Ward Ritchie (1905-1996) was one of the premier printers, book designers, and printing historians in Los Angeles in the 20th century. In his long and distinguished career, he designed, printed and published hundreds of books. Upon retirement in 1972, Ward Ritchie and his wife Marka moved to their summer house in Laguna Beach, on a slope above Emerald Bay. Ritchie bought an 1835 Albion hand press and had it installed in his studio in their home. There he began printing small editions, usually less than 50 copies, of books under the press name Laguna Verde Imprenta. He chose books that he liked and enjoyed, this was not primarily a commercial venture. He wrote many of the books, often about his friends like Robinson Jeffers and Lawrence Clark Powell. His motivation was often purely fun. Most of the books were printed on dampened, handmade papers. This exhibit, in the Special Collections and Archives lobby, tells the story of Ward Ritchie’s press Laguna Verde Imprenta and the wonderful books that he produced in this last phase of his life. This exhibit will end on Friday, May 30, 2014.
Fifty-eight years ago today, on October 7, 1955, Allen Ginsberg read his landmark poem Howl for the first time at the Six Gallery at 3119 Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Other poets who read that night were Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen. Kenneth Rexroth was there to introduce the poets.
In our small press and literature collections, Special Collections and Archives has the first printing of Howl, as published by City Lights, a later printing by the same press, and a special signed fine press edition of the poem published by Grabhorn-Hoyem in 1971. That edition is signed by both Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon, to whom Howl was dedicated. Our Small Press Collection includes thousands of literary works, many are poetry, published mainly from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Today’s blog post is written by one of our talented student employees here at UCI Special Collections & Archives, Deborah Lewis.
Frank Cushing and his beloved dog, Jigger, ca. 1960
If you were to visit to the Special Collections and Archives at UC Irvine and request to see collection number MS-R020, then perhaps you’d come across a miniature book comprised of famous nude portraits, or a 1963 tribute to President John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated, or maybe you’d see a cover of Chimera that at first glance looks strangely like a famous fantasy character (of course, this journal was printed decades before the movies). What these publications all have in common is that they were either printed or collected by Southern California’s very own Frank Myrle Cushing.
Cushing at the Garden View Press, ca. 1965
Cushing was born in 1893, and began his career as a hobby printer in 1905. He is best known for being the proprietor of the Garden View Press where he printed books for private distribution starting in 1929. Twenty-eight years later, he began printing his own journal, The Hermit’s Gazette. Not only did Cushing print his own publications, but he also collected publications from other presses like Two Maples Press and Sandy Acre Press. Besides journals and pamphlets, you can also find a variety of holiday cards (both printed by Cushing and other presses). Even though Cushing passed away on May 18, 1977, his legacy as a printer lives on at the archives.
Cushing’s journal, The Hermit’s Gazette (“This a weakly paper published semi-occasionally”)
Miniature books printed by Cushing
Come see for yourselves what this amazing collection has to offer! Our summer hours are Monday-Friday, 1pm-5pm. See you there!
Various printing produced and collected by Cushing
All images from: Frank M. Cushing Collection. MS-R020. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
For more information about this collection, visit the collection finding aid on the Online Archive of California: Guide to the Frank M. Cushing Collection
Jumbo & Colt: The Printing World of Jane Grabhorn is the current exhibit in the Special Collections and Archives lobby on the fifth floor of Langson Library. The exhibit runs from January 7 – March 22, 2013.
Jane Bissell Grabhorn (1911-1973) was a printer and publisher of considerable importance in San Francisco, the center of the evolving fine printing community of the 1930s and 40s. She was the wife of Robert Grabhorn, who with his brother Edwin established the Grabhorn Press in San Francisco in 1920. The Grabhorn Press was the most important purveyor of fine printing in America during this era, and printed several of the most important fine press books of the 20th century.
Early in her printing career, Jane had watched the two Grabhorn brothers work together, often struggling as they would try to settle on the design of each book. To amuse herself she began to explore the possibility of printing her own projects. Robert discouraged her from buying a toy Jumbo press that Jane had seen in a store window, logically explaining that they had a shop full of presses if she wanted to use one. When in 1937 she finished her first project using the shop’s Washington hand press, she perversely titled her new undertaking the Jumbo Press. Jane’s new hobby became her obsession. Her Jumbo creations are not only irreverent, unique and incredibly original; they became, and remain, exceedingly rare collector’s items.
In 1938, the Grabhorns took on William Matson Roth as a summer intern in the shop. He was a student at Yale and a member of the wealthy Matson steamship family. Roth was enamored of Jane’s wit, talent and creativity in her Jumbo Press pieces. He was also interested in contemporary literature. They soon agreed to a collaborative partnership and the Colt Press was established to publish mainly contemporary literature and western history in inexpensive but fine, beautiful editions. Colt Press books included such notable authors as Henry Miller, Paul Goodman, Edmund Wilson, Janet Lewis, Weldon Kees, J.V. Cunningham and Don Stanford. There were plans to publish F. Scott Fitzgerald, Saul Bellow and Philip Rahv, but those came to naught. The press also designed and printed books for others, notably the Book Club of California.
Jane Grabhorn, at first only a supporting cast member in the amusing and eccentric world of the Grabhorn Press, went on to make her own unique contributions to the world of fine book making. She accomplished this with her fearless personality, her strong sense of humor, her appreciation of collaboration in the arts, her fine design sense and her notable editorial skills. This exhibit tells the story of her two presses: the Jumbo Press & the Colt Press.
The rare book collections in UCI’s Special Collections and Archives Department include significant holdings of Colt Press titles and some of the rare Jumbo Press items. Only a sample of those holdings is included in this exhibit.
We welcome you to take the time to see this exhibit and to learn more about the printing world of Jane Grabhorn. For more information please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, (949) 824-3947.