Papers of Rowley Atterbury from Rocappi Ltd

Scope and Content

This collection chiefly covers the period 1964-1967, when Rowley Atterbury was working at Rocappi. The bulk of the collection consists of his incoming and outgoing business correspondence of from May 1964 to April 1967. In his role as Managing Director he had taken on responsibility for the public relations and promotion of the firm, and many of the letters reflect this. There is also correspondence dealing with the relations between Rocappi Ltd and the parent firms of Rocappi Inc., Westerham Press and Hazell Sun/British Printing Corporation. The collection also contains press cuttings; samples of material produced by the Rocappi process; promotional leaflets and press releases; minutes of directors' meetings; lists of enquiries from potential clients; proposals for projects; overseas proposals and enquirires; material relating to attempts to hire out the computer for typestting jobs to other firms; marketing reports, and draft contracts.

In addition, there are a few of Atterbury's papers from the period after he left the firm. These consist of some correspondence 1968-1970 with government bodies about obtaining government funding to support a computer typesetting business, and also accounts of the founding of the company and Atterbury's time there, the last dated 1992.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the early 1960s interest was being expressed in the possibilities of using computers in printing. The firm of Rocappi Ltd originated in a visit to America by the printers Roy Fullick of Hazell Sun and Duncan Macintyre of the Westerham Press, where they investigated the latest developments in computer typesetting. Contact was made with the American firm Rocappi Inc. (Rocappi stood for Research On Computer Applications in the Printing and Publishing Industries). The result was Rocappi Ltd, formed in 1964 and owned jointly by Hazell Sun (later the British Printing Corporation), Rocappi Inc. and the Westerham Press. Rowley Atterbury of the Westerham Press became the first Managing Director and Colin Barber, formerly employed by Rocappi Inc., became the technical director in charge of research and development of the process. The first commercial book produced using the Rocappi process was Margaret Drabble's The Millstone for Weidenfeld & Nicolson, published in 1965. As well as typesetting, the firm was keen to promote the benefits of using a computer in terms of sorting and analysing the data in the text, and an important breakthrough was achieved when the index for the British Imperial Calendar and Civil Service List for the year 1966 was produced by computer.

Despite the technical achievements being made at Rocappi Ltd, it was not judged to be financially viable. Rocappi Inc. pulled out in 1967 and the Westerham Press share was bought by the British Printing Corporation, who proceeded to dismiss the staff, including Atterbury and Barber, and bring in their own replacements. The company was then wound down.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Presented to the Library by Rowley Atterbury in 1997.


Description prepared by Bridget Andrews with reference to internal sources.

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