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Christie’s to Auction Famed Kelmscott-Goudy Hand Press

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The Kelmscott/Goudy Press, the Albion iron hand press No. 6551 once owned by William Morris in England and Frederic W. Goudy in New York, will be auctioned by Christie’s on December 6 in New York City.

The press, manufactured by Hopkinson & Cope in 1891, was installed at the Kelmscott Press in 1895 and specially reinforced to produce the oversized Chaucer in 1896. Morris died that year and the press passed into several hands before Goudy brought it to the United States and to his Village Press in 1924.

For more than a century the K/G Press, as it came to be known, has been a symbol of the private press movement in the United States. Goudy revered it, writing that his “acquisition of this press should be sufficient reason to insure for the Village Press a very definite mention in the annals of American printing.”

In late 1960, the press was acquired by my parents, Elizabeth and J. Ben Lieberman, and their Herity Press. Ben Lieberman (1914–1984) was founder of the American Printing History Association. He was a tireless proponent of the private press movement, viewing private press printing both as an art form and as a significant means of defending freedom of the press. In that spirit, he was also founder of the American printing chappels movement and a member, among others, of the original Moxon Chappel in California in the 1950s. For four decades the press resided in the Liebermans’ home, first in White Plains, New York, and later in New Rochelle. Hundreds of people came to visit it, set their names in type, and print a personalized bookmark. One of the visitors was Alfred A. Knopf, who confessed that it was the only time he had ever set type in his life. All of those who printed on it during those years signed a special guest register, which will be included with the press at auction. 

When my mother died in 2001, my wife and I inherited the press, and it has remained with us in Ardsley, New York, since then. After 53 years with our family, it is time for its next journey, and for an owner who will put it back to work. The press will be available for viewing between November 30 and December 5 at Christie’s, 20 Rockefeller Plaza, on 49th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. For further information about the auction, call Christie’s at 212-636-2665.


  1. Paul Moxon, Website Editor 24 October, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    The April 1924 issue of The Inland Printer, page 62, shows Goudy and his wife Bertha at the Albion. It appears that she is registering a sheet on the frisket and his is charging the two-handled form roller (page 62). This image is just shy of being in the public domain.

    In the August 1951 issue, page 48, IP reprinted a 1933 photo of Goudy (courtesy of the Grolier Club), in black tie at Anderson Galleries, posing again with a two-handled form roller as if inking a form. The caption claims this is the press used by William Morris, but it is clearly not an Albion.

  2. Small world. I think the 1924 photograph was shortly after Goudy imported the press. FWG couldn’t afford to maintain the press, and ultimately sold it to Melbert B. Cary, the type importer, who distributed Goudy’s Village Foundry types (and after whom the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection is named). The Anderson Galleries (owned by one-time publisher Mitchell Kennerley) photograph I think was for the exhibition honoring Goudy and his Village Press (the exhibition was the basis for Melbert Cary’s 1937 bibliography of the VP). (Goudy named one of his types after Kennerley.) D.J.R. Bruckner’s book Frederic Goudy (Abrams, 1990) has a nice illustration of the press in an upper room (attic?) at Deepdene on p.62.

    The primary source for the history of this Albion press and why Ben Lieberman placed a liberty bell on the top is contained in Ben Lieberman’s The Liberty Bell on the Kelmscott Goudy Press (Yellow Barn Press, 1996). There’s a handsome wood engraving of the press by John DePol in the book. People who attend APHA’s January annual meeting may recall that the president traditionally begins the meeting by ringing a small–and different–liberty bell donated by J. Ben Lieberman.

  3. Kelmscott bibliographer and former editor of Printing History, William S. Peterson, has a notice, with the famous photo of Goudy in a smock printing on the press.

  4. Christies has the auction lot description here:

    The estimate is 100,000 – $150,000. (Christies’s provenance is really botched up. The cataloger confuses Goudy’s Village Press with Melbert Cary’s Press of the Woolly Whale.)

  5. Paul Moxon, Website Editor 6 December, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    The Price realized was $233,000.

  6. Word is that the purchaser is known to be an institution, but which one has not been revealed.

  7. Dear APHA friends,
    The Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Kelmscott/Goudy Albion No. 6551 printing press. The purchase was made possible by the generous support of the Brooks Bower Family.

    Albion No. 6551 will now join the Cary Collection’s Arthur M Lowenthal Memorial Pressroom, a working collection of 15 historical printing presses and over 1,500 fonts of metal and wood type. Supporting study of the press is a collection of Kelmscott Press publications and an archive of material related to Frederic Goudy and Melbert B. Cary, Jr.

    Curator Steve Galbraith, was quoted regarding the acquisition: “We are delighted and grateful to bring the Kelmscott/Goudy Press to the Cary Graphic Arts Collection. It will have an active life at RIT, not simply as a museum artifact, but as a working press accessible to students, scholars, and printers. I look forward to seeing what is produced on the press in the decades to come. I’m certain that the Kelmscott/Goudy Press will be a great inspiration to students at RIT and to others who visit our library’s technology collection.”

    Please consider this an open invitation to the APHA community to visit the Kelmscott/Goudy Albion when it is installed in its new home at the Cary. Look for some exciting programming around it in the months to come.

  8. Congratulations to RIT. This is a late post on more post-sales links. There is an interesting collection of ephemera relating to the Lieberman’s acquisition of the press in the 1960s, here on Flickr:

    And Robert Fleck of Oak Knoll Books describes seeing the press and buying Ben Lieberman’s library on his blog,

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