Noel Young, founder of Capra Press in Santa Barbara, Calif., and a central figure in the 1970s Southern California literary scene, died from Alzheimer's disease May 31, 2002. He was 79. Capra Press, originally Capricorn Press, grew out of Young's printing business after he published a friend's book of poetry in 1970. Soon after, the press was publishing work by such authors as Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Ursula Le Guin, Gretel Ehrlich, Thomas Sanchez and Ray Bradbury.

Novelist Sanchez, a close friend of Young, called him an "open-hearted spirit," a "big romancer of the American language," describing the early years of the press as "a high watermark in literary terms for California history, and the center of that really was Noel's press."

Along with the quality of its letterpress books, Capra Press became known for joining recognized writers with new voices in a series of chapbooks, among them the 1977 title Four Visions of America by Miller, Sanchez, Kay Boyle and Erica Jong. A year earlier, Capra published At Night the Salmon Move, a book of poetry by the then unknown Raymond Carver.

Last year Capra Press was sold to Robert Bason, a local antiquarian bookseller, who intends to continue publishing books in Capra's literary tradition.