The Contemporary Fine Press
April 1995 to September 1995
"The Contemporary Fine Press," an exhibition of work from more than twenty private presses in the United States and England, was on view in the Fourth Floor Exhibition Gallery of the Golda Meir Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, from April 1995 through September 1995.
The exhibition celebrated the art of modern fine bookmaking in the traditions of Johann Gutenberg, Aldus Manutius, John Baskerville, William Morris, Bruce Rogers, Eric Gill, and Dard Hunter. The traditional aspects of making finely handcrafted books, suggested by the exhibition, could be seen in motivation and intent, in the collaboration of artisans, and in the highest standards set for design, typography, construction, papermaking, binding, illustration, and selection of text.
Tradition also provided a backdrop for innovative techniques and approaches. The interplay of tradition and innovation was demonstrated by the broad array of fine printing drawn principally from the Special Collections of the Golda Meir Library, and augmented by materials generously loaned for this exhibition by numerous fine presses and individuals. "The Contemporary Fine Press" featured the afrocentric work of Milwaukee letterpress printer Amos Kennedy, Jr., and numerous other Wisconsin fine presses, including Walter Hamady's Perishable Press (Mt. Horeb), Caren Heft's Arcadian Press (Racine), Gaylord Schanilec's Midnight Paper Sales Press (Stockholm), and Tracy Honn's Ragpicker Press (Madison). Private presses from the Midwest were strongly represented (e.g., Abattoir Editions, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Toothpaste Press, Windhover Press), and the exhibition also included numerous examples of contemporary fine-press work from throughout the United States and England, such as Leonard Baskin's Gehenna Press (Leeds, Massachusetts), Mary Laird's Quelquefois Press (Berkeley, California), and John and Rosalind Randle's Whittington Press (Whittington, England).
The exhibition focused on three recurring themes: the homage paid by several printers to the works of the noted wood engraver and illustrator John DePol; the deep influence of the book-arts program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, under the auspices of veteran fine-press printer Walter Hamady; and the exuberant and collaborative esprit de corps that characterizes the international community of the contemporary fine press.
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