The FPBA was formed by a group of individuals sharing common interests in the art of printing, the matching of worthwhile texts with significant images and artistic expression through the structure of a book. Its goal is to promote the appreciation of such books and encourage their production. These aims are to be pursued in a number of ways including enhanced dialogue between book printers, designers and others in the book arts and the inspiration of the public at large.
FPBA had its genesis at the 1996 Oak Knoll Fest (a fine press fair sponsored by Oak Knoll Books of New Castle, Delaware). After many months of preliminary work spearheaded by Carol Grossman, a group of printers, designers, and others involved in fine press books decided on an organizational structure, purpose, and set a schedule for formation. The first official meeting and the first issue of Parenthesis (24 pages) appeared in 1998. Initial officers included John Randle (President), Kim Merker (Vice-President), Frances McDowall (Secretary/Treasurer for the UK and Europe), and Carol Grossman (Secretary/Treasurer for North America).
By fall of 1998, membership was approaching 700. The second issue of Parenthesis was 36 pages long, the third 52, and by the fourth it had reached 64 pages, where it has remained. Dennis Hall was the journal's editor for issues 3 and 4 and for all UK issues through issue 12. Crispin Elsted edited the North American issues through issue 11 at which time he passed on the mantle to Paul Razzell. Sebastian Carter is now the journal's UK editor.
Since 1998, FPBA has been the co-sponsor (with the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association) of an alternate-year book fair held at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England. While there has never been an official connection between FPBA and Oak Knoll Fest (held in alternate years by Oak Knoll Books of New Castle, Delaware), a strong unofficial connection has been present from the start. The annual meeting of the North American division has taken place at Oak Knoll in years it takes place, and Bob Fleck has long been a supporter and member of the board.