Barbarian Press

There are books written about living an authentic life. The lives of Jan and Crispin Elsted are inarguably authentic -- not because they read books, but because they produce them using techniques hundreds of years old. Rather than embrace the "plastic fantastic" world emerging around them in the late 20th century, the Elsteds became fascinated with "the idea of being able to make things, to learn how it was done." From their home filled with shelves of metal type and a variety of printing presses ranging from merely vintage to positively antique, the husband and wife team turn out books that are as much a joy to handle as they are to read. Filmmaker Sarah Race offers a film much like the Elsteds themselves: sentimental, contemplative, and genuine.

  • Sarah Race
  • Sarah Race
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Art, Letterpress, Craft, Book Arts, Design, Typography, Hand Printing, Wood Engraving
  • Runtime:
    17 minutes 20 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 5, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital DSLR
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • HOT DOCS Canadian International Documentary Festival (Screening 3 Times during the Festival)
    May 4, 2016
    World Premiere
  • DOXA Documentary Festival (Screened twice during the festival)
    May 7, 2016
    Vancouver Premiere
  • AFI Fest - American Film Institute
    Silver Spring
    United States
    June 26, 2016
    US Premiere
  • TACOMA Film Festival
    United States
    October 11, 2016
    Washington Premiere
  • HEART of GOLD Film Festival
    October 8, 2016
    Australian Premiere
  • HOT SPRINGS Documentary Film Festival
    Hot Springs, Arkansas
    United States
    October 10, 2016
Director Biography - Sarah Race

Sarah Race is a photographer and filmmaker based in Vancouver,Canada. Sarah's approach to visual media is about building relationships with her subjects, in order to truly connect with their stories and share their experiences through her work. Her expansive portfolio includes editorial, event coverage, human rights activism and fine art photography. Over the years, Sarah has earned a reputation for portraits that celebrate the beauty and diversity of atypical, sometimes marginalized subjects it is the core of her philosophy and work. Barbarian Press is her first short film.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I simply wanted to know why? Why in a world where you can choose 1000’s of fonts on a computer, read Shakespeare on your phone, and store more books than you could read in a lifetime on an e-reader that fits in your back pocket, why go through the process of printing a book by letterpress? It is not exactly efficient, it is expensive, and is extremely time consuming to print a book letter by letter and print it page by page. There must be a reason why Jan and Crispin are drawn to create books this way.

I like most folks began this project thinking they were quirky oddities that had a thing for Shakesphere. I was wrong. I had simply absorbed that idea from the consumerist culture we live in that prizes efficiency and cost over almost everything else. But, Jan and Crispin do not live by the same set of rules, they live in a world where their values operate under a different scale, the top of which is the concept of beauty. They value it almost as if it were a religion. It is what they strive to create on a daily basis.

Jan and Crispin do not simply create books, they are creating a tactile world that can be felt and touched and in whose beauty will be passed on from generation to generation. It made me consider how much of my own life is narrowed down to a screen and how my world needs to involve more of my senses if I am ever to appreciate the fullness of the world, and not just a flat pixel based image of it.