing career, and three years later he came to the important decision of making the Rampant Lions Press his full time endeavor. Once completely on his own, Will Carter's career fully bloomed, with international acclaim following quickly. All of this activity has given him positive views on the craft of the printer, and consequently he has been in demand as a lecturer in Europe and the United States.