Where are you from originally Debbie?
You’ve moved over to the other side of the country.
Yes, ooh, quite some time ago now. About 27 or 28 years ago.
You were a ‘woman of Kent’ or a ‘Kentish woman?’
Yes, from Bromley.
Very posh and leafy.
I’m not sure about that. Where are you from?
All over the place, really. I’m in Northampton now because
my girlfriend comes from here but I started in London, as
you can probably detect from my accent, and have been moving
up the country since via Essex and Bedfordshire.
I can understand you nice and clearly but some people on the
phone - I can’t understand their strong accents.
Do you find as you get older that it’s harder to
understand accents? Or is it just me?
Yes, my husband’s quite good at understanding accents but
then he’s lived all over. He’s originally from
There was a lady on TV talking about ‘porker’ and I
thought she was talking about pigs. She was from Newcastle
and was talking about the card game poker! I think there’s
less ‘BBC English’ on the telly and we’re all moving
about a lot more. But accents are a fascination of mine. I
would presume it’s something of interest to you too in
your line of work?
So, on with the questions? Can
you tell us how (and why) Llanerch Press was formed?
It wasn’t set up by us. It was set up by two guys in the
early seventies, both professors, and almost as a retirement
type of thing. And it went on from there, really. They
started it as a hobby, then they got really interested. One
of the guys actually still does a lot of the books for us.
He speaks several languages and has done some of the
translations from Chinese into English and French into
English and Chinese into French and this sort of thing.
Clever man. That must be challenging.
He’s a very nice, laid back sort of man and a typical
scholar if you like.
Would it be fair to say that you put it onto more of a
Well, we took it over in October 2008 and by then it had run
down quite a bit and I think the interest wasn’t there.
One of the guys had died by then, the other one had retired
totally and somebody else had taken it on board. I don’t
think they had the same interest and I think they had it for
about five or six years and it went down to a degree. We
said if they ever wanted to sell it we would be very
interested as a bit of a hobby for ourselves as well but
also because we wanted to get involved as we liked the whole
idea. My husband’s a printer and has been in the printing
trade all of his life. So he knew a bit more about what was
involved and that side of things.
What’s you area of expertise and interest?
I’m an accountant, actually.
You’re totally defying what I was expecting. It’s funny
how people have expectations.
What did you think I do?
I was assuming that you were from the west of the country
and thought you must have some academic and linguistic
Not really, but very interested in books.
I’ve always loved books and the whole idea and I think
I’d got to the stage where I’ve had my head buried in
accounts and things and I want to get away from that. And
this opportunity came up and we said “Yes please.” I
don’t think we realised we were going to get it quite as
quickly as we did, but in some ways I think we’re very
pleased we have. Because now, at least, it hasn’t gone
down so much as to not be able to salvage anything.
are your best sellers?
It’s difficult to say, really, because we do a lot of
business through the Welsh Books Council and they’re very
much any Welsh books. So, when we have had any new
Welsh-orientated books they have gone very well by the WBC.
But otherwise I wouldn’t like to say. I think a lot of the
Saints books have regenerated since we’ve been doing it.
But then I can’t say they’re top because the other day I
had a big order for all of our Chinese books and there are
about eight of those.
So the accountant in you can’t predict stock flows and
what’s going to sell?
Not really. What we’re trying to do is to make sure that
every book title on our list is back on the shelf, which it
wasn’t when we took over. If we can update it, revise it
and improve it in any way then we’re doing so.
range and scope of your titles and topics is extremely
diverse. Your portfolio of titles is amazing with a number
of very specific and detailed works covering the grand
events, beliefs, customs, language and characters to
the mundane details of ordinary life in these islands over
It’s come about, partly I think because of the guys who
started it and their interests, but then we’ve had people
come up and say “There’s a book we’d like, can you do
it, do you do it?” And through the guy who used to own it
and his knowledge of things we’ve seen if we can’t bring
it back into print by finding permissions and copyright and
this sort of thing. And doing it that way with the various
Do you have any connection with the official archives or The
British Library? I understand that The British Library has a
copy of every publication ever produced in Britain?
That’s right. You have to do that for the registration
purposes of the ISBN. That applies to any book we bring out
new and any book we revise in print, in other words it’s a
different edition. It’s not just The British Library, we
have to send five copies out.
You must be the only source for some of these?
Yes, I think we are now. We have resurrected some of them
from original books - some of them we’ve got the original
does The Internet mean to your business?
