University of Kentucky




The King Library Press began in 1956 when a group of librarians, working during their lunch hours, produced a small book.

The basic tools are the wooden common press designed and used by Victor Hammer in Florence, Italy and four Washington presses, including one from Carolyn Reading Hammer’s Anvil Press on permanent loan to the K.L.P. and another endowed by Lucy Graves in memory of Joseph C. Graves, Sr. at whose Gravesend Press it had been used. More modern presses include a Vandercook SP15, a gift of the Harrodsburg Herald, a Vandercook Universal I, and several by Chandler & Price.

The influence of Carolyn Hammer, a founder and until 1976 the Press director, and the typographic tradition to be seen in the works of Victor Hammer provide inspiration for the work of the Press.

In 1927, Victor Hammer built this wooden press with the help of local Florentine craftsmen. Based on a press in the Laurentian Library, it was first used to print John Milton’s Samson Agonistes. The book was set in Mr. Hammer’s second uncial, christened Samson. Punches for the type were cut by Paul Koch, Rudolf Koch’s son. Samson Agonistes was issued in an edition of 103 copies. In 1933 Hammer closed his studio in Florence and the press was stored. In 1954 it was moved to the University of Kentucky where it was first used by the King Library Press in 1959.

The Press was founded in the King Library and later moved to the new King Library North, now the Little Library. In the summer of 1999 the Press returned to the old King Library.

For more about the history of the King Library Press, see the Kentucky Review, Volume XI, Number 3, Autumn 1992, and the papers below.

For more about Victor Hammer, see the Victor Hammer Society.

More About the Press

· “Ancient Craft Still An Art at Library,”
Hickey, 1981 (from the Communi-K)

· “Thirty-Five Years of the King Library Press: A Dialogue with Carolyn Reading Hammer,”
Holbrook, 1992 (from the Kentucky Review)

· “The Private Press Tradition in Lexington, Kentucky,”
Milward, 1992 (from the Kentucky Review)

· “Fine Printing In Lexington,”
Holbrook, 2001 (a talk given at the King Library)

· About Typecases

· Rubbing from Trajan's Column

· C-SPAN video tour, June, 2015

· “Victor Hammer: Artist and Craftsman,”
Holbrook, 2018 (a talk given at the Library of Congress)


Photograph of the King Library Press
The Victor and Carolyn Hammer Press Room in the King Library, December 2001. Also see a Quicktime panorama.