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J. Ben Lieberman

From The APHA Letter No. 33, 1980

FIFTH ANNUAL APHA AWARD. At the January 26th Annual Meeting of APHA the Fifth Annual APHA Award was presented to Dr. J. Ben Lieberman for his contributions to the study of printing history. APHA President Catherine Brody presented the Award plaque to Dr. Lieb­erman and read its inscription: “This plaque, the 1980 Annual Award of the American Printing History Association, is presented to J. Ben Lieberman in grateful recognition of his important service advancing understanding of the history of printing and its allied arts.” As Prof. Brody’s presentation talk pointed out, Dr. Lieberman’s contributions to the encouragement of the study of printing have taken many forms. His abiding concern has always been to retain the humanistic values of true printing craftsmanship and pre­servation of the freedom of the press. Dr. Lieberman founded the American Printing History Association in 1973 to encourage the study of printing history and the preserva­tion of printing artifacts as part of the humanistic tradition. He guided the infant organization in its role of encouraging individuals, institutions and other organizations to contribute to a common goal of preserving and using oral, written and printed source materials for printing history. Dr. Lieberman is a noted private press proprietor at his Herity Press, which he operates with his wife Elizabeth. He has long been active in the Chappel organizations of private presses, having founded the world chappel movement in 1956. The Herity Press was founded in 1952, when the Liebermans lived in San Francisco. It is now located at their home in New Rochelle. Star of their press, pridefully en­sconced in their living room is the famous Kelmscott/Goudy press. This Albion was the press used by William Morris’ Kelmscott Press for the Kelmscott Chaucer. Later it was owned by Fred Goudy, the American type designer, and eventually came into the Lieberman printing shop.

Ben’s doctorate is in political science from Stanford. He began his career as a newspaper reporter in his home town of Evansville, Indiana. During World War II he was the Director of Informational Services for the U.S. Navy with the rank of Commander, and editor of the monthly magazine, ALL HANDS. He was professor in the Graduate Schools of Business and Journalism of Columbia, and taught at the University of California at Berkeley. He was consultant to the Ford Foundation’s Fund for the Advancement of Educa­tion, worked with the UN’s Organization for Economic Cooperation, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the U.S. State Department’s foreign aid program. He was a public rela­tions associate at General Food, worked as an economist at Stanford Research Institute, as the assistant general manager of the San Francisco Chronicle. He joined the inter­national public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton in 1967 and became a vice president in 1970. He took early retirement only a few years ago to work on some personal projects.

Major among these was the establishment of the Myriade Press, which has published some valuable books in the field of graphic arts, including such valuable sources as GOUDY’S TYPE DESIGNS H. Zapf’s TYPOGRAPHIC VARIATIONS, and a second edition of Ben’s own valuable TYPE AND TYPEFACES. Ben’s publishing endeavor has done a real service to students of printing in making these books available, in the series he has named the
“Treasures of Typography.”

One of the products of the Herity Press is publication of a “Check-Log” of private press names, compiled by Elizabeth Lieberman. This little book acts as a register of private press names and help private press props. to avoid duplicating a press name already in use. The CHECK-LOG has gone through many editions.

Ben’s book PRINTING AS A HOBBY has been published in both hard cover and paperback and has inspired many an amateur printer.

Ben Lieberman is also an inventor with patents on three different kinds of very simple small printing presses designed for home use. One of the presses, called the Liberty Press, has been bought by more than 10,000 beginners through his own company.

Presenting the Award plaque to Dr. Lieberman, Prof. Brody made the following remarks:

“Through his own extensive writing, through his publishing, through his printing, through his encouragement of private press printing and the chappel movement, but most of all for his ability to inspire all of us with his own ideals we thank Ben Lieberman today. Ben’s indomitable spirit can not be subdued, even by illness. We gave Ben a citation when he stepped down from the APHA presidency in 1978, and I simply want to repeat what we expressed then: ‘For both his indispensable contributions of the past, and the advice and support we shall receive from him in the future, we hereby express our deepest respect and gratitude.’ Ben embodies the very spirit of APHA. For all of his contributions to the study of printing history, I am proud to bestow upon him our Annual APHA Award.”