The Journeyman Press was a book publishing house dedicated to publishing books that touched on people’s humanity expressed through their arts and culture. It was begun in 1974, when it published its first title, a reprint of The Iron Heel by Jack London. This was followed by a number of reprints of socialist classics – always in low-priced paperback editions. Ken Sprague was one of Journeyman's first supporters. He designed the striking Jack London covers, picked up in 2014 by the Bookstorey blog. Ken died in 2004 and a Ken Sprague Fund was set up soon after.
Journeyman’s first original title was Tales I Tell My Mother, a collection of short stories by a group of feminist writers who have since become well-known authors: Zoe Fairbairns, Sara Maitland, Valerie Miner, Michele Roberts and Michelene Wandor.
Amongst the original titles that followed were several local history books co-published with local writers’ groups, historical studies (including co-publications with the London History Workshop Centre), art books – The Murals of Diego Rivera published to coincide with an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1988 – poetry and plays.
One of the most successful series was the Journeyman Chapbooks. These were short books – around 64 pages – all of which were produced in the same format. Most were poems, and illustrated by an artist who was closely associated with the author or the text. An example was The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by the Belgian artist, Frans Masereel.
By 1989, Journeyman had published over 75 books. It co-published a number of titles with Lawrence Hill & Co Publishers in the US, and distributed a series of unusual pamphlets known as Oriole Chapbooks. A few years after its purchase by Pluto Press, the majority of Journeyman’s titles were out of print.
Some copies have survived as almost new and can be purchased from Frontline. Just email the titles to Peter and he will reply with the cost and how best to pay.