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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Books and Printing in the San Francisco Bay Area 

Clifton and Lois Rather 

With an Introduction by 
Paul Padgette 

Interviews Conducted by 

Ruth Teiser 

in 1980 

Copyright 1994 by The Regents of the University of California 

Clif and Lois Rather, 1970 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well -placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a modern research 
technique involving an interviewee and an informed interviewer in spontaneous 
conversation. The taped record is transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and 
clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The resulting manuscript is typed in 
final form, indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable . 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and Clifton and 
Lois Rather dated September 11, 1980. The manuscript is thereby 
made available for research purposes. All literary rights in the 
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University 
of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include 
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated 
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with Clifton and Lois Rather requires that Lois Rather be 
notified of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 

Clifton and Lois Rather, "The Rather Press 
of Oakland, California," an oral history 
conducted in 1980 by Ruth Teiser, Regional 
Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley, 1994. 

Copy no . 

Cataloguing information 

RATHER, Clifton (1893-1987) and Lois (b. 1905) Private printers 

The Rather Press of Oakland. California. 1994, x, 50 pp. 

Getting into the book printing business; buying a Sigwalt printing press, 
and modifying it for use with one hand; Clifton and Lois's backgrounds 
prior to printing; learning from Jane Grabhorn to bind books; printing 
limited editions and selling books; typefaces and setting type; Lois as 
author of many of the Rather Press books; halftones and other 
illustrations; the Moxon Chappel support group of private press owners; 
modifying the house to accommodate the printing activities. 

With a complete list of Rather Press publications. 
Introduction by Paul Padgette. 

Interviewed 1980 by Ruth Teiser for the Books and Printing in the San 
Francisco Bay Area series. Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

The Regional Oral History Office, on behalf of future researchers, would 
like to express its thanks to the following individuals whose encouragement 
and support have made possible the oral history of Clifton and Lois Rather, 
and the Rather Press. Special thanks are due to Paul Padgette for his 
leadership in raising funds. 

Robert Ellerbeck and Family 

Bill and Marian Foster 
Willis and Maria P. Foster 

J. R. K. Kantor 

Roger and Frances Larson 

Bill and Helen Lee 

Paul Padgette 

David W. Palmer 

Frederica & Monroe H. Postman 

Albert Shumate, M.D. 

Dedicted to the memory of 

Clifton Rather, 1893-1987 

Ruth Teiser, 1915-1994 

TABLE OF CONTENTS --Clifton and Lois Rather 


INTRODUCTION --by Paul Padgette iv 

INTERVIEW HISTORY- -by Ruth Teiser vii 



Other Activities 

Starting Printing * 

Buying and Adapting a Press 

Some Examples of Early Printing 

"Learning Something About Printing" 

Lois Devotes Herself to Writing 

Lois's Earlier Career 10 

Lois Devotes Herself to Clif's Printing, 1969 

Learning to Bind Books 

Charting a Course 1* 

Selling Books 

Paper and Binding Board 

Setting Type 



Installing the Press 24 

Observing Printers 


Halftones 29 

Designing a Book 

The Moxon Chappel 

Current Projects 

Next Books " 34 

Working Premises 

Lois's Postscript, 1994 37 


A. "The Rather Press" 40 

B. "Good Impressions," East Bay Express. November 26, 1982 44 



The art and business of printing in the San Francisco Bay Area are 
significant in the history of printing in the United States and have been 
an integral part of the cultural development of California. This series of 
interviews with people who have been participants in and observers of the 
recent history of San Francisco Bay Area printing stems from a 1958 
interview by Francis P. Farquhar with Edward DeWitt Taylor. It has been 
carried forward in the interest of recording details of the movement and 
analyzing factors in its development. 

To the series have been added interviews concerning other related 
aspects of the San Francisco Bay Area book world: writing, illustrating, 
and designing books, collecting, and selling them as well. 

Until her death in June 1994, Ruth Teiser was project director of the 
Books and Printing in the San Francisco Bay Area Series, and coordinator of 
the greater part of the oral histories. The book, Printing as Performing 
Art, co-edited by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun and published in 1970 
by the Book Club of California, was based on interviews the two of them had 
done for the series. In 1989 the Book Club published Ruth Teiser 's 
biography of Lawton Kennedy, entitled Lawton Kennedy. Printer. Ruth 
Teiser 's expertise and knowledge of the printing industry contributed 
significantly to the documenting of its history in this series. 

The Regional Oral History Office is under the direction of Willa K. 
Baum, Division Head, and the administrative direction of The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

Villa Baum 
Division Head 

September 1994 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 


Books and Printing in the San Francisco Bay Area 
Interviews Completed August 1994 

Dorothy and Lewis Allen, Book Printing with the Handpress. 1968. 

Valenti Angelo, Arts and Books: A Glorious Variety. 1980. 

Brother Antoninus, Brother Antoninus: Poet. Printer, and Religious. 1966. 

Mallette Dean, Artist and Printer. 1970. 

Edward Grabhorn, Recollections of the Grabhorn Press. 1968. 

Jane Grabhorn, The Colt Press. 1966. 

Robert Grabhorn, Fine Printing and the Grabhorn Press . 1968. 

Sherwood and Katherine Grover, The Grabhorn Press and the Grace Hoper 
Press. 1972. 

The Hand Bookbinding Tradition in the San Francisco Bay Area. Interviews 
with Leah Wollenberg, Stella Parti, Duncan Olmsted, Stephen Gale 
Herrick, and Barbara Fallon Hiller, 1982. 

Carroll T. Harris, Conversations on Type and Printing. 1967. 
James D. Hart, Fine Printers of the San Francisco Bay Area. 1969. 

Quail Hawkins, The Art of Bookselling: Quail Hawkins and the Sather Gate 
Book Shoo. 1979. 

Warren R. Howell, Two San Francisco Bookmen. 1967. 
Andrew Hoyem, A San Francisco Fine Printer, in process. 
Haywood Hunt, Recollections of San Francisco Printers. 1967. 
Lawton Kennedy, A Life in Printing. 1968. 

Uolfgang Lederer, Bridging Two Worlds in Illustration. Graphic Design, and 
Education. 1992. 

Oscar Lewis, Literary San Francisco. 1965. 

David Magee, Bookselling and Creating Books. 1969. 


Walter Mann. Photoengraving. 1910-1969. 1973. 

Josephine Miles, Poetry . Teaching, and Scholarship. 1979. 

William J. Monihan, S.J., Librarian and Dedicated Bookman. University of 
San Francisco. 1947-1988. 1989. 

Kathleen Norris, An Interview with Kathleen Norris. 1959. 

Clifton and Lois Rather, The Rather Press of Oakland. California . 1994. 

Bernhard Schmidt, Herman Diedrichs, Max Schmidt, Jr., The Schmidt 
Lithograph Company. Volume I. 1968. 

Lorenz Schmidt, Ernest Wuthmann, Stewart Norris, The Schmidt Lithograph 
Company. Volume II. 1969. 

Ellen Shaffer, Self -Portrait of a Bookwoman. 1992. 

Albert Sperisen, San Francisco Printers. 1925-1965. 1966. 

Jack W. Stauffacher, A Printed Word Has its Own Measure. 1969. 

George R. Stewart, A Little of Mvself . 1972. 

Edward DeWitt Taylor, Supplement to Francis P. Farquhar Interview. 1960. 

Adrian Wilson, Printing and Book Designing. 1966. 


INTRODUCTION --by Paul Padgette 

It was in 1974, almost halfway through the productive years of the 
Rather Press, that I became acquainted with Clif and Lois Rather and 
their press. The Bancroft Library and I had agreed in the spring for me 
to exhibit my Gertrude Stein collection commemorating her one hundredth 
birthday, augmented by materials from the Bancroft collection. 

The early July day I was arranging the books , programs , photographs , 
and journals in the gallery display cases, Irene Moran, who supervised 
the gallery exhibit, showed me a book just received by the library from 
the Rather Press. It was Gertrude Stein and California. I agreed 
immediately it should be included in the display. It was my introduction 
to the Rather Press and shortly thereafter to the Rathers themselves. 

The Stein book intrigued me in its subject matter, the early years 
of Gertrude Stein in Oakland, which had not been examined so completely 
in earlier biographies. Maureen R. Listen, a Stein scholar, in her 
Gertrude Stein: An Annotated Critical Bibliography, agrees with me when 
she said it " . . . provided invaluable background information on Stein's 
childhood." A phone call arranged for my first visit to the "Little Red 
House," lovingly portrayed in Lois's 1989 Rather Press Addenda chapbook. 

In 1952, when Clif and Lois took possession, it was a small cottage 
surrounded by several huge trees and some smaller out -buildings . Clif 
began remodeling and added additional rooms. They lived in one of the 
out -buildings they called The Studio for a year before moving into the 
main house. Some trees were felled, a cement driveway was laid up the 
incredible eighty- foot incline from the street; landscaping was 
ambitious. Clif and Lois did it all. 

After the Rathers began their printing experiments in the late 
1960s, more adjustments were necessary with the introduction of a large 
Chandler & Price press. A special room was built, designed by Lois's 
brother Willis Foster. Clif was no longer able to do the physical work 
as before; he had a heart attack and stroke followed by paralysis in his 
left arm and hand in 1962. He supervised the work to his satisfaction 
making it possible for him to use the more sophisticated press. 

On my first visit I did not know this history. I was enchanted by 
the house, its surrounding landscaping, and sweeping views of the city 
and bay; most of all I was charmed by Clif and Lois. It seemed a mutual 
admiration and it has only deepened through the years. I have purchased 
all the major Press titles from that time; Lois added my name to the list 
of lucky people receiving their pamphlets and chapbooks. Through the 

years I have been able to acquire most of the earlier titles. At 
present, I am still lacking five of the major works before 1975. 
Although it is difficult for the collector to find the books, it is a 
tribute to the Press that copies rarely come on the market. Limited 
editions they are, indeed! 

