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Limited Editions Club

The 2013 APHA Awards Committee names the Limited Editions Club for its institutional award. Recognizing that institutions as well as individuals make important contributions to history and that the preservation of such history-minded institutions is a high priority today, APHA stipulates that the criteria for this award should be the same as those for the individual award, namely that the institution is making “a distinguished contribution to the study, recording, preservation, or dissemination of printing history, in any specific area or in general terms.”

Over the course of more than eighty years, and through nearly six hundred finely crafted volumes, the Limited Editions Club has promoted unique collaborations between visual artists and writers, typographers and papermakers, printers and binders. Its productions have reached well beyond its member-subscribers, who have ranged in number from a few hundred to two thousand, to collectors of various kinds, including many institutional libraries – among them, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which in 1970 acquired the Club’s archives from the first phases of its operations. The Limited Editions Club has cultivated public awareness and sustained appreciation for the traditional arts of the book through decades of rapid change in the publishing and distribution of printed works, and now through an electronic revolution. It has enjoyed a longer continuous operation than any of the individual fine and private presses that were established in the wake of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and has involved many of their artisans in the realization of its manifold productions.

The Limited Editions Club was started in 1929 by George Macy. At age 29, he was an avid reader hoping to make his living from books. The idea was to publish handsomely illustrated classic titles in small quantities; members received books for their dues. The pictures were by illustrators, photographers, and sometimes “fine artists,” such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Grant Wood. Macy frequently used the best designers and printers, including Bruce Rogers and Francis Meynell.

Limited Editions Club was continued by his wife, and then his son, after his death in 1956. In 1970 it was sold, and ownership changed frequently over the next few years. Sidney Shiff acquired it in 1978 and gradually moved towards producing only livres d’artiste. Though the focus shifted away from affordability, Shiff was able to continue the tradition of craftsmanship. Michael and Winifred Bixler, the late Dan Carr and his partner Julia Ferrari, Wild Carrot Letterpress, and Jon Goodman have been among the many contributing bookmakers.

With Sidney Schiff’s death, the baton has again been passed, this time to Jeanne Schiff, his wife. Books are continuing to appear, and a book about the Club is being written by Carol Grossman, and will be published this year by Oak Knoll.

It is a pleasure to present this year’s American Printing History Association Institutional Award to the Limited Editions Club, with Jeanne Schiff accepting.

The awards were presented during the Annual Meeting of the American Printing History Association, on Saturday, January 26, 2013, The Morgan Library, New York City.