Quite a lot really. I’m not a great computer person. I’m
learning it as we go along and we get a lot of orders via
the website. They’re usually only one or two books at a
time but those go all over the world now and we’re quite
pleased to see how far they do go. And it’s quite
Was the order for Chinese books from China?
Chinatown in London. (Laughs)
Oh I see.
There’s a big shop in London that sells all sorts of
things to do with Chinese art, books and anything like that.
I’ve strolled through Chinatown on many occasions but
because I like my food was always drawn by the restaurants
rather than the bookshop.
I might be the same.
Why are you so fascinated by the past?
I think it means a lot to a lot of people. I like our
history. I think older history is probably more interesting
than modern history. There’s a lot more feeling and caring
in the past and I don’t think it’s there today. I think
people are too busy getting on with their own lives to
appreciate what’s around them, whereas in the past people
did appreciate what was around them.
And they were at one with it?
I don’t know if you remember Catweazle, the beautifully
written and performed children’s TV programme from 1970
that was also a must for adults?
Yes, I do.
That’s what struck me with that programme. He was an
eccentric wizard coming forward to the twentieth century
from the eleventh century. And although he was like a fish
out of water and bumbling and childlike in some ways it
almost showed how he was at one with the earth and
understood the cycles of nature and so on, whereas the
people in the twentieth century were bustling around and
relying on technology. And we’ve lost that ability now.
People don’t tend to change over the years but obviously
it’s technology that is changing at such a pace – you
were talking about The Internet and computers and I think
we’re struggling to keep up.
I think computers cut out the communication – at the
moment you’re talking to me but if it were done with typed
words on a computer I don’t think you’d get the right
answers or the feel for things.
You don’t. Also you can’t get the tone so things on
computer can be very badly misinterpreted. I’ve seen
several examples of this. Ironically, the more ways we have
of communicating the less well we do it.
Yes, and the more unfeeling we do it.
are your favourites within your range?
I’m very pleased with the latest books we’ve added, I
think because we’ve spent a lot of time on them. But I
love some of the really old Saints books. I find them really
fascinating and interesting but I also like the ones on
different parts of the country. They’re quite interesting
and I keep thinking “Hmm, I really must go there.”
It’s like a trip advisor.
Based on the various books you’ve got about areas of the
country, could you put pins on the map of the UK and cover
Probably very closely yes. Also a lot from Ireland.
I went back there to Kerry where my family are from about
three years ago and where I spent many happy summer
holidays. But because all the people like my Nan and uncles
and aunts have died and the younger ones moved away, it was
just like visiting somewhere strange. It just wasn’t the
same place I remembered at all – it was the people who
made the place so magical.
Very much so.
So do you see yourself as something of a custodian? I mean,
a lot of these titles are rare and precious.
Yes, I would like to think that I’m here to make sure
these things don’t disappear. If there are other books out
there then people will also come to us and say “Can we get
this one back?” And I would be more than happy to do it.
It’s not a livelihood because there’s not a lot of money
in it, so what we’re doing is very much because we have a
love of doing it rather than it bringing in an income. It
would be nice if it could bring in a sufficient
income, but while we’re building it up it’s not. I think
our main thing is that we do enjoy doing it.
That’s the plan I suppose eventually that enough people
know about it. There must be a demand out there, or you can
create a demand?
I think so. It’s interesting the comments we’ve had come
back. The order I sent out yesterday was for a lady who said
she couldn’t believe the titles we’ve got and this is
just a private individual who ordered 33 titles out of the
And she was absolutely over the moon and said “That will
be my first lot.” She said she’d searched high and low
to get some of them. To actually buy a copy of them was
amazing for her as she’d only managed to borrow a copy or
two from a library.
You get a few customers like that and you’ll be doing
Yes, but it’s also appreciation and that means more than
her comments meaning we’ll get another four or five
orders, or whatever. To me it’s the fact that she’s come
back so pleased about it all that it made us feel worthwhile
and that’s where I think our interest is. It’s the fact
that we’re trying to make sure the books stay alive and
out there and people can still read them. They might not be
in the best of condition print-wise because they are
facsimile reprints of originals but at the same time the
story really matters there.
As long as they’re legible. What are the most unusual
topics covered in your range?
Some of the mystical ones are a bit weird I think. For me,
because it’s something I don’t delve into too much, I
find it quite hard to understand.
You don’t need to be a linguist to read a lot of them? I
mean they’re in a form of English that we can understand?
