Thirty-Five Years of the King Library Press:
A Dialogue with Carolyn Reading Hammer
Paul Evans Holbrook
From The Kentucky Review, Volume XI, Number 3, Autumn
1992, pp. 28-43. Copyright © 1992 by the University of Kentucky
MR. HOLBROOK: Since 1991 is the thirty-fifth anniversary year of the
King Library Press, the most important topic for us — perhaps other
than the future of the press — would be its origins. How did the press
MRS. HAMMER: Perhaps it is good to have this documented. Amelia
Buckley and I had been printing at the Bur Press since 1943. When we
decided to close operations at the Bur Press our Chandler & Price,
located at my studio in Bullock Place, was moved to the basement of
the King Library, in the Acquisitions Department, together with type,
equipment, and paper.
MR. HOLBROOK: So, early on, you were using only the Chandler &
Price? When did the King Library Press obtain its first hand press?
MRS. HAMMER: The idea for a hand press at the King Library goes back
even before 1956 — the official beginning — to the Anvil Press. A
group of friends of Victor Hammer had gotten together and formed the
Anvil Press in 1952. Victor designed the books for the press and Jacob
Hammer served as pressman. I first thought of a real press at the
library after I visited the bibliographical press at Oxford. A friend
of Victor's held the chair in bibliography there. One day we went out
to lunch with him and to see the library and his quarters. He had set
up a press, and had about five students coming in. His purpose was to
instruct them in how a book was put together. They were, in fact,
producing the old work — using vellum or parchment for the tympan, the
Fell types, and so forth. Their work was fair, and they were learning
everything about authentic methods and materials.
After my trip abroad, I conceived of the idea of a bibliographic press
at the library. Since Jacob Hammer had left Lexington, Joseph C.
Graves and I, together with the other Associates, felt it would be
fitting for the King Library if we would donate the Anvil Press and
its equipment to it. There were a number of people at the University
of Kentucky who were against this, because they
wanted to control any printing done on campus. And so we withdrew the
offer. Nevertheless, the press belonging to the Anvil Press
Associates, first owned by Gordon Bechanan and then by Nancy Lair, was
later moved to the King Library, and located adjacent to the old Rare
Book Room. When this press came to the King Library, I continued using
the imprint of the Anvil Press as my personal press at home on Market
Street. And the press itself was put into use at the University.
Carolyn Reading Hammer, formerly the University of Kentucky's Curator
of Rare Books and the founder of the King Library Press.
Our help was mostly people employed in Acquisitions — students —
including a young Jordanian named Sami Sahd. We printed quite a number
of book-plates, as well as some notices and stationery — not official,
but it looked very official. Then Nancy Chambers Lair, Stokley
Gribble, Mary Voorhes, and I decided we should do something more
substantial, so we started going down at noon to print books. Somebody
would go out for sandwiches, and while two people were printing, the
others ate lunch. The first book we printed was called The Marriage of
Cock Robin and Jenny Wren in 1956. We called the press the High Noon
Press, because of the hours we worked; but in our bibliography we have
attributed it to the King Library Press, since it was really the start
of the whole endeavor.
We printed for the pleasure of it, and because nobody stopped us. We
had a number of visitors each noon hour — we were down in the basement,
and our activities seemed very bohemian to the professors and to
friends. Some days we were so interrupted that the hour passed without
having a page printed.
MR. HOLBROOK: Why did you select Cock Robin as your first
MRS. HAMMER: I found it one day in some discarded books.
MR. HOLBROOK: Yes, I saw it recently in the basement in Special
MRS. HAMMER: Well, it had some charming illustrations, but no
title-page with publication data — but later I've seen it advertised in
Blackwell's catalogue. Most of our books have been illustrated by
using original drawings or borrowing illustrations from older texts
and having line-cuts made — just as we did with Michael Bruer's
illustrations for Rhymes for A. Wince, a later publication.
MR. HOLBROOK: It's only with our most recent publication, The
Last Will and Testament of Henry Clay, that we finally have
original wood engravings to work from. Steve Armstrong has engraved
these into boxwood blocks — one of Henry Clay, after the
bust by H.K. Brown, and another of Clay's home, Ashland.
