Alan Alexander Anderson is born in Dunfermline, Fife, the only child of David Allan Anderson,
master draper, and Penelope Farquharson Sim.
Alan shows an interest in books and book collecting from a young age.
He starts working as a bank employee in the town of Lochgelly, in Fife,
where he meets his future wife Janet ('Jennie') Easton Thomson
He serves in the Royal Navy as a signalman, aboard a number of British and French ships,
mostly in the seas of the Mediterranean.
Begins a lifelong friendship with his shipmate
John Talbot White (1925-1983).
During his ship's brief stay in Naples, Alan finds the opportunity to make his first visit to Capri.
He joins the family drapers' firm in his hometown Dunfermline.
Visits Capri again, this time with Jennie, his fiancée.
For Alan, Capri is also significant for being the home of the author
Norman Douglas, whose work Alan admires and collects.
His father dies. Alan considers his options beyond running the family business
Alan and Jennie are married. They spend their honeymoon in Capri.
They meet Norman Douglas, assisted by a letter of introduction from
Cecil Woolf (1927-2019),
who will publish Norman Douglas's bibliography three years later.
Their daily meetings culminate with a visit to Norman Douglas' villa
on the famous and picturesque Via Tragara
Norman Douglas dies in Capri.
Alan and Jennie move to Edinburgh, where Alan finds employment at the antiquarian bookshop John Grant.
He meets fellow bookshop employee (at James Thin's)
Edward Nairn (1918-2013),
who will become one of his best friends in the trade
Alan organises a "Memorial Exhibition of Works by Norman Douglas" at the Edinburgh Central Library to honour the memory of the author.
Alan's own collection is used as the basis for it, but material is further provided by John Carter,
the bookseller and author George Sims (1923-1999),
Cecil Woolf, and others. Alan Anderson and Cecil Woolf compile the bibliographical catalogue of the exhibition.
This exhibition was the first of many collaborations between Alan Anderson and George Sims,
and marked the beginning of their friendship.
In the same month, Alan and Jennie's first child, Penelope ('Penny'), is born.
Alan Anderson registers for a two-year evening course in printing at the Edinburgh College of Art.
Alan and Jennie's son, David, is born.
Alan Anderson acquires his first printing machine, an Imperial Octavo "Peerless" platen press,
and names his Press "Tragara".
Alan begins to print on his "Peerless" press in his spare time, as a hobby.
His love for poetry and knowledge of literature, the 1890s,
Oscar Wilde and his circle
determine his choice of subjects from the very early days.
He discovers and prints little known, and hard-to-find texts by poets and authors that he likes.
Alan produces his first booklet, A Phial,
a poem by the Edinburgh fin de siècle poet, and priest, John Gray.
This is followed by A Letter from Oscar Wilde to the actress Helen Terry,
and by an almost miniature edition of Thomas Nashe's poem
In Time of Pestilence.
All three publications were printed in a very limited number of copies that were not for sale,
and which Alan offered to friends like John Talbot White, Alex Frizzell, and George Sims.
George Sims, already a publisher of
Frederick William Rolfe ("Baron Corvo") writings,
commissions Alan to produce A Letter from Baron Corvo to John Lane,
the first Corvo edition to be printed at the Tragara Press.
Alan decorates this edition of 30 copies using an original Eric Gill woodblock from his collection.
In much of his early work so far, Alan has been trying printing on different types of paper
(such as parchment, grey Ingres, and blue Hodgkinson),
wrapping his booklets in equally stylish Ingres, patterned, and marbled papers.
But much of the beauty of these works comes from his page composition style,
which is characterised by the elegant and balanced way in which texts are presented.
The three typefaces that he has used so far,
will continue to be among his few standard choices in the present and the next century as well.
Alan leaves John Grant. He buys the North Bookshop in Dundas Street, Edinburgh,
becoming an independent bookseller specialising in modern literature and limited editions
He continues to print in his spare time, as a hobby.