The Resident-Printer, Resident-Author private press created by Clif 
and Lois is unique in that it only printed materials they originated 
themselves. They searched for the obscure but fascinating stories with 
ties to California and especially the Bay Area. The subjects could be 
world famous --Kip ling, Stevenson, Emerson come to mind- -if they had a 
California connection. More often the subjects had a special place in 
the history of the state: Isadora Duncan, Jessie Fremont, Jack London, 
Ambrose Bierce, and Gertrude Stein. Lois's books on women as printers, 
the Bay Area's "little magazines," early San Francisco theater, and the 
Bohemian life here through more than a century are valuable social 

Lois's background as a teacher and director in the San Francisco 
Children's Theater, studio director of a series of children's plays on 
KPO radio, co-author with Samuel J. Hume of Theater and School, all gave 
a foundation that is reflected in her Rather Press books. In the mid- 
19308 she was a research supervisor of the local WPA Federal Theater and 
completed a valuable manuscript on this history of the Chinese theater in 
San Francisco. She was a dancer with the Ruth St. Denis-Martha Graham 
school of Betty Horst for some years. During this very busy early period 
in her adult life, Lois worked as a typist-editor of a graduate thesis 
shop in Berkeley and was variously employed by the University of 
California history department in transcribing and research of historical 
materials. When Lois retired after twenty-seven years of teaching in the 
Oakland kindergarten-primary school system to become the Resident-Author, 
she was well prepared by her lifework and experience. 

Clif's life had been a fascinating mix of work ranging from 
journeyman machinist, real estate investor and remodeler, bootlegger in 
the 1920s, and an old car buff and restorer. He was a physical man. 
When he suffered the serious heart attack followed by a stroke and 
paralysis, it was a severe blow to his body and equally damaging to his 
psyche. His early experimenting with printing was a psychological 
outlet, both physically and spiritually. He was using his body even 
though limited to one hand and arm since the stroke had destroyed use of 
the other one. Using Lois's two hands and his one hand, the logo for the 
press was born; three hands, her two and his one, reaching towards one 

The oral history that follows covers the progress of the Press with 
many incidents along the way beginning with pamphlets distributed to 
special friends as well as the major three dozen works that define the 


press. All or most of these are in the collections of the New York 
Public Library, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Southern Methodist University, 
the Huntington, Gleeson, and California State libraries, the San 
Francisco Public Library, Bancroft, and others; and in the private 
libraries of the lucky collectors who were able to secure the prized 
titles. The editions varied between one hundred and one hundred and 
fifty copies with no second printings possible. 

I have been trying to decide which is my favorite Rather Press book. 
It is difficult. The Stein book is high on the list because of my 
special interest in the subject. I have a fondness for the Isadora 
Duncan book and the Bohemian history for similar reasons. Bufano and the 
U.S.A. . Some Little Magazines. Bonanza Theater all are wonderful! I 
have great admiration for the chapbooks as well; they are so personal: 
Jane Grabhorn and Thanks Jane. Sammi (a cat) and Life with $PM\* are high 
on the list. The Rather Press Addenda chapbooks Lois has continued to 
write (and print herself) are beautiful tributes to family and valued 
friends. This remarkable oeuvres completes is unique and only surpassed 
by the woman herself. 

Paul Padgette 

June 22, 1994 

San Francisco, California 



The suggestion that Clifton and Lois Rather of the Rather Press, 
Oakland, be interviewed by the Regional Oral History Office came from 
Robert Hawley, small press publisher and book store proprietor, who had 
been told by Mrs. Rather of a recent illness of Mr. Rather that 
threatened the continuation of the press. As he had from other bouts of 
illness, however, Mr. Rather recovered and returned to work at the press, 
although on a somewhat reduced schedule. He was still confined to a 
wheelchair at the time of the interview, but was continuing to print. 

The interview was held in two sessions, on May 26 and May 30, 1980. 
Another photographing session was held June 2. All the interviewing and 
photographing was done at the Rathers' garden- surrounded home at 3200 
Guido Street, in the East Oakland Hills that was in large part 
constructed by Mr. Rather and that serves as both their residence and 
printing workshop. 

The Bancroft Library has a nearly complete file of the Rather Press 
publications. Much of what was discussed in the interview has appeared 
in their printed work, as they have frequently drawn upon their own 
experiences for their publications. 

The interviewer has been acquainted with the Rathers for some years 
through their publications and occasional conversations at meetings of 
the Friends of The Bancroft Library and similar organizations. 

Ruth Teiser 

June 1980 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 


After Ruth Teiser wrote the above interview history in 1980, the 
Rather Press project lay dormant for some thirteen years, a victim of 
inadequate funding. The interview was recorded and photographs were 
taken, as indicated, but the tapes were never transcribed, and work 
essentially stopped. 


In 1993, the Rathers' great friend and admirer Paul Padgette took an 
interest in the incomplete project. He realized the importance to 
researchers of making the interview more readily available, and undertook 
fundraising to enable the project to be completed. 

The interview was tape recorded on an old-fashioned reel-to-reel 
machine. The reels were copied to cassette tapes so they could be 
transcribed using the Regional Oral History Office's more modern 
equipment. The sound quality of the resultant copied tapes was poor, 
making transcribing difficult. 

Ruth Teiser edited the transcript and sent it to Lois Rather- - 
Clifton having died in 1987 --who also went over the transcript, with the 
help of Paul Padgette, filling in information that was inaudible on the 
tapes. Photographs and other supporting documents were supplied by Lois 

Ruth Teiser died before the project could be completed. Indexing 
and final proofing were handled by the editorial assistant, with the help 
of Merrilee Proffitt, office manager. 

Shannon Page 
Editorial Assistant 

August 1994 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 


Regional Oral History Office University of California 

Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley. California 94720 

RTOGRAPHICAT. INFORMATION frjm L Oi S =<3ther. 1994 
(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 
Your full name Rathgr. Clifton . 

Date of Mri-h nrt.ihor 19. 1R93 Birthplace Coopqrns Cav? t Texas 
Father's full name 5amul Houston Rathpr . . 

Occupation . Birthplace _ 

Mother's full Jessie Llujollen Carroll . 

Occupation . Birthplace . 

Your s P ouse r N3' 1: Gertrude Mateer (4 children: Clif. Grace, l^ri 1 een. Clai re 
WO, 2: Lois F o^ tr 

c h. 

Where did you grow up? L 

Present rnnm.n<rv died 1987, Oakland. California 
Education Hinn school 

Occupation(s) \/ariO'.is; finally a private DFPSS printer 

Areas of -v P .rt-.i M Carpentry, printing, photography, etc 

()as national director of Node! A Ford Club ? yrs 
Other interests or activities . 

Served in Navy 191^-1917, q-idjnq as Yeoman. 

Organizations in which you are active HP belonaed to; 
Wodel A Ford ?.lu, Antique Auto Club, 
etc. etc., and in last y^ars the Ifloxon 

NOTE: Biographical data may oe found in Rather Press publications 
Here's Houi, 1968 and 1970, etc. 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley. Calif ornxa 94720 

(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 

Your full name LJJS fflar.jjrig F^tor R3H oran p Rathar 

Date of birth N3VpmH er 13. 1 9Q5 Birthplace phi rag "J , Illinaiff 

Father's full Ulilliam Grant Faster (1677-1940) 

nr.f.upation Architect Birthplace n rm q t r -mi , Illinois 

Mother's full ~ ** Uhitg Jck 93 n (lB79-195g) 

Occupation neuis e ditor clubu'jman Birthplace iiyall r llatig i II 

Your spouse>. J * _1 ! " = * ^ 

oeeupation Librarian Birthplace Spokane, Ulnshjnntjn 

No. 2: Cliftin Rather (1B93-19S7) y>o |^r^^ 

' In Various; finally a private; DTP^S printer 

N-) children) 

Where did you grow up? Streat3r. Illinois 

Present community Oakland. Cali^rirnia 

Education AB From S.r.Statp r 1947; grariuatp nursRS nt IIT.. Wills, etc, 

tRachinq; HJU.' uiritinn anfl nrivat.P nrintinq 

NOTE: Bio^craphical deta may ba 

Areas of expertise __ in R^tho? Prows 


Other interests or activities_ 

Organizations in which you are active_ 


[Date of Interview: May 26, 1980] 

Teiser: This is an interview with Clifton and Lois Rather, concerning the 
Rather Press. The interviewer is Ruth Teiser. The interview was 
conducted on May 26 and May 30, 1980, at their home in the east 
Oakland hills, where they also have their printing press. The 
interview was intended to ask them to discuss how they got started 
printing, what led up to it, and what underlay it, and then how 
they have operated their press and what they have done. [tape 

Before you began printing, I presume you always read a good 
deal. Is that right? 

Clif: Oh, yes. Read many, many books. Mostly library books, mystery 
stories and such literary things as that. 

Teiser: Another thing that I think would feed into it, then, besides 

reading and being nostalgic, would be some mechanical experience. 
Clif, I gather that you had experience in mechanics before you 
started printing. 

Clif: As a machinist during the war [World War II], I had some 

mechanical experience. I got fired from the Bethlehem shipyard 
when the foreman came around and found that I had nothing in my 
tool box but a pair of pliers and some few little doodads. 

But I took my tool box and walked into the J. D. Christian 
plant [Christian Machine Works] in San Francisco and went to work 
there immediately, and I worked there until --well, almost until 
the end of the war, when I bought a house in Cow Hollow on Pixley 
Street in San Francisco and remodeled that. Pixley Street is a 
small street running parallel to the highway, whatever that's 

Teiser: Lombard. 

Clif: Lombard, yes. 

Teiser: I'd like to ask you a little more about your time as a machinist. 

Clif: Oh, as I say, I worked first for the Bethlehem shipbuilding 

company, and then for the Christian company until almost the end 
of the war, when I had accumulated enough money to make a down 
payment on a house on Pixley Street, which I converted into rooms 
for soldiers from the Presidio. 

Teiser: As a machinist, did you learn things about construction that 
carried over to your building your own press? 

Clif: I suppose it must have contributed some to that. I suppose it 
must have contributed some, but I'm not sure how much. 

Lois: [prompting] Now your record company experience. 

Clif: Yes. Well, later on, I became a partner in a phonograph record- 
making company. Our plant was on- -what was that street? 55th and 
12th Streets, but I can't remember the name-- 

Teiser: In San Francisco? 

Clif: No, in Oakland. Then we later moved to a much larger building on 
East 12th Street. 

Teiser: You cut records, was that it? 

Clif: Yes, cut records. I was a full partner. I owned a LeBlonde 

lathe, and that was my contribution to make me a full partner. I 
soon saw that the business was going broke, and I was the only-- 
there were four partners ; I was the only partner that had any 
assets worth attaching. I had money in the bank, and I owned 
rental property, as well as our own home. So I talked it over 
with my other three partners, and sold out to them, sold my 
interest in the record-making company to them. But I never got 
paid anything for it. 

Teiser: Did you ever get your lathe back? 

