Harold Smith, founder 100 years ago of Halstan Press, had three key attributes, current chairman Chris Smith and the founder’s grandson told guests at Stationers’ Hall for a celebration lunch last week.
“He was an entrepreneur, rebel and innovator,” Smith said. Harold had started his own business immediately after the end of the first world war. This qualifies him as an entrepreneur. The rebel came from never completing an apprenticeship in music engraving which meant immediate banishment and that music publishers could not touch his work and “because he couldn’t engrave music, he invented a different process to print the music image. There isn’t a publisher here today that has used the technology.”
And all the publishers were present from Editions Peters, for whom Halstan has printed since the 200 year old publisher left Leipzig in 1938 in the run up to the second world war, to Boosey & Hawkes, a customer since 1936, and to more populist music publishers.
Today, innovation continues to underpin the business. It acquired the Pindar Creative cartographic business in Aylesbury when the parent group went into administration; it has made an acquisition in Mainz, Germany, introducing the idea of digital printing, and set up an office in New York.
This year the company capped its move into colour digital printing with a Canon VarioPrint i300 inkjet press to run alongside a CV10000 cut sheet press. This has allowed the company to offer publishers a zero inventory stock management model, printing on demand on the papers specified, including those used for orchestral, choral and band scores which cannot be allowed to rustle when turning.
Cold glue PVA binding, short run thread sewn and Otabind finishing provides these and other books with lay flat character.
Chris Smith has handed over to son Rupert who runs the business along with managing director Alan Harbison. Rupert joined his father in thanking customers, staff and family shareholders for their support in enabling the continued investment. The customer base has expanded into more general areas of publishing, academic publishing and work for electronics companies. The Pindar side delivers for transport companies, catalogue retailers and local authorities. “We have a number of customers that have celebrated their 250th or 300th anniversary and at the other end of the scale there are clients that are just one or two years old,” he said.
By Gareth Ward