MRS. HAMMER: Yes, actually this could be a thing the Art Department
could cooperate with, getting students interested in. Wood engraving
is really very difficult and demanding as an art form, though.
MR. HOLBROOK: Jim Foose did a wood-cut illustration for John Clubbe's
essay on Boone and Byron, and, of course, we have a number of Fritz
Kredel's wood blocks — gifts from the Gravesend Press.
MRS. HAMMER: Yes, we have those, and then we have used quite a few
Anvil Press cuts, and some personal cuts I have had made.
MR. HOLBROOK: Could we backtrack, and let me ask you when you got
interested in printing?
MRS. HAMMER: When I was at Columbia University in library school, Dr.
Shaver taught a course on rare books, which I found fascinating. I saw
a number of great collections in New York, and suddenly realized that
there were a few people still interested, and working at hand presses.
When I returned to Lexington to live in 1940, I suggested to Amelia
Buckley that we have a private press — a better term would be
"small press” or “book arts press.” So we started
printing for fun — but we took our pleasure very seriously. Our
Bur Press issued several titles of interest, beginning with The
Education of a Gentleman by Margaret Wagers, the first of a series of
four Kentucky monographs.
MR. HOLBROOK: What influence did Victor Hammer have on your printing
MRS. HAMMER: When I first met Victor Hammer — before we
established the Anvil Press — he gave classes at Transylvania.
Quite a few of us went up, because we knew we could learn a great deal
from him. Amelia Buckley became interested in calligraphy, and I
wanted a Washington-style handpress. I was able to buy one from Joseph
C. Graves, who had obtained for himself a larger press from the
Lexington Gravure Company. He called his press the Gravesend Press. It
is the one you now use at the King Library Press. And when we did
learn from Victor, we dismissed all the earlier self-taught techniques
we had used. Victor had brought his own knowledge from Florence and
Vienna, from the traditions of printing in Europe, since its origins
in the fifteenth century.
MR. HOLBROOK: And, yet, we print with some improvements.
MRS. HAMMER: Of course, we have never tried to be a
bibliographical press in the sense that we try to do things in the
traditional manner, yet not absolutely. We use metal, not wooden
furniture. We use very fine pins for paper registration, and we
don’t lock up our press forms the way they used to, by driving
wedge-shaped quoins in at the edges — we have quoins that lock
with keys. But really, these improvements are slight.
MR. HOLBROOK: The inking has been most improved.
MRS. HAMMER: We no longer use inking balls. Victor did at first, then
he used glue and beeswax rollers, then composition rollers. Now we
have the rubber ones. All of these little niceties that make our
printing as decent as it is comes from the fact that we not only have
time — we’re not publishing a weekly newspaper, or daily broadside — and
we’re trying to learn to really do a good job. The term “book arts”
includes a knowledge of typefaces, letter forms in general, paper,
binding, as well as the decorative features of the book — and it is an
MR. HOLBROOK: Initially, what was to be the King Library Press was
only using the Chandler & Price . Was the press of the Anvil Press the
next one put into use?
MRS. HAMMER: First, we acquired the wooden press. To support the work
of Victor Hammer in Lexington, a group of friends established a fund
to purchase books for the library, and they also acquired the press.
It was Victor’s first press, built in Florence in 1927, and shipped
over from Vienna after Victor came to Lexington. The model for it was
the wooden press in the Laurentian Library in Florence, said by the
curator to be the Raimondi Press. Ezio Pratese and two assistants
constructed the press based on drawings Victor had made. They used
parts of an old oak wine press, and had another craftsman turn on his
lathe the steel spindle. With this press, Victor established the
Stamperia del Santuccio in Florence.
MR. HOLBROOK: The King Library Press is fortunate to have it.