Clif: No! [laughs] No, I never got anything except a record cutter I 
made . 

Teiser: Did you operate the lathe, or did you just own it? 

Clif: Oh, I operated it. As a matter of fact, I was drawing premium 

wages most of the time during the war. So that was how I happened 
to accumulate enough money to make my down payment on the Pixley 

Street place, by working overtime as many hours as I could stand, 
overtime, Saturdays and Sundays and holidays and so forth, you 

Teiser: At Christian's? 

Clif: At J. D. Christian's, yes. 

Teiser: So all of that more or less contributed. It wasn't a very direct 
route to printing. 

Clif: No. 

Teiser: But it led somewhat to it? 

Clif: More or less in a roundabout way, I suppose, yes. 

Teiser: Shall I ask Mrs. Rather now what in her early experience led to 
her interest in this enterprise? 

Lois: I think that I come along a little later. He started his press, 

and I had nothing to do with it, because I was teaching school and 
simply kibitzing on this deal. 

Other Activities 

Teiser: I guess we should skip up then to the immediate cause for your 
deciding to start a press. It was, I guess, after your first 
illness . 

Clif: Yes. You see, I came out of the hospital with a practically 
useless left arm and hand. 

Teiser: Your first illness was well before you started interest with any 
printing? That was in '62, was it? 

Lois: Sixty-two was when you had the stroke. Then while you were sick, 
you were writing an autobiography. I was urging you to do this as 
therapy. You lay in bed and you wrote your autobiography on 
yellow pads . Do you remember that? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: Then when you got well enough to go into some of the Model A Ford 
deals and you got to be on the national board of the Model A Ford 

Teiser: This was a hobby- -an old car collectors' club, wasn't it? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: Now about houses. 

Teiser: That's right, you built houses, and that then made you be able to 
build a wooden press. 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: The houses before this one he remodeled. But this was the first 
one he actually built. 

Teiser: This is the present house we're sitting in. 

Starting Printing 

Teiser: How did you get started printing? 

Lois: Do you remember, the thing that spurred you on this deal was that 
I wanted some stationery? I went to a professional stationers, 
the Girl Friday or something. I wanted a one -line bit of 
stationery with my name and address on it, and for 200 sheets I 
had to pay five dollars. You said, "Oh, woo, that's just not 
acceptable. I could have done that if I'd had a little type and 
stuff." And then you decided that maybe you'd find out something 
about printing. Do you remember that? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: All right, now tell how you went on from there. 

Clif: Yes. Well, then is when I built on our kitchen counter a flatbed 
press. I used scrap lumber, plus a rolling pin- -the most 
expensive part of it was the rolling pin which I think cost me 
about a dollar and thirty- five cents. I bought some type, but not 
enough to do a book. 

Teiser: Did I read somewhere that previous to that, you had bought a 
little toy press? 

Clif: Well, yes, but that was worthless really. 
Teiser: But at least it told you what a press should be? 

The "Little Red House" 

Clif: Yes. [laughs] 

Teiser: Did it teach you something? The toy press? 

Clif: What did I do on that? Nothing on that toy press. 

Lois: You never really used it. You used the type that came with it on 
your own press. 

Teiser: You took the type. 
Clif: Yes. 

Lois: And first he did just the cover for something that he had written, 
and had the inside mimeographed. The booklet was called Household 
Hints for Hippie Housewives. It's really about one of his other 
hobbies, which has been for years the making of beer and bread. 

Teiser: Good yeast subjects. 

Lois: Yes. After he had the cover finished and had a shop do the 
inside, he said, "That's silly, I could have done the whole 
thing." So he went ahead, this time doing the whole thing. The 
amusing part about this is he wrote, "This is copy number 360 of a 
limited edition." Well, actually, there were say 100, but he 
wanted it to look as if it were a big edition. He didn't realize 
that smaller editions would be prized as much rarer. [laughter] 

Teiser: What year was that? 

Lois: Sixty-eight. 

Teiser: So that was your first real printing job? 

Lois: Yes. 

Teiser: And you did that with the rolling pin? 

Clif: Yes. 

Teiser: How much type did you have by then? Did your little toy set give 
you enough type for that book? 

Clif: Well, no. It only gave me just maybe one inch by two inches. It 
was practically worthless. Then after I built my own press, I 
bought secondhand type, mostly Bernhard Gothic sans serif type. 

Lois: That's what you set up your autobiography in. 

Teiser: So you got enough type to set one page at a time. 

Clif: Yes. Just one page at a time. One page at a time. And we still 
only set one page at a time, on even the big ten by fifteen 
Chandler & Price. 

Teiser: You still print one up? 

Clif: One up, yes. Takes a little longer, but if we don't, we're liable 
to offset on the next sheet. So we print- -what do we print- -we 
print two days on and one day off, is that right? 

Lois: We schedule it so we aren't ever printing on the back of the 
preceding day's page. 

Teiser: I see. 

Lois: Now, how about when you decided to do your autobiography in print, 
and how did you get the new press? Do you remember? You were 
going over to get paper. 

Clif: Oh! We went over to King Brothers paper company on Potrero 

Avenue, and bought a stack of paper, the cheapest paper they had. 

Lois: Sulfite. 

Clif: Sulfite paper. 1 had studied J. Ben Lieberman's book, Printing as 
a Hobby . I didn't find the book very helpful, but it inspired me 
to buy a press which was far more satisfactory than the little 
press that I had bought from Lieberman's company, which he called 
the Liberty Press. 

Teiser: That was the toy press? 

Clif: Yes. This was the toy. This was a tray about four by six inches, 
and it had a metal roller. You were supposed to place the paper, 
to ink the type with a roller, and then press the roller on the 
page, and that would create a print, you see. But it was far from 

Teiser: So that inspired you to go on and build your own? 

Clif: It inspired me to build my own first, but on the way home from 
King Brothers, King's paper house, we stopped at Somerset, a 
secondhand dealer in printing presses and so forth in San 
Francisco, and found the Sigwalt. Brought that home. From then, 
of course, I abandoned the homemade press. 

Buying and Adapting a Press 

Teiser: What size page could you get on the Sigwalt? 

Clif: Well, six by nine. The chase was six by nine. By the time you 
get the lockup then and everything, why, the page size will be 
probably- -what , four by-- 

Lois: You extended the size of it by putting extensions on it. Do you 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: So that you'd get more margin and could use a larger page. 

Teiser: What size page would your original wooden press handle? 

Clif: I don't remember. 

Teiser: Pretty small? 

Clif: I think- -yes. I really don't remember. I think I left a page of 
Bernhard Gothic in the press. Well, Lois knows where the old 
press is, I don't know. It's over in what we call the studio now. 
But I used the Sigwalt for later publications. 

Lois: All of this was on a friendly, sort of a social basis, and when we 
got out a book, we would have a publisher's party, so it was all 
very gay. Of course, nothing was for sale. It was given to 
anyone that we knew or that we thought would be interested. We'd 
get out little invitations that would declare a "Publisher's 
party . " 

Some Examples of Early Printing 

Teiser: You're showing us now a little card which you have printed with 
announcements of publishers' parties and invitations to them? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: And this was the little book on making beer. 

Clif: Was that printed on the homemade press or on the Sigwalt? 

Lois: On the Sigwalt. 

Clif: On the Sigwalt. 
Teiser: What is this booklet? 

Lois: This is Here's Know-How. which is how to make certain drinks. And 
this is Cooking with Beer, because Clif is quite an expert beer 
maker. Charlie McCabe once took all Clif's recipes for beer and 
made a Chronicle column out of them. 

I thought this [showing card] was amusing. He just got 
started printing; he also made himself a birthday card. 

Teiser: [reading] "How in hell did I get to be seventy- five so soon?" 
[laughter] A birthday card to yourself. 

Lois: He does that every year. 

Teiser: We're looking now through a scrapbook, a very well kept scrapbook, 
I must say. 

Lois: He used to have a beard for a while, and then he had a shaved head 
like Yul Brynner. [picture in scrapbook] 

Teiser: These are all pictures of your husband. 

Lois: We also did a series of poems which we printed, old-fashioned 

poems like McGuffey deals and "Curfew shall not ring tonight" and 
so on. Three little booklets on that there. 

Teiser: On the Christmas card, are those type ornaments or just drawn? 
The tree is drawn, and the ornaments are typographic? 

Lois: Well, no, the tree is a linocut [linoleum cut]. He had me doing 
linocuts, because we didn't know anything about printing 
illustrations. Then he started a series of limerick calendars for 
his friends, and for the first one he got limericks out of a 
library book, only slightly bawdy, because he's not at all bawdy 
in speech. He doesn't like four-letter words. And since then we 
have done a limerick calendar every year, but ever since I have 
written them. They're not bawdy, but sometimes they're amusing. 

Teiser: I see that you were getting more and more involved in the process. 

Lois: Yes, because he kept saying, "I need something to print, do me 
something to print." So then I would write something like this 
ABC of Cats, because we're keen about cats, which we followed 
later by an ABC of Dogs. And then liquor was always an interest 
of his, going back to his bootlegging days, so we put out his 
guide to liqueurs. Then we put out a series of toasts that people 

might care to use at fancy occasions 
to another party. 

Here's another invitation 

"Learning Something About Printing' 

Lois: Then we decided we ought to learn something about printing. I 
decided to invade libraries. In October, 1969, we completed a 
little book on nice paper that Lawton Kennedy gave us, as I recall 
it, called California's First Printing Press. 

Teiser: And that was the beginning of your learning about printing? 

Lois: That was where we began to research the history of printing and 

learn something about printing besides just having fun and tossing 
it off, as we had done before. 

Teiser: To enlarge a little upon this point, you said that you had got 
that Lieberman book and hadn't found it very helpful. 

Lois: We later met Lieberman and his wife Elizabeth, and liked them very 
much, and had some contact with them. Lieberman had been the 
organizer of the Moxon Chappel, spelled with two "p's," which is a 
local group of about a dozen private press people. Some of them 
are also professionals, like Adrian Wilson and George Pfeiffer and 
so on, but in general, it's just a fun group. Eventually, Clif 
became a member, and at the end, just about before he had to 
become an emeritus member, they also elected me as a "companion." 

Now, Clif, do you want to take a rest? This is about the 
time where this thing comes in about how you dragged me into it. 

