Hicks made his name at the helm of academic book and journal printer Cromwell Press, based in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, for which he spearheaded an impressive expansion at the turn of the millennium.

“Allan was one of the most upbeat, committed and loyal people you could meet. He was never without a smile, positive comment or the ability to make the day better,” said friend and colleague, Mark Nixon, managing director of Conversion UK.

Hicks lived in Wiltshire for most of his life and became an apprentice compositor for the Pitman Press in Bath in 1970. He joined Redwood Press’ pre-press department and in 1975 was given the task of managing the Guinness Book of Records.

In 1988 he joined Dotesios Printers, a major player in the book production market, as a pre-press manager but quickly rose to production director. He wanted to form his own company and, following a management buyout of Dotesios, he founded Cromwell Press in 1991 with the support of two financial backers.

Within a year the company became one of the first UK users of a Plate Projection System, a forerunner of CTP. Three years later his team installed one of the first CTP systems and by 1997 the company had moved from its Broughton Gifford factory to a purpose-designed base at Trowbridge.

In 2000 he and Mike Arkell purchased the company from its financial backers and started to expand, buying Hardings of Bristol, Chivers Book Binders, CPD in South Wales and Period Book Restoration Company. Its first digital production unit, named C-POD, opened in 2003. At its peak Cromwell Group had a turnover in excess of £10m and employed 120 staff.

Hicks, was a huge motorbike fan and part-time test rider for Kawasaki, as well as an accomplished off-road rider.

Nixon said: “Allan was a master in motivation. His ability to keep harmony in a fraught production environment was testimony to his skills and his selfless attitude. He bore his illness as he lived his life, with a smile, with energy and with a self-disregard.”

Also paying tribute to his friend and colleague, Print Research International’s John Charnock said: “Allan was a real personality in the industry for some time and as managing director of Cromwell Press helped the company become one of the leading book printing companies. He was a great man and professional.”

Another described him as “a really genuine and loveable man for whom the phrase “larger than life” was created”.

Hicks is survived by his three children, Oliver, Lana and Paige.

His funeral will be held 14:30 on 28 August at West Wiltshire Crematorium. Hick’s family said all friends and colleagues from the industry are welcome to attend.

Tributes are welcomed below.