Skip to the good stuff!


ISO: Map Makers’ Decorative Borders

From Facebook:

Hello, I’ve been searching for some further information regarding the decorative borders used by the American Map Makers of the 1800s. Colton NYC Mitchell Philly Johnson etc. I figured your members might know of where i can delve further into the design, alterations and development. Thanks Neil.


ISO: History of African American Printers

From the contact form:

I am a graduate student at DePaul University and I am researching the history of African American printers in the U.S. I wonder if your organization could offer any assistance or guidance for my research. 


ISO: Offset Powder or French Chalk

From the contact form:

I am researching printing during the 1960s-1970s. I am particularly looking at materials used for the printing press called offset powder or french chalk. Do you know any names of these type of products made by big brands which would have been used during this period?
I appreciate you taking the time to read and consider this.


About Thumb Indexes

George Barnum

Indexing machines, ca. 1905. (Courtesy US GPO)

The following query appeared on this site recently:

Please, I would like to know the term used for the “thumb indents” found in older hardbound dictionaries, one at the start of each new letter. Also, was making these indents considered part of the binding process, and how was it accomplished?  [Read more]

Call for Proposals 2018

Sara T. Sauers

The Friends of Dard Hunter (FDH) and the American Printing History Association (APHA) welcome proposals for their joint conference “Matrices: The Social Life of Paper, Print, and Art,” at the University of Iowa Center for the Book Iowa City, Iowa, October 25–27, 2018. Proposals are due March 31, 2018. FDH and APHA invite proposals for presentations, demonstrations, and workshops that explore the technological and cultural matrices of art printed on or made from handmade paper. PDF. [Read more]

ISO: thumb indents?

From the contact form:

Please, I would like to know the term used for the “thumb indents” found in older hardbound dictionaries, one at the start of each new letter. Also, was making these indents considered part of the binding process, and how was it accomplished?

Robin Atkins


ISO: Printing History article about Jonas Winchester

From APHA’s Facebook page:

I’m writing a piece on the reception of Swedish novelist Fredrika Bremer in the US in the 1840s, and have come across the printer and publisher Jonas Winchester. Is this a photograph of him, from Printing History 9 Number 1 1983? Is it possible to get hold of the article by James J. Barnes, “Jonas Winchester: Speculator, Medicine Man”, or can you tell me more about the photo?

Good, But Not So Fast or Cheap

Michael Winship

Homes of American Authors (New York: G. P. Putnam & Co., 1853). (From the collection of the author)

The following paper was intended to be the keynote address at the APHA/CHAViC Conference. While Dr. Winship was unable to  deliver it, the American Printing History Association is pleased that he has allowed us to present it here.

It has become a commonplace to associate the industrial revolution in the United States with the emergence of a mass culture aimed at a popular and commercial marketplace and to characterize the output of American printers and publishers of the industrial era with such adjectives as “good, fast, and cheap.” Many accounts echo this assessment, pointing to a supposed “century-long quest to make books more quickly, more cheaply, and in greater numbers than ever before.” If not exactly pejorative, such assessments do not hold much promise for the connoisseur of high-quality fine printing.  [Read more]

ISO: Los Angeles Litho Co. ca 1891

Via the contact form:

I have a rare booklet ca. 1891 titled Southern California a Few Facts About a Fortunate Country. The printer was Los Angeles Litho Co. Anybody know anything about this firm?

Regards, Jan Hanna

Mind Your Thorns & Eths: A Letterpress Travelogue

Amelia Hugill-Fontanel

Used books adorning a printing press at Bókakjallarinn in Reykjavík. (A. Fontanel)

A winter vacation to Reykjavík, Iceland is a must if you want to trade cold Northern cityscapes for colder, but breathtaking, geothermal hot springs, ancient geysers, and a chance to view the Aurora Borealis. Those attractions were so alluring, but this printing historian was inevitably drawn to used bookshops and thrift stores for the true flavor of this capital city. My busman’s holiday led to a mini-tour of the letterpress establishments in town.  [Read more]