He sends a letter to Ted Hughes, offering to produce a leaflet with one of his poems.
The poet suggests that Alan prints one of his wife's poems instead,
and so Alan produces A Winter Ship,
the first publication by the then unknown American poet Sylvia Plath.
Alan Anderson meets Lawrence Durrell
in Edinburgh during the time of the Festival.
The two of them discuss the possibility of printing Durrell's recently published poem
A Persian Lady
in a broadside edition of very few copies.
In the following years, Alan will be shipping books to Durrell at his home in France
George and Beryl Sims (1921-2022) take Alan Anderson to meet Helen Thomas (1877-1967),
author and widow of Alan's most beloved poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917),
at her home, Bridge Cottage, Newbury.
Alan publishes A Third-Class Carriage,
his first Edward Thomas publication, in 40 copies,
"to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the author's death" in the Battle of Arras.
Alan acquires a more powerful printing machine, a Crown Folio "Arab" platen press.
The previous "Peerless" machine, too light for printing on hand-made paper,
is in turn acquired by Alan's friend Alex McLeish Frizzell (1920-1996),
who uses it to start the Castlelaw Press in West Linton (Birkbeck 1970).
Edward Lear's Letter to R.W. Raper,
the 17th publication of the Tragara Press, is the first booklet printed on the Arab,
in a total of 38 copies.
Fellow Scottish printer John A. Birkbeck (d.1971)
publishes a brief account of the Tragara Press and its publications,
in an edition of 60 copies.
He notes that "many items of unique interest have been produced",
and that "[their] scarcity is reflected on the price asked
when an item finds its way into the rare book market".
Alan acquires Centaur,
which quickly becomes a regular choice of typeface,
along with Bembo, Baskerville, Perpetua, and their italic variants.
Other typefaces, like Jan Van Krimpen's Romulus,
are only sporadically employed.
Alan's work is beginning to be appreciated by a wider audience,
a fact also evidenced by the increasing number of commissions.
His knowledge of the bookselling trade,
and the contacts that he has established over the years, are an asset.
He is now ready to take the next step.
Full-time printer: The Tragara Press, 1974-1991 [incomplete]↑
Alan closes his bookshop to focus entirely on printing and publishing.
He prints typeface samples and
price lists to promote his business.
His books are sold mainly via friend booksellers
James and Mary Sullivan, in Carlisle,
George Sims, in Berkshire, and Edward Nairn,
who became an independent bookseller in Edinburgh in 1965 (Fergusson, 2013).
In addition to selling Tragara Press publications to their customers,
the Sullivans, Sims, Nairn, and Alex Frizzell
are also privately building their own significant collections of Alan's works.
Alan publishes collections of poetry by two well known writers,
Julian Symons (1912-1994) and
Roy Fuller (1912-1991),
both introduced to the Tragara Press by George Sims.
The two writers will continue to publish their works regularly at the Press in the following years.
a selection of four poems by Lawrence Durrell is published in a total of 115 copies.
Alan publishes The Tragara Press, 1954-1979,
a bibliography of the works produced by the Press in the first twenty-five years of its operation,
listing 63 publications of the Tragara Press and 32 commissions.
He dedicates this milestone edition to his wife Jennie.
George Sims compiles a catalogue of his personal collection of Tragara Press items,
giving the catalogue the title
"The Tragara Press - A Catalogue of a complete collection of the Press's publications
from its inception in 1954 to 1980; also of the privately issued & commissioned work,
some unique items & the printed ephemera". Eventually, he sells his collection
to the Library of Congress,
which becomes the first major institutional collection of works by the Tragara Press.
Alan publishes two short stories by the celebrated Irish writers of Gothic fiction
Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker,
for the first time since their publication in 19th century magazines.
Borrhomeo the Astrologer, published anonymously in 1862,
was definitively attributed to Le Fanu by W. J. McCormack, the publication's editor, in 1980,
while Stoker's The Dualitists
had been rediscovered just a few years before.