Lois Devotes Herself to Writing 

Clif: Well, Lois- -I had to have something to print. I'd run out of 

ideas for the small stuff, more or less worthless stuff. I had to 
have something to print. So I talked Lois into retiring from her 
job as a schoolteacher, after twenty -seven years of teaching. She 
retired early, of course. If she had continued her full term, her 
pension would probably be double what it is now. [laughs] 

But at any rate, she did stop. She had been writing all of 
her life, more or less, for example, for-- 


Lois: --the Historical Quarterly- - 

Teiser: California Historical Society Quarterly? 

Lois: Yes. 

Clif: And never sold anything, never was able to sell a manuscript. 

Lois: Then at last I got a publisher who liked everything that I wrote, 
and published practically everything I wrote! 

Clif: That was me! That was me, of course. [laughter] 

Teiser: Mrs. Rather, did you start writing, did you start supplying Mr. 
Rather 's insatiable appetite for text before you retired? 

Lois: Yes, quite a bit, and also doing these linocuts which were very 
amateurish, but did sort of spark the material, and since they 
were simply for friends and not supposed to be very professional 
looking, it was possible for me to produce. Anyway, after many 
attempts at these sort of silly things, as I say, I began to do 
serious research in the field that was my particular interest. 

Lois's Earlier Career 

Lois: I had done a lot of work in theater after I got out of state 

college. I had been assistant director of the Children's Theater 
over in San Francisco, and assistant director of one of the early 
children's theaters of the radio, which was done for KPO, then 
located in Male's department store. 1 was working under Mrs. John 
Cuddy, who was very well known in San Francisco. The top floor of 
Male's department store was a radio broadcasting place. 

Well, this went on for some time in the thirties. Then I 
think the Children's Theater had to dissolve. At least the whole 
thing went to pieces there. I came over to Berkeley to act as 
secretary to Sam Hume , and also then through him got work in the 
Bancroft Library- -this was in the thirties- -typing manuscripts for 
theses, masters' and doctors' theses and so on, and transcribing 
stuff for Lawrence Kinnaird, who was one of Dr. Herbert Bolton's 
active assistants. So then I found out about how the historians 
went at material , and how you had to footnote things to prove 
yourself and whatnot. 


Anyway, my first husband, a librarian, died in 1943, and I 
felt that I had better get into something that would provide a 
permanent income for the future . 

Teiser: Let me just put on the record your first husband's name? 

Lois: DeForest Rodecape . He was a cataloguer at the University of 

California. This gave me access to Bancroft, and the interest 
also in writing more or less serious material. 

To go back a bit, in 1936, I had been invited to be research 
supervisor of the WPA Federal Theater Research Department, which 
was a small unit of four projects which the WPA encompassed. I 
think I was there for eighteen months. I had up to twenty people 
working under me, and we combed the local newspapers and so on, 
discovering all the facts that we could that had not been used 
before and that we felt would be of value to a local history. 

All of this led to my interest in historical work. In the 
forties, I had a series of --oh, I think seven articles printed in 
the California Historical Society Quarterly. In the meantime, I 
was busy teaching. 

Lois Devotes Herself to Clif's Printing. 1969 

Lois: Well, then in June, 1969, I retired from the Oakland School 

District job. I had mostly taught kindergarten and first grade, 
which does not lead into historical writing. [laughs] Since 
then, I have become increasingly involved in the printing, and at 
present do all the typesetting, since Clif's recent very serious 
illness, and a number of other little chores, besides being the 
printer's devil when he prints. 

Teiser: Let me bring out another thing that I'm still trying to follow. I 
believe that you, Clif, were editor or publisher or something of a 
magazine for car collectors? 

Clif: Well, yes. 

Teiser: Did that give you some publishing experience? 

Clif: I suppose it did, in a way. I got out a monthly letter to the 

various chapters throughout the West, the United States, and some 
foreign countries. I suppose that gave me some experience as a 
publisher . 


Teiser: Did you do some writing, too? 

Clif: Yes, I did quite a bit of writing at that time. But now I'm too 
lazy to write. 

Teiser: Mrs. Rather, did you edit your husband's writing? 

Lois: I worked with him on it, and when we were having it mimeographed 
or otherwise reproduced, I typed up the copy. When I was in high 
school, I had learned how to type, and that was the most valuable 
thing that I learned during my school career, I believe. 

Teiser: So that led into it too, then. 

Lois: Yes. 

Teiser: So a lot of things, then, really led into all that. 

Lois: Yes, all converged in the Rather Press. 

Teiser: So- -back to where we diverged- -you were going through your 

Learning to Bind Books 

Lois: Now, this is the point at which we did our first bookbinding, for 
Here's How II. At about that time, I was researching women as 
printers, and I thought the most important printer in this area 
was Jane Grabhorn. So we made an appointment to go over and see 
Jane Grabhorn, taking over all these early things that we had 
done. She was simply delighted. She gave us some of her books, 
and she said, "Oh, I wish I were still printing, and that we could 
work together." And sort of cheered us on. 

Clif: These early books were stapled, and Jane Grabhorn said, "My God, 
staples?" [laughter] We never used a staple after that! 

Lois: So then she showed us how to do a very slick job of sewing the 

books with linen thread, and then she gave us a couple of lessons 
on sewing and bookbinding, the edition binding that she had 
learned in the Grabhorn shop. And she lent us her large-scale 
frame for sewing, and some materials. We still have an awl that 
she gave us; she said we could keep that, for punching holes. She 
gave us odds and ends of scrim and of thread and various things 
that we would need, and said, "Now, go ahead!" 


So the first book that we tried to bind was this, Here's How 
II . Well, we didn't have a standing press. Clif remembers that. 
We had no way to really press the things after we had pasted them 
and got them in shape. But we used large bound packages of paper, 
and heavy books and things, on the kitchen counter to press the 
things out . 

That led Clif to do his next mechanical deal, which was to 
invent and build a standing press, which has a bench screw. 

Clif: Yes, a carpenter's bench screw is the main feature of it, yes. 

Lois: And this has served us very well. We can do- -we are currently 
doing it just as we did when we started- -about eight books a 
morning after the printing is all done and the assembling and 
sewing. We paste eight sewed books a morning and then let them 
sit for twenty- four hours, and the next morning do eight more. 

Teiser: This is after they're gathered and-- 

Lois : Yes, after they're gathered and sewed, and-- 

Clif: No, after they're gathered, then I use an ordinary bench vise to 
press them, and then she sews them-- 

Lois: First you saw. 

Clif: Yes, 1 saw the notches, so she doesn't have to use an awl to punch 
into the paper. 

Lois: It also makes for fairly even arrangement of the signatures, 

because when he saws them all together, then they're all in line. 

Teiser: He saws them all together? 

Lois: Yes, he saws all the signatures for one book. He saws across the 
back of them, all together, and then turns them over to me to sew. 

Teiser: Well, that's an ingenious series of operations. Sometimes books 
are sewn, though, aren't they, by machine? Like in commercial 

Clif: All books that are not perfect bound. The telephone book is 

perfect bound, of course, and then catalogues are perfect bound. 
But all books that are not perfect bound are sewn one way or 

Lois: Yes. He also invented a- -do you call that a template? A flat 

board which is marked carefully. We lay the hard covers and the 


spine piece at an exact angle for gluing, so that they will come 
out right without having to be trimmed, because we don't have a 
big trimmer, which most commercial people do. So we use deckle 
edge text paper, partly to conceal the fact that we're not exactly 
even on the sides. Also, because we like the deckle edge, and we 
feel it gives a much more easygoing, normal look to the page. We 
now, of course, use much better paper than we ever did before, and 
spend several times as much as we did on any of the first paper. 
But we figure that's well worth it, because the whole look of the 
book depends on whether it's on nice paper or slick or sulfite or 

Charting a Course 







As you went on learning something about the history of book 
printing, as evidenced by your writing, did you learn then also 
more about the fine points of what you were doing? 

Oh, surely. I'm sure that that followed along. Also, after we 
had done two books , Women as Printers and Books and Societies, we 
decided that the best thing to do in our case would be to confine 
our subjects to people of more than local importance and fame who 
had had an interesting experience in this area. I'm able to get 
at materials which in many cases have never been available to 
biographers in the East, and as you know, most biographers are 
Easterners. I can get newspapers and manuscripts and whatnot; 
Bancroft, for instance, has a great deal of very fine material 
that has never been available to writers in the East. 

They just haven't managed to get out here? 
they're here? 

They don't know 

No, they don't. So this is a contribution we can make, to tell 
about the California experience of important people in this state, 
like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gertrude Stein, who lived in Oakland for 
quite a while; Ambrose Bierce, of course, lived out here; Jack 
London. We have tried to confine ourselves to material that might 
be original unused material, and yet would be of particular 
interest to us. 

I think you've also set yourself certain space limitations, have 
you not? 

Yes. If we made the books too long, then our printer would get 
bored. [laughter] And if we have too big an edition, he says we 
would get bored- -what is that you always say? 


Clif: This is essentially a hobby deal, and so we confine our books to 
150 pages. 

Lois: And 150 copies. 

Clif: One hundred fifty copies. 

Lois: Because if you print more than 150, Clif says it's no longer fun. 

Clif: No, it's no longer fun. It becomes work then, and we don't want 
to work. We have enough troubles without having to work. 


Selling Books 

Teiser: When did you start selling your books? 

Lois: Women as Printers is the first one that we felt should be released 
to the public. That and the next two books, Books and Societies 
and then Some Little Magazines which were bound by Filmer Brothers 
at Lawton Kennedy's recommendation. They have a shop up above 
Lawton Kennedy, on First Street, isn't it? Anyway, 100 copies of 
those books were bound by Filmer, and then we did the others, not 
quite having the courage to take on the whole thing. But after 
that, we have done every bit of binding ourselves. 

Teiser: And after that, you sold everything except your little ephemeral 

Clif: Yes, ephemeral. But we gave books to our friends, particular 
friends, and people who have helped Lois in her writing of the 
books . 

Teiser: You've given copies of an edition that you sold most of? 
Clif: Yes. 

Teiser: But since then, you've been collecting money and paying sales tax 
and all that? 

Clif: Yes. Oh, yes. 

Lois: Of course, private press people should admit that for them it is a 
fun thing, a pleasure operation, though it does not bring in any 
profit. Our income tax statement for last year shows that our 


last year's profit from the Rather Press was something like 

Clif: That's for two people, two people working full-time, 365 days out 
of the year. How about that? 

Teiser: That's pretty good. You could be really far in the hole. 

Paper and Binding Board 

Teiser: You were saying that paper has gone up how much since you started? 
Clif: Oh, I suppose it's gone about double. 
Lois: At least. 

