The Printer's Art: A Selection of American Fine Printing 1899-1989

Howard W. Gunlocke Rare Book and Special Collections Room



This exhibit is the fourth at Georgetown since 1981 to be devoted to some aspect of fine printing in the United States. Previous displays have surveyed the development of an American style in fine printing, explored the sometimes beautiful and always interesting byways of printed ephemera, and commemorated the remarkable achievements of Peter Beilenson and his Peter Pauper Press, Walpole Printing Office, and Press of the Blue-behinded Ape.

On this occasion we hope to help clarify an issue often either ignored or obscured: the place of fine printing in an academic library. Some institutions devote a substantial portion of their rare book and special collections budgets to collecting in the field of the book arts and in particular in assembling sizable collections of the work of well-known presses. Some, like Georgetown, rely almost exclusively on the benefactions of donors to develop collections in this area. In a small number of cases the book arts collections in academic libraries support active programs of research and scholarship; in far larger number, however, they do not.

When pressure is felt on the budgets of academic libraries, collections devoted to the book arts and to fine printing must compete for acquisitions and management funding with all those other collections which are not absolutely central to the basic educational mission of the university. Especially now, when emphasis on electronic information media is mushrooming, the right-to-life of collections whose emphasis is on the beauty or dignity or tranquility or wit of their presentation in print may often be in doubt.

What is often overlooked in the quest for information is the effect that its presentation makes on the seeker. Access to one or more electronic databases may provide specific information; a student assigned a novel may find the text in a trade paperback; cocktail tables everywhere are mines where may be found opulent photographic records of the world, its inhabitants, and their manifold possessions. Yet none of these alternatives provide in the fullest sense the effect of the well-designed and well-printed book, where the author's text comes to the reader's eyes filtered through and interpreted by the imagination and skills of the designer or illustrator or printer or publisher -- or all of them together.

Fine printing is nothing if not a rejection of the minimal, for it is an art. In its most exalted form it marries excellence of materials, intelligence and mastery of design, and the highest standards of craftsmanship, creating objects that have the same kind of imaginative appeal and cultural resonance as any others produced by the fine arts. Yet it is an art that functions as a medium for communicating a further work of art: the text that occasions the production of the printed piece. To this extent it is subject to an infinite gradation of constraints. Time, money, materials, and purpose may all place limits on the level at which the art is attempted.

Items in the Exhibition:

Aucassin & Nicolete

Being a Love Story Translated Out of the Ancient French by Andrew Lang
East Aurora: Roycrofters, 1899.
Decorative work probably designed by Samuel Warner.

General LC PQ1426.E5 L3 1899

Empedocles on Etna. A Dramatic Poem

Matthew Arnold
Portland: Thomas B. Mosher, 1900.
Copy number 351 to 450 on heavy paper. Presentation from the publisher, 1908, to Anne M. Batchelder, inscription in the recipient's hand.

General LC PR4022 .E25 1900

The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers

Detroit: Cranbrook Press, 1901
Copy number 187 of 244. Designed and printed by George G. Booth.

Detroit B745.D5 M8 1901

Songs and Sonnets

Richard Lovelace
New York: R. H. Russell, 1901.
Trade book, the small cuts derived from an earlier source, stylistically consistent with the design attempted here.

General LC PR3542.L2 A12 1901

Spoil of the North Wind

Chicago: Blue Sky Press, 1901.
No statement of limitation. Anthology edited by Edward Martin Moore, the cover, title page, and initials by Frank B. Rae, Jr.

General LC PS3525.O54 S6 1901

The Jargon of Master François Villon

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1918.
One of 385 unnumbered copies. Printed at the Riverside Press.

General LC PQ1590.E5 S6 1918

The Work of Stephen Crane, Volume I: The Red Badge of Courage and The Veteran

Edited by Wilson Follett
Introduction by Joseph Hergesheimer
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1925.
One of 750 unnumbered copies. Designed by Elmer Adler and printed at the Plimpton Press. The first in a ten-volume set.

Off-Campus Shelving - Request in Special Collections PS1449.C85 R35 1925

Champ Fleury

Geofroy Tory
Translated into English and Annotated by George B. Ives
New York: Grolier Club, 1927.
One of 390 unnumbered copies on wove paper. Designed by Bruce Rogers and printed by William Edwin Rudge. Unsewn, folded sheets together with trial binding.

General LC Folios NK3615 .T6213 1927

Certain Letters of James Howell, Selected from the Familiar Letters as First Published Between 1645 & 1655

New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1928.
No statement of limitation.

General LC PR3517.H5 Z48 1928

The Book of Job

From the Translation Prepared at Cambridge in 1611 for King James I
With a preface by Mary Ellen Chase and Illustrations by Arthur Szyk
New York: Limited Editions Club, 1946.
Copy number 1,843 of 1,950. Printed by Lewis White.