MRS. HAMMER: Mary Voorhes printed a meditation by Thomas Merton, which
he had given to me, called Prometheus, on the Chandler & Price in
1958; and in 1959 we printed Lincoln’s Oration at the Dedication of
the Gettysburg National Cemetery November 19, 1863, using the wooden
press. We felt like we had finally really produced a book by hand at
Then, a bit later, we acquired the second press from Nancy Lair. It
was the Washington-style press — more or less a Hoe — that
we had used at the Anvil Press. Then, after the death of Joe
Graves, Lucy Graves gave the Gravesend Press to the King Library,
together with quite a nice printing and typographical library, other
very nice books, and a number of wood-cuts and line-cuts of Fritz
Kredel’s illustrations. It was her understanding that we would
use the press and start printing on it. There was little or no money
available, but the Director of Libraries, Stuart Forth, allowed two of
his workers to come and help, and R. Hunter Middleton came down from
Chicago. We had a three month session in the summer of 1968 from nine
to five p.m., daily. IBM even got interested and sent a person over to
work with us, Roger Roberson, and he, along with William Gardner and
Jonathan Greene, worked with Bob and me. We completed Wendell
Berry’s The Rise, and that was the first official book printed
on the Gravesend Press.
Paul E. Holbrook at the University of Kentucky’s King Library Press.
In the following summer, 1969, I had a student from the School of
Library Science, Shiela Maybanks, who was given permission to take
special training at the press. She printed a short book called
King and Hermit. By doing this summer project she got her
credits in library science. This was the first of several Independent
MR. HOLBROOK: Yes, I have two presently — one from Library
Science and the other from Fine Arts — each learning the
fundamentals of printing with a hand press, and getting a start in the
book arts. We have always been a teaching as well as printing press.
MRS. HAMMER: Yes, its a great opportunity for students of all sorts to
familiarize themselves with the arts of the book.
After this activity there was a bit of a lull in 1969 and 1970. I
asked John Jacob Niles if we could print rhymes from his novel, called
A. Wince. We asked Michael Bruer to illustrate them, which he did in a
very charming way, and hand-colored them. Shiela Maybanks and Ashley
Bullitt printed it, and when it was finished in 1971, it immediately
went out of print. I’d like to remember, too, Margaret Williams
who helped me do all the binding and casing of the books at this time.
We followed Rhymes for A. Wince in 1972 with James Lane Allen’s
Mountain Passes of the Cumberlands. We actually began setting type for
this book in the summer of 1969, so the period was not inactive
completely. We worked on it for three summers in all. Allen Lindsey,
Peggy Bennington, Travis DuPriest, Mabel Benson, and Gray Zeitz were
all involved. Travis and Mabel are
now married and have printed under the imprint of the Southport Press
at Carthage College. Gray Zeitz now is the proprietor of the Larkspur
Press in Monterey, Kentucky, and does fine work.
By the time the next book was finished in 1973 — the Six Letters
of Boris Pasternak and Thomas Merton — we felt we were really
under way. Thomas Merton had given me the manuscript letters, and I
gave them to the library. They are now a part of the King Library
Special Collections. It took us two years to finish, partly because we
had a very lengthy correspondence with Lydia Pasternak Slayter in
order to get ready to print. Naomi Burton Stone edited the Merton
letters and wrote a foreword to the volume; Lydia Pasternak Slayter
edited the Pasternak letters and wrote the introduction. We printed
150 copies altogether, and that, too, went quickly out of print.
MR. HOLBROOK: About this time you were able to pay apprentices. After
I met Travis DuPriest at Harvard in 1971 he urged me to come to
Lexington, which I did the following summer. You had just finished the
Pasternak-Merton correspondence, and were working on Burton
Milward’s essay, William “King” Solomon and coloring
illustrations for Dick Whittington and his Cat.
MRS. HAMMER: Yes, those books got underway because we had our first
apprentices paid with a small stipend — a gift of an endowment
from Lucy Graves. And we were also permitting different staff members
to work eight hours a week for the press, which counted on their
library time. So we finished King Solomon and Dick Whittington both in
1974. Nancy Lair, who has now established her own press at her home in
Salisbury, Indiana, and Gay Reading, now printing at the Reading Lion
Press and the Windell Press, had been printing Aratus’s
Phenomena, and we finished it up the following year in the library. It
was illustrated with woodcuts by Erhard Ratdolt, and was quite
good-looking. It became a sort of joint publication of the Anvil Press
and the King Library Press, since the paper and the cuts came to the
library as a gift from the Anvil Press.