Clif: At least double what it cost when we first started. You know, 
inflation has taken care of that. 

Lois: Also, an interesting thing about the paper is that we decided to 

settle on one size, one shape, one quality, so that we would never 
have to decide exactly what paper we needed for any book. 

Teiser: So you always --if there was some left over, you'd use it on the 
next- - 

Clif: On the next book, that's right. That's right. 

Teiser: Have you settled on a paper that you can always reorder? 

Clif: We settled on off-white Curtis Tweedweave at the recommendation of 
Adrian Wilson. 

Lois: We get it from Butler Paper Company. 

Clif: Yes, from Butler. It's, what, ten by-- 

Lois: We have it cut-- 

Clif: --twenty, twenty by forty- - 

Lois: No, I think it's more than that. We have it cut thirteen by ten, 
don't we? It comes from the factory twenty-six by forty, so that 
that cuts exactly. We get four big double sheets --no, four up and 


down- -we get eight double sheets out of the great big sheet that 
it comes in. 

Teiser: How about binding boards? 

Lois: Binding boards we get from Gane Brothers & Lane, and Davey Board 
#25 is what we use. They won't cut it for us, though. We have a 
local man do the cutting for us, a man at Bargas Bindery in 
Oakland. He really does do commercial binding as a way of life, 
but he got sort of interested in Clif. Clif went down and called 
on him and talked to him, and now he will do it for us all the 
time, although cutting that board is so bad, we understand, on the 
saws or the knives, that he has to wait until he has a knife about 
ready to be resharpened, and then he will cut for us. This is 
because it roughens up the knife so that it's not good for fine 
trimming for his other work. 

So we take the great big packages of the Davey Boards in and 
say, "We'll give you so long on this, and wait till you have a 
dull knife," and so forth. But it saves our trying to cut it, 
which we did at first. We used to cut all our own cardboard and 
our own paper and so on. Now we're going lazy. 

Teiser: But this is also a uniform size for all your books? 

Lois: Yes. That's what we do. We started with the books smaller, and 
then decided that's silly, because we were having to cut off the 
ends to throw away, so why not use the whole thing? And since the 
paper was twenty-six by forty, we figured that a six and a half by 
ten inch sheet would be about right for us, so that's what we 
settled on. 

Setting Type 

Teiser: [To Clif] So, to go back to the technical aspect of it (and I'm 

going to stop in about ten minutes), you learned to set type. How 
did you learn? Could you tell from this book by Lieberman how to 
set type? 

Clif: I just learned by guess and by God damn. But I learned--! set all 
the type until my thumb deteriorated and got painful, and now Lois 
sets the type . 

Teiser: [To Lois] How long have you been setting type? 


Lois: Oh, off and on. I often did some of these silly things, the 

freebie books and the Ten Years and Fine Points and some of those 
books. But Clif usually set the regular pages, until he began 
having trouble with his thumb. He has a very interesting 
arrangement of a coffee can on a chain which helps to hold his 
hand up, so that his arm won't get too tired, because he had 
bursitis one time. He also got the bright idea, which I don't 
think anybody else has ever used, of having a frame, a six by nine 
frame I think it was --two of them- -made out of heavy steel by a 
fancy machinist. 

Then we set type directly into the frame, which means that we 
don't use a composing stick. We set it into the frame instead of 
on the composing stick from which it would have to be put onto a 
galley and then paged. We set the page, and that's the way the 
page is going to be, the way we set it. We never have problems 
with hyphenation going on from one page to the next, because we 
rewrite if necessary to have the page come out right. It 
certainly has turned out to be a very useful way for us to do. 

Clif: It's traditional to use a composing stick, just as it's 

traditional to have the type cabinet- -type , what do you call it, 

Teiser: California case? 

Clif: Yes, California case, arranged in a certain way. I got the bright 
idea one time of making the case-- 

Lois: The arrangement. 

Clif: Arranging the case so that the type would be in alphabetical 

order, A, B, C, D, and so forth, in alphabetical order. But then 
I found out that that didn't work out very well, because I 
couldn't get cases made that way. I had to buy cases made the 
old, traditional way, so I gave that idea up. 

Lois: There are much larger compartments for E's, for example. 

Teiser: The California case has spaces proportional to the frequency of 
use of the letters? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: And also the letters that are most often used are in the middle; 
the A is right down here, instead of way over here. 

Teiser: So you had to learn the California case? 


Clif: Yes. 

Lois: He had to adopt it, finally. 

Clif: Had to adopt it, because I couldn't buy cases arranged the way I 
wanted them, in alphabetical order. 

Lois: 1 should add in here, though, that a good number of your cases do 
have A, B, C, D, in order, because the capital letters are given 
normal sequence. So when we're setting type, if you have one case 
of regulation Roman and maybe one of Italian (which is italics, 
and is according to the other system) , you have to make the mental 
jump from where will the A be on this case and where will it be on 
that case. But you get to do that automatically, just like 


Teiser: Well, just as you have progressed in your printing presses, you've 
also progressed in types, haven't you? You've added- - 

Clif: Oh, yes. 
Teiser: How did that go? 

Clif: I bought- -I went over- -I was more agile then- -I went over to San 

Francisco and bought secondhand types from secondhand type dealers 
over there, usually for about two bits a pound, and then I'd bring 
them home and have to sort them out, you see. 

Lois: Then your first new type was-- 

Clif: For Here's How II. 

Lois: Yes. Cloister Bold. 

Clif: Cloister Bold, yes. 

Teiser: So this was for the second Here's How book? 

Lois: Yes. Remember talking to Colonel Carroll T. Harris about it? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: Tell about that. 


Clif: Well, I don't know what you mean, unless I was discussing the 
making of hot type with him, and told him-- 

Teiser: This is Colonel Harris? Mackenzie & Harris? 

Clif: Colonel Harris, yes. And 1 don't know what he was colonel of. I 
think he adopted the name . 

Teiser: No, he was a genuine World War II colonel. He just carried it 
over longer than most people. 

Clif: [laughs] Anyway, I reminded him that the day of hot type, of 

metal type, is really over. Everything is done by offset now, and 
photo typesetting and all that sort of thing. So he said no, he'd 
stick to hot type as long as he lives, and they do cast and sell a 
good bit. They're one of the very few makers of metal type in the 
country now, so they do a good business in mail order and local in 
metal type. 

Teiser: Did he advise you to get- -what is it, Cloister Bold? 

Clif: Yes. And I think Helen Lee, who is a very good friend, advised us 
to get this particular type. 

Lois: Clif likes black type. His eyes are not too good for light type, 
so Helen Lee suggested to him that Cloister would be a good thing 
for him to pick up. And then he turned to Colonel Harris and 
said, "And what kind of italics should I choose to go with it?" 
and the Colonel looked taken aback and he said, "Naturally, the 
same thing: Cloister Italics." [laughter] 

Clif: But there is no Cloister Italics. 

Lois: Yes, there is. You're talking about Centaur. 

Clif: Centaur, yes. 

Lois: But see, this was way back when. This was the first new type you 
had bought . 

Teiser: Is Cloister still your basic type? 

Lois: No. We haven't used that for a long time. We use Centaur and 
Arrighi and Spectrum, Centaur and Arrighi together, and then 
Spectrum has its own italic. And we have large sizes, a twenty- 
four point, haven't we, of the Centaur and the Arrighi, and also 
of the Spectrum, I think, for the titling. And then quite a few 
other titling types, like the last one that we got, which was 
Carolus; that was a gift from Dan Solo, and it's a Swedish type. 


We used it for display titling on one of our recent books. I 
think on the Emerson [R. W. Emerson. Tourist (1979)]. 

Teiser: I'm going to stop now and come back again; we've come to a good 

Lois: Okay. 

[end of interview session] 
[Interview 2: May 30, 1980] 

Teiser: Today is May 30, 1980, several days after the first interview with 
the Rathers . 

Lois: The other one was on the 26th. 

Teiser: You have given the Bancroft Library every book that you've 
published. How about ephemeral material? 

Lois: Quite a bit of it, because we belong to an amateur group and the 
Bancroft is on the list to receive all ephemera from Moxon 
Chappel. So they have most of Moxon' s items. Then Jim Kantor 
came out here soon after Clif sent his Here's How I to Bancroft, 
and at Jim Hart's suggestion, he asked us for copies of anything 
that we still had on hand, small or large, because they would like 
to have it in their file. So except for the things that were 
gone, like the first limerick calendar and a few things like that, 
I think they have all the books and quite a bit of the ephemera. 

Teiser: On this memorandum you have listed the names of purchasers since 
January 1980 of Rather books, and you said that you were less 
active in the early months of this year, because -- 

Lois: Because of Clif's illness. He was hospitalized for some time in 
February. Usually, we do all of the casing and the finishing up 
together, but since he was not available, I tried to do it myself, 
and as I say, I probably didn't do as good a job as usual. This 
was all his invention, the procedure for binding or casing. So 
when he wasn't here, I just did my best. 


Teiser: Is this device that you have over here the first press? 


Clif: That's the first press, yes. I made that myself out of scrap 

lumber. The only expense was the rolling pin; I think that cost a 
dollar thirty- five. [laughter] 

Teiser: So that's the homemade press. What did you use, one by two 
mostly? One by two- inch lumber? 

Clif: Various sizes. The thing from the ceiling is one by two. 

Teiser: Actually the strut fits up here to operate. 

Clif: Yes, with an elbow hinge. 

Teiser: So that you could operate it with one hand? 

Clif: Yes. 

Teiser: And this is what your first book was done on? 

Clif: Oh, yes, that book. Yes, that book was the first one that was 
printed on it. 

Teiser: This is the one entitled Household Hints for Hippie Housewives. 
How long did it take you to figure it out? 

Clif: I have no idea. 

Teiser: Did you make the press one way and then revise it? 

Clif: I had a neighbor with a saw do most of the work. 

Teiser: Did you have to use trial and error? Did you try one way first 
and then again? 

Clif: Yes, I always do. 

Teiser: And you did one book only on it? 

Clif: That's all. Then, as I said, we bought the Sigwalt at Somerset's. 

Teiser: Let's go on to a description of the Sigwalt. I looked at it the 
other day with Mrs. Rather, and she showed me how you have fitted 
it up now for gold stamping. But originally, what was that kind 
of press used for, first of all? Why was it built? 

Clif: The Sigwalt was built as an ordinary press. It has a shovel 
handle, you know. 












You mean it's really a handle that you can grip the way you grip a 


It was a six-by-nine originally, but you extended the size. 

