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ISO: De Vinne bindings

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I am researching a series of books written by George Sand that were produced as limited editions by The De Vinne Press for George H. Richmond Co. between 1893 and 1897. Contemporary advertising indicates that the books in the set were limited to 750 copies each on Windsor paper. The copy I have of Fadette has a beautiful pictorial cover of a group of iris in gold on black cloth — it is very unusual — as it looks engraved and definitely has raised and sunken portions to it — almost as if the cloth had been carved. I would like to try to find out the method by which this dimensionality in the binding design was achieved as well as who designed the binding. For this, I assume I would have to have access to the De Vinne production records if they still exist.

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Printing Bewick

Carl Montford


Progressive proofs by Carl Montford of Bewick’s rooster block, ca 1797.

Printing from Bewick’s block is not only an honor, but also a challenge to get a good print from a block that is not type high, but also wavy, dented and also in need of serious cleaning of dried ink left over from printers past.

For those unfamiliar  with his work, Thomas Bewick  (1753–1828) was an English engraver, illustrator, naturalist and author. He is remembered for the artistic beauty and technical quality of his wood engraving blocks, most of which are depictions of birds and rural life. [Read more]

New England Hand Press Crawl

Seth Gottlieb

The Robert Luist Fowle Press with team mates (from left to right) Daniel Krull, Randall Paulhamus, and Seth Gottlieb.

The Robert Luist Fowle Press with teammates (from left to right) Daniel Krull, Randall Paulhamus, and Seth Gottlieb at the Exeter Historical Society.

This is the third in a series of posts that will appear throughout the year.

The process of researching wooden common presses for the sake of building a historically accurate reconstruction is an intensive one, to say the least. While most college students would have spent their Spring Breaks relaxing and goofing off, some of my teammates and I spent our break traveling through New England visiting printing presses. That’s not to say the trip wasn’t fun, but it was intense. We saw four presses in as many days and as many states. Three were original presses from the early eighteenth century (or possibly the late seventeenth, because the provenance of some isn’t clear), and one was a reconstruction made in 1950 from a design by Ralph Green, an engineer and amateur historian of printing presses.  [Read more]

Editor of Printing History Call for Applications

Katherine M. Ruffin


The American Printing History Association is currently accepting applications for the position of editor of its flagship publication, Printing History. The journal is published in print twice a year. This is a part-time position which pays the editor a stipend of $2500 per issue and has a term limit of five years.  [Read more]

Depictions of Printing in Deaf Periodicals

Pamela Jean Kincheloe


Various stages of the printing process illustrated on the cover of The Silent Worker, May 1922.

An interesting intersection of Deaf history and print history in America took place early in the nineteenth century. As is well documented by scholars Jack Gannon, John Vickrey Van Cleve, Susan Burch, and R.R. Edwards, among others, the story of the “silent,” or “deaf press,” had its modest beginnings in 1836, starting with the Canajoharie Radii (site of the Central New York Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb), a paper printed by a Levi S. Backus, for the benefit of both deaf and hearing readers. The success of this publication led faculty at the American Asylum for the Deaf (Hartford, Connecticut) to start a paper at that school, which later became The American Annals of the Deaf in 1847. The Deaf Mute, out of the North Carolina School for the Deaf, set up shop soon after, in 1849 (Gannon 238-250, Edwards 111-13).  [Read more]

Beatrice Warde at the GPO

George Barnum


Mortimer and Warde posed in front of the plaque bearing Warde’s text, which still greets visitors in the lobby of the Government Publishing Office in Washington, DC. (GPO)

Some time ago, I stumbled across a photo on the Internet of Beatrice Warde, the famed typographic publicist and writer, posed in front of the “This is a Printing Office” plaque in the lobby of the Government Publishing Office in Washington, DC. She is standing with GPO’s longtime director of typography, Frank H. Mortimer. The photo caught my attention for a couple of reasons, and sent me off down a couple of interesting paths.  [Read more]

Publishing Elsa: Will Ransom’s Grey Thread

Walker Rumble

Will Ransom in his print shop, ca. 1925 (John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, Newberry Library)

Title page, left. Will Ransom in his print shop, ca. 1925 (Courtesy of the Newberry Library)

Sometime in 1922, the Chicago printer Will Ransom bought space in Broom, a recently hatched expatriate literary journal. Ransom’s advertisement publicized “Will Ransom, Maker of Books,” a new publishing venture. The ad, which appeared in the March 1923 issue, announced a “private press issuing hand-made books in limited editions and presenting first appearances of contemporary authors.” Ransom named his publishing project a “Series of First Volumes.” According to Ransom, “since my province is not to write, I choose to serve as garment-maker to the literary children of those who do.” [Read more]

The Louis Roy Press at the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum

Seth Gottlieb


The Louis Roy Press at the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum

This is the second in a series of posts that will appear throughout the year.

When designing a wooden common press, there’s only so much information available in print. Printer’s manuals, like Caleb Stower’s 1808 manual, The Printer’s Grammar, describe the parts of a printing press, but not so thoroughly as to provide all dimensions. These manuals are useful, but nothing beats being able to measure the real deal. Our team was fortunate enough to visit the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum in Queenston, Ontario on February 20th to examine and measure the Louis Roy Press held there. Roy was the first King’s printer in Upper Canada and printed the Upper Canada Gazette, beginning in 1793.  [Read more]

2016 Conference Call for Papers

Nina Schneider


The American Printing History Association is pleased to announce a call for papers (pdf) for our 2016 conference at the Huntington Library, October 7-8. We are very excited about this year’s theme: “The Black Art & Printers’ Devils: The Magic, Mysticism, and Wonders of Printing History.” We hope that you will consider submitting a proposal for a presentation or demonstration.  Proposals are due March 15.  [Read more]

John Wells: Hand Press Innovator

Joan Boudreau

Fig. 1. River view of Hartford, Connecticut, ca. 1820–1940 (Courtesy of Graphic Arts Collections, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

Fig. 1. River view of Hartford, Connecticut, ca. 1820–1840 (Courtesy of Graphic Arts Collections, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

My discovery of the letters patent for John Wells’s renowned lever printing press and the 200th anniversary of the innovative beginnings of the press have inspired the following: a short recollection of the life, work, and inventions of John I. Wells of Hartford, Connecticut. [Read more]