Alan and Jennie leave Edinburgh, moving a little south to the town of Loanhead,
where the Tragara Press finds its new home.
Alan Anderson publishes The Tragara Press, 1979-1991,
the second volume of the bibliography of the Press, listing 81 publications of the Tragara Press and 24 commissions,
published in the twelve years since the publication of the first volume, in 1979.
He dedicates this second volume to his grandsons Gordon and Gavin.
After 37 years of printing and publishing, Alan closes the Tragara Press,
but decides to continue printing, from now on almost exclusively for other publishers.
Alan's personal collection of Tragara Press publications is acquired by the
University of Delaware Library.
He prints precarious under the owl,
the first of three collections of poetry by the influential bookseller
Peter Jolliffe (1947-2007),
partner at Ulysses Bookshop, London,
an important outlet for Tragara Press publications in the 1990s.
Peter Jolliffe becomes the latest bookseller to create a
significant private collection of Tragara Press items.
The 75th birthday of George Sims is celebrated with the private edition of
"My Favorite Purchase from George Sims", in 20 copies,
compiled by Sims' American bookseller friend David Holmes. In his own contribution, Alan Anderson recalls
"the greatest support and encouragement" that Sims gave the Tragara Press "from the outset", and
their friendship, "unbroken for close to fifty years".
George Sims dies.
Alan's wife, Jennie, dies.
The National Library of Scotland organises
an exhibition of Tragara Press books,
acknowledging the work of the 80-year old printer Alan Anderson.
Alan produces Blue Remembered Hills,
a collection of poems that he and Jennie both loved and considered significant in their lives,
to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tragara Press.
The 20 ad personam copies are printed on Alan's favourite paper,
hand-made by the Amatruda family in Amalfi, and are given to friends.
Some of the poems that are collected in this anthology, including
are among the very first poems printed by the Press in the 1950s and the 1960s.
Alan leaves Loanhead to live with his daughter Penny and son-in-law Douglas in Beauly,
setting-up his Press in their garage.
He produces At Century's Ebb,
a collection of unpublished English prose and verse from the 1890s,
discovered by the great comedian, passionate book collector,
and good friend of the Tragara Press,
in his own library.
Alan prints Distances,
the first published collection of poetry by his 92-year old friend,
and co-owner of probably the most important Tragara Press collection ever put together,
bookseller Edward Nairn.
The National Library of Scotland purchases about 230 Tragara Press items
from a private collector, and adds them to the items it has already acquired
over the course of five decades.
The combined collection is placed in the Special Collections department.
The ninety-year old Alan Anderson produces his final book, an obituary of the poet
Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)
written by Edward Thomas, in 45 copies.
Edward Nairn dies in Edinburgh.
Alan and Jennie's son, David, dies.
Alan Anderson dies in Beauly.
Allan, M 2016, 'Alan Anderson, 1922-2016', Norman Douglas 9. Symposium. Bregenz und Thüringen, Vlbg. 7./8.10.2016, pp. 118-120.
Baldwin, P 1992, Conon's Songs from Exile - The Limited Edition Publications of Lawrence Durrell, The Delos Press, Birmingham.
Birkbeck, JA 1970, The Tragara Press, Rathalpin Press, Dundee.
Burnett, D 2005, 'Introduction', in S Halliwell, Fifty Years of Hand-Printing: A Bibliography of the Tragara Press, Rivendale Press, High Wycombe, pp. ix-xviii.
Fergusson, J 2016, 'Alan Anderson', The Book Collector, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. 505-509.
Fergusson, J 2013, 'Edward Nairn', The Book Collector, vol. 62, no. 3, pp. 515-517.
Fergusson, J 2008, 'Peter Jolliffe', The Book Collector, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 145-151.
Risk, T 1975, 'Alex Frizzell, Portrait of a Scottish Private printer', The Private Library, vol. 8:2, Summer 1975, pp. 75-90.