Yes. The chase itself is six by nine inches in diameter, but we 
extended it for gold stamping. 

Did you extend it for printing? 

Yes, you did. You printed a lot of stuff, like California's First 
Printing Press [1969] and San Francisco's First Printing Press 
[1970] on that, extending out the area so that it would hold the 
big sheet, the big double sheet. Otherwise, you couldn't let go 
of the sheet to pull the handle or it would skew. 

But it didn't extend the printing area, just the paper size? Is 
that right? 

Just the paper size, yes. 

I see . How many books did you use that on? 

Just the one, I guess -- 

No, you did quite a bit of work on that. You didn't get the big 
one until I think Oakland's Image [1972]. I think you did the 
first three little books that Filmer bound for us- -besides a lot 
of the things in between. But I think it was Oakland's Image that 
was the first one that you did on the big press. 

On the big press, I see. What made you decide to get a big one? 
Why didn't you like that Sigwalt? 

It was too slow. It was much too slow, and much too inaccurate. 
The paper would slide sideways and it was very inaccurate. So 
then we bought the ten by fifteen Chandler & Price press from 
Somerset. We first set it up in the garage, until it became 
obviously too hard for me to bring the cases of type up for Lois 
to help me proof them. 

Your composing room is here in the same level as most of the rest 
of the house . 

Yes, it is. 

And so this was one story below. 

Clif Rather, March 1972 

Lois Rather, March 1972 


Clif: Yes. So that was one story, and that-- 

Lois: There's an outside stair, too. In the rain, that was a little 

Teiser: Was it a big investment, to get the new press? 

Clif: Well, it was at the time, because we didn't have as much money 
then as we do now. It was a pretty big investment. 

Lois: Wasn't $375 the basic price for it? And then we had to pay to 

have a fancy delivery up the hill and into the ground- level press 

Clif: They had to use a- -they had to put it on rollers and use a come- 
along to pull it from one place to another, and then put it on 
three -quarter- inch plywood. 

Lois: It was a professional job. We got a professional mover to do it, 
and he was most disgusted because the order included a big cabinet 
with a real marble stone on the top, the marble stone you use for 
a composing stone. The man, in bringing it up on a long chain 
thing, dropped it off and broke it. 

Teiser: Oh! 

Lois: So then he had to replace it. I mean, he was very nice about it, 
but he said it was almost impossible to find one of these big 
marble slabs. He did find us one, but it's about, oh, maybe an 
inch and a half or two inches thick. 

Clif: How about those broken pieces, where are they? 
Teiser: They make nice stepping stones. [laughter] 

Then you moved the Chandler & Price up to this level. 

Installing the Press 

Lois: The professionals said that they would have to cut a hole in the 
garage roof and then get a hoist up here, if that were possible, 
and lift the press up, and get it over the roof, that was the only 
way they could see to do it. We asked a couple of them, and they 
were completely nonplussed by the problem. The new print shop was 
at the back side of this sloping lot, behind the house. 



Les Lloyd said, "Oh, we could do that," and he got about five 
or six volunteers, including his son Richard and Marvin Calvert, 
and Bill Lee, and ray brother Willis Foster, who contributed the 
carpentry and built the base for the press. On a rainy, bad day, 
they struggled it all the way around the place. It was documented 
with our thank-yous and our celebration. 

What is the title of your account? 

Oh, that's called Rather Press Uplifted. 

Is there a copy of that in the Bancroft Library? 

I think so. 

Observing Printers 

Teiser: Incidentally, had you observed other people printing as you had 
seen Lawton or Alfred Kennedy? 

Clif: Oh, yes. We went over there many times. 
Teiser: So you watched what they were doing? 
Clif: Yes. 

Lois: We went down to Sherwood Grover's; Jane Grabhorn suggested that we 
go down there. 

Teiser: So you saw Sherwood Grover printing, too. 

Lois: Yes. We also went to Adrian Wilson's. He was most helpful about 
paper, and sent us to a good friend of his who handles his paper, 
the Butler Paper Company, and also persuaded Clif that he should 
invest in the more expensive paper because he'd get so much better 
results . 

Teiser: Is it easier to print on better paper? 
Clif: Oh, yes. Oh, much easier, much easier. 
Teiser: Any other printers whose shops you visited? 

Lois: Roger Levenson's. He was at the time teaching printing at the 



Rigorous effort on the part of seven saintly male volunteers 
Resulted on December 14, 1974, in transport and relocation fo- 
R the venerable Rather C & P, first installed in a garage nook 
Reached by an exterior flight of brick steps. (And Clif prefe- 
Rs bare feet for home transit, as he has opined frequently.) 
Rallying round for the Herculean task were: Lester Lloyd, 
Richard Lloyd, William Lee, Marvin Calvert, James Mo- 
Ratti, Willis Foster and Bill Fox; official kibitzer in ba- 
Re feet and leaning on a cane through a sudden and unapp- 
Reciated drizzle was Printer Clif, teasing the fellows with offe- 
Rs of beer, safety pins and bandaids in readiness. */ i 
Reasonable estimates of the distance traveled by the C & P 
Range from 150 feet to a half mile, depending on musculatu- 
Re and inclination. It took six hours, a lot of yellow nylon 
Rope, an active Come-Along, four big pipe rollers, perspi- 
Ration and know-how to shunt the press across the drive, up a 
Ramp (narrow), around a deodar and the house, up a se- 
Ries of stepping stones, down a slide under a black acacia to 
Rest at last on a pile of railroad ties for reassembly. A small 
Room specially built by Willis and Bill Fox was then floo- 
Red and closed in. 'Voila! As one of the weary volunteers coyly 
Remarked: "Now for the first time Clif is going to be p- 
Rinting on the level!" -^fr, 

Rather Press is open for inspection in its new location upon 
Requisite notice. -^ 
Rather gratitude and enthusiasm have reached new heights. 

Rather Press, 3200 Guido Street, Oakland, CA 94602 


Clif: I believe Adrian Wilson also. 

Lois: Yes, we spoke of him. And quite a few of the Moxons , because the 
Moxon people take turns hosting the group at their homes, and the 
homes are where their presses are. So every time we went to a 
home, we'd see the press set-up, and sometimes see it in action. 

Teiser: So you did more observing than you might have if you just stayed 
here and printed. After you had taught yourself enough to know 
what to observe? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: Les Lloyd came in a couple of times here, too, and suggested 
things for you when you had problems , remember? 

Clif: Yes. 

Lois: And Wayne Dye, who acquired the big press for you, gave you a lot 
of help. 

Clif: And still does. 

Lois: Any time he has a real problem, he can call on Wayne Dye. Do you 
know Wayne? He's a retired professional typesetter, and he has a 
quite complicated private setup now. He's retired. Has a small 
press and a linotype and all kinds of cases of type and ornaments 
and things, and is very generous about lending them. There 
probably are others that we visited, too, because every time we 
visited them, Clif would say, "Can I see your press?" And then 
take a look. 

Teiser: What sort of problems do you have, when you phone Wayne Dye? 

Clif: Well, the principal problem that I have in press operation is 

over inking, too much ink. That clouds up the pads, you know. It 
also makes it difficult to read. People are used to reading books 
that are lighter, using less ink. 

Lois: You have been able to lick that yourself, more or less. But you 
did have problems with early inks that you used, and you were 
advised to use latex. That was one of the big steps. 

Clif: Yes. We were advised to use latex inks. 
Lois: Rubber-based. 
Clif: Rubber-based inks. 


Teiser: Are they just as permanent? 

Clif: Well, they don't dry up quite so fast on a press. 

Lois : Instead of washing your ink table down every day when you do 

printing, you can keep that latex ink on for several days without 
any problem of it hardening. Much easier to handle. 

Teiser: And it's not greasy, you said? 

Clif: No. 

Lois: No. 

Teiser: So you don't need the kind of solvents that most print shops use? 

Clif: No. 

Lois: He doesn't use much solvent. Once in a while. 

Clif: Very seldom. I have a little one-ounce bottle of solvent and once 

in a while I put about three or four drops of ink on the ink 

table. I then dribble solvent on the ink table, to soften up the 

Lois: Once a month, you completely clean it off, remove all of the pads 
and put new ones on. But that's once a month. 

Clif: That's when I think of it. [laughter] 

Teiser: Well, if you don't think of it, what happens? Everything goes 

Clif: No, it still works all right. 

Lois: It's an accumulation of lint from the paper. 

Clif: Like an automobile, if you put off having it lubricated, it's not 
going to stop. It will keep going. It may wear out a little 
faster, but it will keep going. 

Teiser: How about your C&P press? Was it in pretty good condition when 
you got it? 

Clif: Yes. It was in excellent condition. We bought that from Wayne 
Dye. I think, although it was made in 1926 --we looked up the 
number and found out that it was made in 1926- -it was never used 
for printing anything apparently except small stuff, handbills and 
that sort of thing, in a job shop. 


Teiser: So it didn't have to have new parts or anything like that? 

Clif: No. 

Lois: But you should give Monroe Postman a little praise here. 

Clif: Monroe Postman. They live in Palo Alto, I believe. He gives us 
quite a bit of help, and she --they have a secondhand shop near 
their home. He made for me, which I'll show you later if you 
want, a- - 

Lois: An electronic- - 

Clif: Electronic gadget with a dial, you can speed up or slow down the 
press as much as you want to. 

Lois: He uses an electric motor on the press, so that he'll have his one 
hand free for the hand feeding. He sets the motor going at a slow 
pace, and then puts in the paper, and then lets it go through the 
printing operation. Then he takes it out. So with the one hand-- 
the people who have two hands can put in with one hand, take out 
with the other, put in with one hand, take out with the other. 
But see, he can't do that. So this is one reason he has trouble 
with over inking. 

Teiser: Oh, going around with no paper. 

Lois: Yes. 

Teiser: I see. So this slows it down? That's a rheostat. 

Clif: Yes. That slows it down to exactly half. Yes, with the rheostat 
I can speed it up or slow it down as much as I want to. 

Lois: It's a very clever device. 


Teiser: Ordinarily, when you're printing, how many impressions do you do, 
say, in an hour- or two-hour span, or whatever? 

Clif: I think it takes me about- - 

Lois: Once you do the makeready and made sure of the evenness of the 
color that you're getting and do all that messing around- -of 


course, supposing that the typos were already corrected- -then when 
you once begin the cycle, it's only forty- five minutes, maybe? 

Clif: Approximately, for 150 copies. 