We’ve only got one that isn’t in English at all and
that’s in Gaelic, so if you know anyone who wants a Gaelic
book you can ask them to read it for us and tell us what
My Irish uncle wrote a book about Kerry, probably the same
sort of format as your books, but that was in English.
This one - it was printed by the original owner of Llanerch
purely because he was approached if he would print it for
them and they wanted fifty copies so he said yes. He did it
and then they didn’t take all of them. So he was left with
a few and we still have a few left. We sold one.
It adds to the diversity of what you’ve got.
Yes I just love them all really. We lost a couple of books
because we lost the copyright on them.
Who was making that into an issue for you?
The Cambridge University Press. What they’re going to do
about it I’ve no idea.
It’s probably their lawyers or legal department just
To me it wasn’t a big seller and since we’ve had it
we’ve probably sold 7 or 8 copies and they’ve taken it
away. Now I can’t see why – what are they going to do
with it? We were just in the process of trying to revamp the
cover and make it better and they’ve taken it away.
It’s one of life’s ironies that you’ve got the
Cambridge University Press, who should be keen on cultural
enlightenment and making the written word more accessible,
making it impossible to sell a few of these titles. I’ve
had this before with organizations who purport to be
interested in promoting something and who actually make it
less likely to be a success.
I think it’s a shame. If they are going to bring them out
again and do them then fair enough, but it worries me that
they’re just going to take them away.
Yes, and let them languish on some shelf and nobody will be
able to get hold of it.
We sent the royalties to them at the end of the year and
they decided the term was up for us to have the printing
rights and decided not to renew.
It will be a clerk who doesn’t know or understand and is
there to follow guidelines rigidly. Do
you give any recommendations if people are interested in
delving into a particular subject or era?
Not necessarily. We have improved the catalogue – I
don’t know if you’ve seen it?
Yes I looked at the website again the other day, so was I
looking at the new catalogue?
Yes, and we have people who don’t go through the website
and just look through the catalogue It’s very difficult
for me to recommend books because I haven’t had time to
read them all. And I think because they are so diverse that
it’s difficult for me to say I’d recommend reading this
or that. Although, saying that, I had one person asking me
what books we had around the 400 B.C. mark. He said send me
a catalogue and he’ll let me know if he finds some, but he
hasn’t got back to me yet.
What plans have you got for Llanerch Press in the future?
Certainly to progress as we’re doing now because we feel
as though we’re improving it. Improving the look of the
books and of the website and to push that more. And to look
out for more titles and make it clear that if people want to
approach us and have books printed then we’re very willing
to consider doing them. It’s not something that we have,
as yet, charged to do.
Hopefully it can start generating more income as well?
Yes, the ultimate plan would be for me to do it full time
but at the moment I can’t do that.
Does that mean you’re doing number-crunching for someone
at other times of the week?
Yes, I’m not always available – I try but it’s not
always easy. And partly because, yes, we’ve had to plough
in a fair amount of money into Llanerch to get it up and
going. We still pride ourselves that the books are all still
handmade. How long we can keep that going for we’re not
sure, but we do it by hand my husband and I. Getting the old
pots of glue out. I think that’s all part of it.
It’s a fantastic business and I was really surprised when
I found the website and saw the different titles available.
How much scope there was and that they covered such a range
of topics, not dreaming there was anything like that.
That’s why I thought The British Library might have some
online presence with books like that but I didn’t expect
to see a small business in Wales doing that.
Because we have them all registered with The British Library
for copyright purposes we have contacts there.
I think they should be paying you a fee each year just for
the cultural contribution that you’re making. In my humble
(Both laugh) That would be nice. At the moment it’s
one-way traffic the other way and we keep having to give
them free books. And it’s for all the libraries – Welsh,
Scottish, Oxford, Irish – there’s six of them. I am now
sending them individually because otherwise they ask for six
copies and say they’ll send them on to the others but a
couple of weeks later the other libraries are on the phone
saying they haven’t had a copy yet.
It costs you in materials, time and postage.
When you’re printing quite small runs it can have quite an
we’re hoping some day we’ll get something back –
something out of it.
What goes round definitely comes round. Well, Debbie, it’s
been fascinating so thank you very much. It’s great to
talk to people who have got a passion about what they do.
That’s one of the main things that I enjoy about running
this website – talking to people like you.
Thanks David. Great talking to you.
Press - Publishers of Ancient Texts and Facsimile Reprints