Inside Palace Printers: On discovering a world where books are books

by Adriana Ciontea

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Hiding behind tubs of ink and heavy machinery, Roy greets us with a bright smile. As soon as we walk in, we are enveloped in a strong perfume of ink and freshly cut paper. We’re careful as we move through the front room. The walls are lined with boxes stacked to the ceiling. ‘You never want to see this room empty. It means you have no business’ Roy confesses to us. ‘It used to be an abattoir and slaughterhouse’ he says pointing at the wheel in the front room. ‘That's there for decoration now, but it was used to hang carcases’.

We move on to the main room, which is packed with machinery and ink. The floor is stained in different colours. Roy shows us each of his machines and explains what they do. From these great clanking machines the loveliest books and pamphlets are made.

My eyes are drawn to the back of the room, where the old presses are. Roy cranks one back to life. It groans a few times and then settles on a warm murmur.

Although we are surrounded by things we haven’t seen before, the Palace feels like home already. It’s very atmospheric, crammed with history and stories that Roy shares with lit up eyes. He prefers the old press, mixing the pigments himself, connecting with the colours and the papers. But he appreciates the streamlined capacity of the new printers. And updating the production has allowed him to run an environmentally friendly business.

Upstairs are the digital printers. This is where we meet Sharon, Roy’s wife and business partner. They share the story of how those two-tonne giants made it up the steep and narrow steps, while Sharon gives us tea.  There’s more paper lining the walls. There's paper everywhere, and we love it. The room is flooded with light and much airier than the one downstairs. It's almost as if the building itself is trying to display the contrast between the two printing methods.

Every inch of these rooms speaks about what goes on here: stories come to life. This is where our story, In Dark Places, will also come to life.  In the Palace, guarded by Roy and his family.  And we couldn’t be happier about it.


In Dark Places is the new book by Man-Booker longlisted author Wyl Menmuir. The book was commissioned as a collaboration between Falmouth University and The National Trust, and has been produced by a team of students working with industry professionals. It will launch at the Southwest Outdoor Festival in September. For more information on the project, follow the In Dark Places blog.