MR. HOLBROOK: During these years, in addition to my serving as an
apprentice only during the summers, you had quite a dedicated group of
MRS. HAMMER: We did indeed. Under the supervision of Margaret Williams
we had Jesse Adams and Nancy Whitmire from the staff, and Barbara
Harris and Michael Snyder who were
students, all binding books. Christopher Meat yard and Gray Zeitz were
both printing. Gray was invaluable as a mechanic, keeping the presses
in order. We gave him the Chandler & Price because he had earned
it, for his press in Monterey. In addition to them, and the DuPriests
— also summer apprentices — there were Harry Gilbert,
Lance Wyman, Lynn Murray, Bonnie Reed, John Richardson, Joe Argabrite,
Barbara Harris, David Smith, Carolyn Whitesel, and Ida Nieves-Collazo.
Ida was from Puerto Rico and was graduating with honors from the
Rochester Institute of Technology, where she had studied all of the
mechanical processes of printing, advertising, and so forth. One of
her classmates brought her here to show her Kentucky. She saw our
operation and was quite interested. So I said, “Do you think you can
possibly get an extension of your grant and come down and spend the
summer with us?” We put her on the student payroll, and she never
wanted to go back to doing what she had learned so laboriously in
Rochester. Ida returned to Puerto Rico and was given the use of a fine
rare press on which the first newspaper in Puerto Rico was published.
MR. HOLBROOK: She was lucky, because hand presses are rare nowadays
and expensive to purchase if they can be found, especially since the
Second World War took so many of them for scrap iron.
MRS. HAMMER: The King Library Press is lucky to have four presses in
MR. HOLBROOK: Yes, in addition to Victor Hammer’s wooden press, and
the Gravesend Press, we have two large Washington style presses — one a
gift from Waveland, the other acquired from John Richardson. They’re
all finally in working order, awaiting use.
As I recall, after the Aratus was finished the next title issued was
The Seafarer in 1975.
MRS. HAMMER: George McWhorter, Rare Book Librarian at the University
of Louisville, had translated it from the Old English. I was enchanted
by it, and thought that as an original work it would be nice to print.
We marbled paper successfully for the covers for the first time.
Calvert Guthrie, now a working calligrapher, rendered the medieval sea
birds for use on the title page, cover, and dust jacket. David Oldham,
Carolyn Whitesel, and Sallie Ruff were all involved.
MR. HOLBROOK: And the next title, also in 1976, was The Day
Book Account of John C. Cozine. I remember working on the map of his
MRS. HAMMER: The Cozine was actually being set and partially printed
at the same time as the Aratus. We chose this because Jacqueline Bull,
head of Special Collections, had selected it. We had asked her for
something we could print from our original manuscript collections,
works of some interest. John Cozine had travelled from Harrodsburg to
New York and back in 1828 on family business, and kept a remarkable
account of his journey so the family would know what had transpired.
The illustrations were taken from Basil Hall, Forty Etchings from
Sketches. It is a part of our “Kentuckiana” series that the King
Library Press has issued books of a particular focus on Kentucky. We
had several new people working on it — David Farrell, Robert Glass,
Pamela Johnson, David Sider, and Nanette Wright, in addition to you,
Christopher Meat yard, Sallie Ruff, Carolyn Whitesel, David Oldham,
and Calvert Guthrie.
MR. HOLBROOK: Christopher started working on The Rabinal at this time.
MRS. HAMMER: Christopher did the printing of The Rabinal, and began
using the wooden press. It was first printed by Victor Hammer in
Herbert Steiner’s Mesa series. It’s a Guatemalan, Quiche Indian
play — really a ritual enactment — with music. It was transcribed from a
performance by a French priest in the early eighteenth century.
Christopher did some very good illustrations for it. He was almost the
only one who could pull the arm of the wooden press with all that type
in it. Calvert Guthrie calligraphed the musical notation, working from
Lynn Murray’s transcription. We have been told by some that it is
unplayable and unsingable, but we have tried, nonetheless, with little
success. The Rabinal was bound in a Japanese style binding and fitted
into a case. It was the most ambitious work we had done.
