On the evening of November 15, 1888, William Morris (textile designer, architect, and all around artsy guy) attended a lecture given by his friend Emery Walker on the topic of medieval manuscripts and incunabula publications that so inspired his imagination that he said to his friend on the walk home, "Let's make a fount of type." It was, perhaps, in this very moment that the Kelmscott Press was born, and with it, the beginning of the fine press movement.
Morris hated the commercialization of cheap products now easily manufactured, and sought to fight the trend brought on by industrialization, and as such, became the founder and leader of the Arts & Crafts movement. Morris worked with Walker to design type founts and employed Edward Prince as a punchcutter (who also was the punch cutter for the Doves Press and the Ashendene) that were most commonly inspired by Jenson but had medieval trademarks in their design as well. His borders eventually became elaborately decorated.
From that point in the late 19th century in England up until the present day in the San Francisco Bay Area, fine press printing is alive and well. Locally it is patronized and promoted by the Book Club of California and give excellent shape and form through the legacy of John Henry Nash, Taylor & Taylor, and the Grabhorn Press.
Fine Press printing employs handpresses like the Albion Press and Columbian Press, moveable metal type, and fine cotton rag paper along with tasteful illustrations, colorful elements, and reproductions of maps and other images without ever losing sight of the great legacy of medieval manuscripts, the invention of moveable type, and the history of typography.
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The Book Arts & Special Collections Center is pleased to announce a brand new finding aid that gives much needed access to our printing collections. The Grabhorn Letterpress Printing Ephemera Collection is now available in the Online Archive of California www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c87d31qs/ 🌟 🌟 Whew! After much labor, sweat, and a tear or two, printers’ ephemera collected by this Library over a period of almost 100 years—job printing that includes prospectuses, notices, flyers, postcards, broadsides, bookmarks, chapbooks, menus, business cards, etc., —are now organized and searchable in our new finding aid. Housed in 300 archival boxes, more than 30,000 items are available free to everyone without appointment. From A (Leonard F. Barr’s Adagio Press) to Y (James and Carolyn Robertson’s Yolla Billy Press), and yes, to the letter Z (Karen Zukor), discover a #librarywonderland of extraordinary work by letterpress printers of California and beyond! #printingephemera #letterpressprinting #grabhorncollection #sfplbookarts #sfpubliclibrary #iglibraries #librariesofinstagram #typetuesday
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The following items are available to consult in the Archives & Special Collections reading room on the 3rd floor of the library. Email SpecialCollections@scu.edu to arrange an appointment.