Teiser: How long does it take you to do the makeready? 

Clif: I don't know how long that takes. 

Lois: Well, sometimes it's half an hour. Sometimes you're changing the 
packing and tearing out a spot that's too black. Then the 
numerals may punch through the paper, and you're always trying to 
have a minimum amount of impression on the other side, because 
there will be another page printed on the other side. It's just 
bad printing to have it go through too much. 

Teiser: Not like the Grabhorns ' standard--? 

Lois: They wanted that impression, they wanted it to have an embossed 
effect, but you can't go to the extent of having both sides 
embossed [laughing] or you're going to get into difficulties. 

Clif: Well, like this, for instance. Here's a book that was printed on 
both sides, this paper was printed on both sides. You can't feel 
the letters punching through. 

Lois: To some extent you can. It's like a -typewriter. An electric 
typewriter doesn't punch the periods through. I use the old- 
fashioned kind, and it does. 

Teiser: So, when you actually get the ink ready, it takes you, you said 
about forty- five minutes to do 150 impressions? 

Clif: Hundred and fifty, yes. A hundred and fifty is about our limit, 
because it's a hobby operation, you know. From beginning to end 
it's a hobby operation, and if I do more than 150, then it becomes 
work, and we don't need to work. [laughter] 


Lois : One of the things that you should speak about is that you are 

trying to minimize the halftones, because it's very difficult to 
print halftones on this kind of paper. 

Teiser: Yes, I noticed that you did some halftones. 


Lois: The ideal is to put special pages in to take the halftones, or 

we've cut out some illustrations after he prints them on special 
paper, and I tip them in. 

Teiser: In Rather A Small Press [1976], didn't I see some little halftones 
in that? 

Lois: Yes. See, we tipped those in. 

Teiser: Those are tipped in. Are they on photo stock? 

Lois: [opens book] Oh, yes. 

Teiser: Oh, there's some in this, too. Ten Years of the Rather Press 

Lois: But when we're doing a book, it's an important part of the design 
to get illustrations that can be printed as part of the book if 
possible. That is, engravings and drawings. 

Clif: Halftones we can't print very well on our paper, it's a little bit 
too rough, unless you're using a very thick paper or newsprint. 
Newspapers use halftones. 

Lois: They don't get very clear print. 

Clif: But they don't get as clear a picture, as we like. 

Teiser: So you use linoleum cuts? 

Clif: Some linoleum and some wood. But her fingers are getting a little 
too- - 

Lois: Tender. [laughs] 

Clif: Tender for that sort of thing. So we usually send to a place in 
east Texas to have engravings made. 

Lois: I didn't do that one. That one was done by my brother-in-law, 
Glenn Vessels. The subject was my sister, Kay. They were 
Telegraph Hill -type bohemians before Coit Tower was built. 

Teiser: This is in the Ten Years of the Rather Press. 

Lois: That illustration is used in "From Bohemians to Hippies," and 

originally appeared in The Fortnightly, a small literary magazine 
edited by Willis Foster [1931-1932]. It coexisted with a little 
magazine, the Hesperian, edited by James D. Hart, later director 
of the Bancroft Library in Berkeley. 


Designing a Book 





Lois : 









Well, speaking of the design, which you just mentioned- -you lay a 
book out, how do you handle the design? Do you think it all out 
in your minds, do you think it out on paper, or what do you do? 

I don't know how to answer that. 

Ordinarily, I try to do the Adrian Wilson- type thing of tracing 
letters and making a dummy title page and then figuring out if any 
ornamentation is to be used, what sort we should use. In a couple 
of our books, our friend Dan Solo has contributed specially 
designed initials. 

I believe that's one there. 
Isadora (1976)] . 

This is Dan Solo's work f Lovely 

He made a large size initial for each chapter, and for the current 
book that we're doing, he made pictorial initials, which we are 
now using for Men Will Be Boys. The Storv of E Clampus Vitus 
[1980] . 

Well, again we're using the book Ten Years of the Rather Press as 
an example. Did you lay out these pages? The one with the big 
initial with a--is it a serpent? 

Isadora's scarf. 

Isadora Duncan was killed by a scarf getting in the wheels of a 
car. So he used that as a theme for making a set of initials. 

Now, this [Ten Years 1 was one of the things that we have always 
done. When we did these freebies, Clif often just turned them 
over to me because this kind of bores him. We have done a lot of 
little freebie books in between the hard-covers. Well, he just 
turns that over to me to practice typesetting and so on. What I 
did usually was to get all the material together, set the type, 
then as the page fell, I would insert one picture on each page. 

As you composed, you designed? 


That's harder. It's a wonder it comes out! 

Sometimes we had to change. 

She more or less designs it, but Dan Solo does the finish job. 


Lois: No, wait. Dan Solo does what? 

Clif: On our initials. 

Teiser: On your initials. I was wondering about the pages. 

Clif: At the beginning of each chapter, we have a separate initial. 

Lois: But this is only for two books that he's done this. This is not a 
regular procedure. What we do is to design our own books. 

Clif: We designed practically all of this. This is our sewing frame 
that you'll see later. 

Teiser: This is your drawing, Clif. Who is Dan Solo? 

Lois: Dan X. Solo. He is a phototypographer . For this book he took old 
pictures and drawings of Gold Rush men and so on, and made little 
square pictures, and then set the display type on them. 

Teiser: I see. Does Dan Solo live near here? 

Clif: Yes, he lives up the hill about two miles. He drops in every once 
in a while for an unexpected visit- -he's the only friend we have 
that drops in Texas -style, you know, unexpected. 

Lois: He's a very talented and creative person. We're very pleased that 
he's sort of taken us under his wing, kind of big brother, giving 
us advice. 

The Moxon Chappel 

Teiser: The Moxon Chappel --you said you got involved in that group, and 
was that helpful to you just in a social way? 

Clif: Yes. More or less social- -it started out as a private press 

group, but it later slowly evolved into more of a social, beer- 
drinking and ale -drinking group, that sort of thing. 

Lois: There were a few professionals in it that do really professional 
work, like George Pfeiffer, who had American West for so long. 
He's a very active member, and I think perhaps is one of the 
founding members. Then Lou Osborne , who did publication of 
material up in Ashland, Oregon, he's a member. Not while we were 
there; we came afterwards. George Kane, who is now teaching 
printing at Santa Cruz, is a member, an active member. It's been 


interesting, and it sparks a lot of ingenious examination of the 
printing that you do. 

Clif: We no longer go to the meetings, although they elected my wife 

Lois to the status of companion, which is kind of a- -the members 
are called companions. They elected her as a companion, the first 
woman ever elected, I believe. 

Lois: No, it's the only time two members of a family were elected. 

Carol Cunningham has been a member for some time. We brought her 
in, as a matter of fact. And Freddy Postman. And both of them 
have acted as "dear father," which is the head of the chappel, at 
different times. 

Current Proiects 

Teiser: Well, now we should go on to the future. What's your next book 
going to be? 

Clif: Well, the one we're printing now is called Miss Kate [1980]. 
Lois: No, we finished that. We're now working on Men Will Be Boys. 

Clif: Yes, E Clampus Vitus. Have you ever 'heard of that? E Clampus 
Vitus , we're working on that now, printing that. And later, of 
course, we'll bind it. 

Lois: Dr. Albert Shumate did an introduction for us, and has advised me 
about some of the content of the manuscript. We sent him the 
manuscript to read, because it's supposed to be an all -male 
organization, and to have a woman write the history of it seemed a 
little [laughing] outre. But Helen Lee is the one that urged us 
to adopt this subject. She said that Colonel Harris was an avid E 
Clampus Vitus member. [laughter] 

Teiser: Well, you'll have a hard time deciding who will get the copies, 

won't you, because there are more people interested in it than in 
some subjects. 

Clif: Yes. [laughs] That's why we're printing 155 copies instead of 
our usual 150. [laughter] 

Teiser: Well, you'll have some fighting among the members. 

Lois: There are thousands of members, and I doubt if they will all feel 
that they should get copies. We had a teacher in a Texas college 


write about a month ago and ask if we would supply sixty copies of 
Bohemians to Hippies for a course in English that he was about to 
give. [laughter] We might have come up with six! 

Teiser: Have you ever thought of putting your books on microfilm for 

Clif: Oh, no. 

Teiser: For wider distribution? 

Lois: Ve were asked by the University of Michigan to allow them to 

reproduce Women as Printers, so we wrote and said, "Sure," that up 
to ten copies might be reproduced by Xerox if they wanted to. We 
felt we aren't really making money out of this thing. But we 
don't like to have our material lifted by somebody else without 
credit, so we said they could do up to ten copies. 

Next Books 

Teiser: What's your next book going to be, then? 
Clif: What are you working on? 

Lois: I'm working on the Dunsmuir House and Edna Wallace Hopper, the 
famous comedian. She lived to be in her upper eighties and was 
considered the woman that never grew old. 

Clif: She lived in a house here in east Oakland. 

Lois: Dunsmuir House, which is still very active and very beautiful. 
She owned it for a time. 

Teiser: Then what? What's the next book going to be after that? 

Lois: I have about six subjects. [laughter] One thing, Josh Billings-- 
you wouldn't think he'd have a California history, but he died at 
Del Monte Hotel, after a lecture course in San Francisco, and it 
may be that there will be some interesting material on him. 

Clif: If we live that long, yes. 

Lois: There's Henry Mencken, who came out here at the time that George 
Sterling was in his prime. Do you remember that story? He came 
out to see George Sterling, and George Sterling got very sick-- 
very drunk, very sick, passing out, so that he couldn't preside at 


the banquet in honor of Mencken at the Bohemian Club, but died 
upstairs while Charlie Miller presided down below. 

Teiser: So how about the printing? Are you going to get a new press or 


Clif: No, I think this will last as long as we do. 
Teiser: You're going to keep getting new type, I suppose? 

Clif: Oh, I suppose. I suppose we'll keep getting new type all the 
time. But not a new press. That's a major investment, even 
beyond our means . 

Lois: Well, I wouldn't say that. But we would have difficulty getting 
it in here, because this press is still here. 

Teiser: What about bookbinding, do you have any plans--? 

Lois: Yes. We did a book on edition binding, Strictly Amateur [1971]. 

This book was not for sale. It was done as a freebie. We gave it 
away, and then pretty soon a few people as far away as Toronto 
heard about the book and wanted copies, but of course, by that 
time, it was long gone. Anyway, this is the only one we did on 
casing books. Tells how we did editions, not just one big 
beautiful book, but an edition of 150. 