MR. HOLBROOK: Also in 1977, another chapbook was completed, as well as
The Kikkuli Text, the Hittite horse training manual.
MRS. HAMMER: The Keeneland Association Library owns a horse training
manual translated from the Hittite cuneiform into German. Amelia
Buckley had obtained it some years ago for Mr. Joseph Estes. Mr. Estes
had requested Gerhard Probst, then a Fulbright Scholar at the
University of Kentucky, to translate the German text into English.
Shortly after he completed it, I
requested permission to print this manual at the Anvil Press and
bought a few fonts of type from France to do so, but I didn’t
get very far. Some while later we were given permission again. The
Keeneland Association found out that we were limited by an acute lack
of type and paper, and so aided our efforts. The little book is a
remarkable practical guide for horse trainers and as pertinent today
in our horse country as it was 3,000 years ago in the Near East.
MR. HOLBROOK: I remember well the Library Associates dinner that year.
Elizabeth Hardwick, the guest speaker, began her remarks after supper
with “Everything in Lexington has a horse head on it.”
After dinner, when she had finished, you presented her a copy of the
Kikkuli and ended your prepared remarks by saying “a souvenir of
our horse country and hers: this little book with an ancient
horse’s head upon its cover.” It was perfect synchronicity
and very amusing for her, too, I think. The binding for the Kikkuli
was rather innovative as well.
MRS. HAMMER: The whole design was — we set the entire text in
capital letters to suggest the cuneiform, and folded each sheet into
thirds in an accordion fold to suggest the original clay tablets. The
entire text of folded “tablets” was cased in a
buckram-covered three-part case and tied together. Carolyn Whitesel
adapted some good illustrations, from photographic plates of Hittite
art works, and Sallie Ruff did the printing.
MR. HOLBROOK: You mentioned the chapbooks earlier — the last one
was the Pride of Peter Prim, but the King Library Press has printed
several, including The Marriage of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren.
MRS. HAMMER: Yes, Special Collections has an excellent chapbook
collection, and they are perfect books for beginning compositors to
set in type — they’re not too long. I’ve referred to
them before as “pot-boilers.” They’re short enough
for a student to come in and learn to set type, learn to print, and
get some result — as well as to bring in a bit of quick money
for the press. But really, by the time the illustrations are colored
by hand, it won’t be as quick. Mildred Stanley, of the Division
of Special Collections, helped out on all the coloring from the
MR. HOLBROOK: Yes, I remember practically everyone pitching in to
color Dick Whittington and his Cat as well as the Pride of Peter Prim
— a cooperative community effort, really a medieval model comes
to mind, with a master teaching apprentices.
What would you say is most important for an apprentice to learn? Or,
how is it possible to teach someone what you know?
MRS. HAMMER: You can’t teach, but they can learn. Ultimately
it’s a matter of developing an eye for the work, and translating
your taste into the work at hand. Now, I’m very arbitrary in my
taste, as people always are, and I’ve said that when apprentices
go out from my press they can exercise their own taste, but while
they’re my apprentices, and while they are learning, they must
exercise mine. This is the only way I ever learned. You don’t go
out and know how to do something. And it is again a matter of the eye,
and also a sense of what to look for — and only by comparison
can you say, “this is better or this is worse” —
and know what to discard and what to use. You have to develop a sense
of what letters go together and how — and I’m talking
about spacing — and it depends on what type face you happen to
be using. I personally am an exponent of very narrow spacing, because
I believe you want black on white — a solid mass of black with a
white border. There have been many books written on margins, on
leading between lines of type, but I don’t follow this, because
once you get beyond some standard or other, once you develop your own
eye, you must simply use your vision, your eye — and as long as
you’re my apprentice — my taste! (Not that we didn’t
MR. HOLBROOK: Another thing that’s difficult for people learning to
print, other than composition, is paper preparation, and use of ink.
Overinking has been a difficult thing for me to learn not to do, but
once you’ve seen it, you at last, and at least, know better.