Specimens: A Stevens-Nelson Paper Catalogue

New York, 1953
Promotional volume, each brief section the work of a different designer and/or printer. The text shown recto designed by Bruce Rogers and printed at Thistle Press, New York.

General LC Folios TS1220 .S74 1953

The Metamorphoses of Ovid

An English Version by A.E. Watts with the Etchings of Pablo Picasso
Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1954. 
Trade book, designed by John B. Goetz.


Novum Psalterium Pii XII. An Unfinished Folio Edition of Brother Antoninus, O.P.

 Los Angeles: Plantin Press, 1955.
One of 9 unnumbered copies (beyond the stated edition of 48) reserved for presentation by Estelle Doheny. Designed and printed by William Everson. Additional presswork by Saul and Lillian Marks.

Detroit Folios BS1425 .L2 1955

Merle Armitage Bibliography

Robert Marks
New York: E. Weyhe, 1956.
One of 350 unnumbered copies bound in boards (of 500 in all). Designed by Armitage and printed by Cole-Holmquist.

General LC Z8044.33 .M3 1956

Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters

Edited by Leonard W. Labaree and Whitfield J. Bell, Jr.
New Haven: Yale University Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1956.
Trade book, designed by Walter Howe, and Alvin Eisenman, printed at the Lakeside Press.

General LC E302.6.F75 A195 1956

Hamlet: A Television Script

Adapted by Michael Benthall and Ralph Nelson for presentation on the CBS Television Network, by The Old Vic Company, on February 24, 1959 at 9:30 pm EST. [n.p., 1959]
Promotional book, illustrated by Ben Shahn; no information given as to designer or printer.

Off-Campus Shelving - Request in Special Collections PR2807.A2 B42 1959

A Country Doctor

Franz Kafka
Translated by Willa & Edwin Muir
Relief Etchings by Claire Van Vliet
Philadelphia: Janus Press, 1962.
Copy 129 of 250. Typography by James H. McWilliams. With presentation inscription from Van Vliet to Bruce Chandler, 1972.

General LC Folios PT2621.A26 L313 1962

Bestiary / Bestiario

A poem by Pablo Neruda
Translated by Elsa Neuberger, with Woodcuts by Antonio Frasconi
New York: Harcourt, Brace & World [1965].
Copy number [number not inserted] of 300 beyond normal trade edition of 3,500. Printed at the Spiral Press. Frontispiece printed from original blocks and signed by the artist.

General LC PQ8097.N4 B413 1965

Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley
The 1818 Text in Three Volumes.
Illustrated by Barry Moser and with Essays by Ruth Mortimer, Emily Sunstein, Joyce Carol Oates, and William St. Clair. Printed by Harold McGrath.
West Hatfield [Massachusetts]: Pennyroyal Press, 1983.
Copy number 268 of 350. With a separate suite of prints.

General LC Folios PR5397 .F7 1984c

Anne Frank. Diary of a Young Girl. Het Achterhuis.

West Hatfield [Massachusetts]: Pennyroyal Press with Jewish Heritage Publishing, 1985.
Copy number [number not inserted] of 350. Designed by Barry Moser and printed by Harold McGrath. Illustrated by Joseph Goldyne. With a separate suite of prints.

General LC Folios DS135.N6 F73313 1985

The Fall of the House of Usher

Edgar Allan Poe
Illustrated by Alice Neel
New York: Limited Editions Club, 1985.
Copy number 588 of 1,500. Designed by Ben Shiff and printed by the Anthoensen Press.


The Flounder

Written and Illustrated by Günter Grass
Translated by Ralph Manheim
New York: Limited Editions Club, 1985.
Copy number 588 of 1,000. Designed by Ben Shiff and printed by Wild Carrot Letterpress. Three volumes.


A Season in Hell

Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Paul Schmidt with Photogravures by Robert Mapplethorpe
New York: Limited Editions Club, 1986.
Copy number 75 of 150 (of 176 in all). Designed and printed by Michael Tarachow.


The Pentagram Press Commonplace Book. A Selection of Typographic Interpretations

Minneapolis: Pentagram Press, 1988.
Copy number 75 of 150 (of 176 in all). Designed and printed by Michael Tarachow.

General LC Z232 .P48 1988

How I Came to be Governor of the Island of Cacona

The Hon. Francis Thistleton [William Henry Fleet]
Introduction by Robertson Davies
San Francisco: Arion Press, 1989.
One of 325 unnumbered copies. Designed and illustrated by Andrew Hoyem.

General LC PR9199.2.T5 H68 1989

Lost & Found

Daniel Berrigan, S.J.
[n.p.]: Caliban Press, 1989.
Copy number 27 of 125. Designed and printed by Mark McMurray. Illustrated by Timothy Ely.

General LC PS3503.E734 L59 1989