MRS. HAMMER: Printing on dampened paper takes a great deal of time and
preparation. The humidors in use at the King Library Press help a
great deal. But you have to plan one day how many sheets you’re
going to print the next. And, too, it’s hard to start out
apprentices, because it’s tricky — it’s not
difficult — it just takes time and planning.
The humidity is another factor that must be considered, with
controlled conditions, as they are at the King Library, it isn’t
such a problem, but otherwise humidity can affect the tympan tautness,
the way the ink behaves on the paper, and the paper itself. It’s
easier to print with dampened paper in humid weather — it stays
damp easily, but the tympan should always be just like a drum to hold
paper in place.
One thing about the ink, which is also very tricky, is that in
extremely hot, humid weather — as we have here in Kentucky
sometimes — the rubber rollers will simply not pick it up. Now,
we used to have composition rollers. You had to coat them with oil to
harden them a little bit, but now, with the rubber rollers, we have no
great problem. Some days a quirk of atmosphere still affects the ink,
MR. HOLBROOK: What about your experience of printing with different
MRS. HAMMER: Well, at the Bur Press we first printed with Goudy
Oldstyle. Then, with Victor, we printed with his uncial types. The
King Library Press has used some of the uncial type in the past
— The Seafarer, for instance, was set in the Samson Uncial, and
the Prometheus meditations in American Uncial.
MR. HOLBROOK: We have just ordered a new casting of American Uncial,
and we have enough to do a bit with, but hope to acquire more
MRS. HAMMER: Then, basically, at the King Library Press we used
Caslon, together with Rudolf Koch’s Jessenschrift and Joe
Blumenthal’s Emerson type. When Gay Reading was director of the
King Library Press, he acquired some of Hermann Zapf’s types,
and used them, for instance, in his remarkable edition of
Swinburne’s On the Cliffs — which was printed on a single
sheet of Japanese paper and folded in an accordion fold. He did it
with the assistance of Susan Clay and Joan Davis, who was later acting
director of the Press. John Tuska did the decorative frieze above the
text as well as the paper sculpture on the book cover.
MR. HOLBROOK: Type is not inexpensive to purchase.
MRS. HAMMER: No, you need several thousands of dollars worth to really
get going. If you have just a bit of type, you must set a page, print
it, knock it down, and set up the next page with the same type —
and it wears out. It’s not inexhaustible.
MR. HOLBROOK: Our most recently acquired types seem to be less durable
than older types are.
MRS. HAMMER: Yes, ATF was a good metal type, some of the uncials we
have had re-cast, and they’ve been done with inferior metal — it’s not
hard enough, and wears much more rapidly. We’re hoping through some
friends in New Jersey to have new uncial castings in the near future.
MR. HOLBROOK: The type itself, in a way, defines the book, does it
MRS. HAMMER: Typeface, and its use. People are often tempted to use
too many type faces, and they don’t go together. These books lack
strength because they lack simplicity. The simpler things are, the
stronger they will be. The size of a book is determined by the size of
the paper. We usually take a sheet of paper and fold it in half, or
quarter it, or eighth it, and then determine the desirable size, and
whether we will have a quarto or octavo or folio. Then you can
determine the length of the line on a page. Paper is the first
MR. HOLBROOK: Both Robert Cazden’s and J.R. Jones’s
bibliography classes still come to the press for a lecture each term,
and sometimes students not only understand, but are inspired to learn,
and so become apprentices.
MRS. HAMMER: The same thing is true with binding. You understand a
book on binding after you’ve cased a book simply.
The purchase of the wooden press for the library inspired me and made
me persist despite the fact that we could never generate enough
interest to afford to buy enough equipment. Most of what the press
has, has been given to us over the years. And we were extremely
fortunate to get the Gravesend Press.
MR. HOLBROOK: And now with the press from Waveland, we have four
working again. Of course, if they were all in operation simultaneously
we would have a space problem!
MRS. HAMMER: We never really had enough table space in the old
location for layout, and it would be nice to have a separate but
nearby — area designated as a bindery. Perhaps with the new library
being built there will be more room, wherever the press ends up.
MR. HOLBROOK: And also more interest generated, too. I must say the
Press has had a number of very good friends in the Library Associates,
in the various academic departments, among library staff members, and
in the community at large.
MRS. HAMMER: Early on we were just trying to make people realize it
wasn’t completely an esoteric activity, and that a press could
serve both the library and the Department of Library Science, as well.
There’s no reason why a library should not publish. There are
many that do, but don’t do their own work. Here, we do our own
work as well as publishing, and this is rare. Iowa and Alabama have
well established presses, Columbia has an occasional press, and
Dartmouth is beginning one, but none are library presses in the sense
ours is. And this uniqueness needs to
be capitalized on.
MR. HOLBROOK: I’ve always thought that every student of Library
Science should be required to serve one semester as an apprentice to
the King Library Press — and get credit hours for it. I see no
reason why this should not be the case. The result in terms of the
life of the Press would be tremendous.
MRS. HAMMER: I had a great, great interest in books from very early
childhood, and I can trace my development as a printer from this
beginning. This brings, or should bring, people into library science
schools to start with their love for and interest in books.
MR. HOLBROOK: Even in the computer age!
MRS. HAMMER: Even in the computer age. We should set up specific
courses in the history of the book, and an appreciation of binding,
the appreciation of the quality of paper, of type, letter forms, and
calligraphy. To return to your question about the future of the Press,
it was after I left the Press that the seminars in graphic design got
started under its next director, Gay Reading, working together with
the Curator of Rare Books, David Farrell, and later, Jim Birchfield.
These seminars brought notable authorities in different areas of the
“book arts” together here in Lexington. They were
extremely valuable symposia.
MR. HOLBROOK: I think there were seven in all. In 1976, the
preëminent German typographer, Hermann Zapf, came for calligraphy
and graphic design workshops, and lectures in typography.
At the second seminar in 1977 there were four important guests: John
Dreyfus, typographical advisor of the Cambridge University Press and
Monotype Corporation of London, and an expert in the printing arts;
Stephen Harvard, who was a gifted designer and calligrapher at the
Stinehour Press in Vermont; and Adrian and Joyce Wilson of the Press
in Tuscany Alley in San Francisco. Dreyfus and the Wilsons lectured
and offered a design seminar, and Stephen Harvard held a punchcutting
and stonecutting workshop.
For the 1978 seminar, Hans Schmoller, a designer and director at
Penguin Books, lectured about Giovanni Mardersteig and Jan Tschichold.
Leo Wyatt, master wood and copper engraver, conducted workshops and
spoke about letter forms.
Rudolf Koch and the Offenbach Workshop was the focus of the seminar in
1980. Artist and typographer Warren Chappell; Andrev Hoyem, a
prominent California printer; freelance graphic designer
Lance Hidy; and Jean Evans, a calligrapher, all participated.
Victor Hammer’s Centenary was celebrated with a seminar devoted
to his achievements in the arts of the book in 1981. John Dreyfus
participated for a second time. He was joined by Harry Duncan, the
proprietor of the Cummington Press, together with R. Hunter Middleton
of the Cherryburn Press, one of our early benefactors.
Then, after Joan Davis became the acting director of the Press, a
seminar was held in 1983 with printer Gabriel Rummonds and the binder
Jerilyn Davis who lectured and demonstrated their expertise.
MRS. HAMMER: When people who are true masters teach a student, there
is the real possibility that the student will genuinely learn the art.
The fact is that I was a student of Victor Hammer’s and that I
have tried to pass on what I learned.
MR. HOLBROOK: And so I try to teach what I have learned from you.
MRS. HAMMER: And all these aspects of the book are so important. One
of the most interesting things about printing is that one chooses what
one wants to print, and then one learns so much from doing it.
MR. HOLBROOK: With the October 1991 symposium in honor of the
thirty-fifth anniversary of the King Library Press, we again have
brought an expert in the book arts into our midst to try to learn from
him — Stanley Nelson from the Smithsonian Institution, who gave a
type-casting demonstration and lectured on “Typefounding and
Punchcutting in Today’s Computer World.”
Let us hope that marking our anniversary in this way will bode well
for the future of the King Library Press as a teaching press in the
best traditions of our benefactors.