Teiser: Do you have any plans now for any further modifications of 
equipment, or additions of equipment, or do you have your 
bookbinding equipment just the way you want it to be? 

Lois: Oh, we probably can improve it as we go along. We do make 

changes. The template board on which we lay out the spine piece 
and the hard covers, we adjust that every time to whatever the 
book is, and Clif occasionally thinks of new ways to improve 
things. We also are more and more simplifying things so that he 
can do his part of the binding sitting down. 

Clif: Yes. For the sawing we use an ordinary garage car vise, and 
fasten it to the liquor cabinet here, and then saw the places 
where the sewing is to be done, see? 

Lois: Speaking of finances, we have talked to our income tax man, and we 
charge I think half of all the utilities and the expenses of the 
house to the press. We don't charge rent for housing the press, 
but we charge half of all of our utilities and half of our 
automobile expenses. 


Working Premises 

Teiser: We're sitting in, I guess, your dining area-- 

Clif: Dining area of the living room, yes. 

Teiser: Yes. And is this where you do your binding, at this table? 

Clif: This is the place. 

Lois: And then we are spread all over the whole house, because our books 
are often in different stages of assembly. Some of them are sewed 
and some are just glued, and there are boxes of this and that, so 
that the whole house really becomes a shop. 

Teiser: What's the elapsed time on an edition of 150, how many days do you 
have the house disrupted? 

Clif: We do, on an edition of 150, we'll do possibly eight or ten a day. 

Lois: But before that, we have spent quite a few days printing and 

sawing and sewing, and then we have to do the gold stamping ahead 
of time, so the spines are all ready to go. There's a lot of 
preliminary business, like the makeready. It takes maybe as long 
as it does to assemble the books just to get the parts ready to 

Teiser: And where do you gather? 

Lois: Here. 

Teiser: Right on this same table? 

Clif: On the table, yes. And sometimes, it runs over to the counter. 

Lois: Depending on how many signatures. 

Clif: Depending on how many signatures there are. 

Teiser: So then it's the final gluing and pressing that you do that's 
about ten a day, is that it? 

Lois: Yes. Eight or ten; eight if it's a fat book, but ten if it's a 
little book. 

Teiser: Thank you both very much. 

Lois's Postscript 199A 1 

Lois: Clif Rather was seventy- five when he decided to investigate 

letterpress printing (I was in my sixties). He was confronted by 
many problems. He had never used a printing press, and one hand 
and arm were useless. He needed a lot of advice and assistance, 
which he received in good measure from interested printers with 
whom he made friends. 

The dozen years of Rather Press operation were interesting 
and rewarding years for us. I had always enjoyed the study of 
history and had had little opportunity to indulge in authorship. 
We decided to concentrate on those segments of history which 
involved experiences of noted people in California. Being unable 
to travel for research, I was so fortunate as to live within 
reasonable distance of the great Bancroft Library, and received 
generous encouragement in my writing from Dr. James D. Hart, 
director. As he had a special interest also in private printing 
and had done some himself, he cheered Clifton on, too. 

When Clif died in 1987 at the age of ninety- three, I felt 
that the Rather Press was finished. I presented the Chandler & 
Price and most of the types to our good friend Dan Solo, but kept 
the old Sigwalt and one suit of type, Bembo 14-point. It took 
several years for me to find the courage to approach the press. I 
had done none of our printing, only the type-setting and writing. 

Then I unearthed some shabby little journals or notebooks I 
had kept from age eleven. Selecting entries from 1917, I 
collected and ineptly printed childish comments on the life of the 
Middle West during World War I. Since that time I have sashayed 
through the other diaries and family letters and histories to 
produce a series of Rather Press Addenda in very small and badly 
printed editions. Clif would have been amused. 

He would still have been pleased with the many books he 
printed one page at a time and helped to case. We were proud of 
our shelf of small volumes. Here is a bibliography: 

. Rather added this section after transcription of the oral 
history in 1994. 


Rather Press Checklist 2 
N.B. All by Lois or Clifton Rather or both, as indicated. 

Clifton, Household Hints for Hippie Housewives. 1968. 8pp. 

Clifton, Here's How. An AutobioRraphv (Part One). 1968. 119pp. 

Clifton and Lois, Here's Know-How! 1968. 12pp. 

Clifton [editor], Cooking with Beer. 1968. 20pp. 

Clifton and Lois [compilers], Poems to Ponder. 1968. 16pp. 

, More Poems to Ponder. 1968. 

, And More Poems to Ponder. 1968. 

Lois, Ad Astra. A Helpful Handbook. 1969. 24pp. 

, An ABC of Cats. 1969. 24pp. 

, An ABC of Does. 1969. 24pp. 

, Strong and Sweet: A Guide to Liqueurs. 1969. 20pp. 

, Here's to You: Your Health. That Is. 1969. 20pp. 

, All Tea Is Not for Smoking. 1969. 24pp. 

, California's First Printing Press. 1969. 28pp. 

, Beads. Baubles. Baroque: A Gem Book for Small Timers. 

1969. 32pp. 

, San Francisco's First Printing Press. 1970. 28pp. 

Clifton and Lois, Here's How. An Autobiography. Part II. 1970. 


Lois, Roses are Red. 1970. 24pp. 

Clifton [editor], Poems for Printers. 1970. 20pp. 
Lois, Life with Sammi. 1970. 22pp. 
Clifton, Clif's Fizziculture . 1970. 22pp. 
Lois, Women as Printers. 1970. 73pp. 

, Books and Societies. 1971. 92pp. 

Clifton, A Jug of Wine, a Waterbed. and Wow! 1971. 47pp. 
Clifton and Lois, Strictly Amateur. A Personalized Manual of 

Bookbinding. 1971. 29pp. 

Lois, Some Little Magazines. 1971. 101pp. 
t Oakland's Image: A History of Oakland. California. 1972. 

Clifton, Printer's Progress. A Comment on Private Presses. 1972, 

Lois, Encounters: Some Incidents of Literary History. 1972. 

Clifton, One -Handv Man: A Manual for Handicapped Printers. 

1972. 12pp. 
Lois, Stevenson's Silver Ship: Biography of the Casco. 1973. 

, Railway in the Valley. 1973. 115pp. 

Reproduced from the Autumn 1988 Quarterly Newsletter of the Book Club 
of California, Roger K. Larson, M.D., "The Rather Press, an Informal 
History of a Unique California Press." 


Lois and Clifton, Family Letters: Printer's Progress. 1973. 

Lois, Two Lilies in America: Lillian Russell and Lillie Langtrv. 

1973. 90pp. 

Clifton and Lois, Oh Yes. We Have Bananas. 1974. 20pp. 
Lois, Jessie Fremont at Black Point. 1974. 108pp. 
Clifton and Lois [editors], Thanks. Jane. 1974. 24pp. 
Lois, Gertrude Stein and California. 1974. 107pp. 

, Jack London. 1905. 1974. 133pp. 

, An Amateur in the Archives. 1975. 8pp. 

, Bufano and the U.S.A. 1975. 127pp. 

Bierce, Ambrose, The Devil's Word Book. 1975. 25pp. [a 

miniature book, 2x2 1/2"] 

Lois, Bittersweet: Ambrose Bierce and Women. 1975. 133pp. 
Grabhorn, Jane, Jane Grabhorn. Printer. 1975. 26pp. [a 

miniature book, 2x2 3/4"] 
Lois, West is West: Rudvard Kipling in San Francisco. 1976. 

, Rather a Small Press. 1976. 45pp. [another miniature, 

2x2 3/4"] 

, Sammi- -March 1976. 1976. llpp. 

, Lovely Isadora. 1976. 125pp. 

, The Man with the Hoe. 1976. 125pp. 

Lois and Clifton, A Rather Private Press. 1977. 12pp. 

Lois, Bonanza Theater. 1977. 12pp. 

Clifton and Lois, Fine Points: A Miscellany for Printers. 1977. 

Lois, Bohemians to Hippies: Waves of Rebellion. 1977. 167pp. 

, Ding-Bats. 1978. 12pp. 

, Henry George- -Printer to Author. 1978. 89pp. 

, J. Ross Browne. Adventurer. 1978. lllpp. 

, Lotta's Fountain. 1979. 99pp. 

, R. W. Emerson. Tourist. 1979. 75pp. 

, Miss Kate: Kate Douglas Wiggin in San Francisco. 1980. 

, Men Will Be Boys. The Story of E Clampus Vitus. 1980. 


, Dunsmuir House. 1982. 77pp. 

, Limerick Calendars yearly from 1969 to 1981. Additional 

calendars for 1984, 1985, and 1987. All except the first 

were products of Lois' nimble wit. These were not printed 

for sale but distributed as gifts to friends of the Rathers 

Transcribed and Final Typed by Shannon Page 


IF THE DEFINITION of a private press is: a privately owned and 
operated press which produces its own books for pleasure, then the 
Rather Press is the very prototype of a private press. 

It is located in a tree-surrounded private home on a hillside in 
Oakland, California. Its owners try to do everything themselves 
except make paper and type. They research, write, hand-set, hand- 
feed to print, assemble, fold, hand-sew, encase, emboss the titles on 
spines, with their own hands. Three hands, that is, since Clif has the 
use of only one. Hence the press mark. 

As for pleasure, they profess increasing delight, and hope they 
manifest increasing proficiency, taking pride in carefully made volumes 
on the best papers available, averaging two or three hardcover books 
a year. 


Clif Rather 

CLIP STARTED the whole thing after he suffered a serious heart 
attack followed by a stroke in 1962. During the long months of 
hospitalization and therapy Lois persuaded him to pencil an autobi 
ography. In it he sketched a variegated life. Born in Texas in 1893, 
he left as a teenager to join the Navy, rising to yeoman; tried many 
civilian jobs, including for a time that of bootlegger, was editor of 
a small magazine, qualified as a journeyman machinist in the Second 
World War, was partner in a record-pressing business, then turned to 
real estate investment and remodeling. The Rather Press is housed 
in their redwood home he designed and built himself. 

Within weeks after his release from the hospital, Clif was driving 
his Model A, restored by him in 1960 and winner of a first award 
at the Pebble Beach Concourse in I96l. In 1965 he was elected to 
serve as a director on the National Board of the Model A Ford 
Club of America, headquartered in Los Angeles, serving for two 
years during which he and Lois drove south for monthly meetings. 
During this time he was Chapter Coordinator (there were over a 
hundred chapters) and issued a monthly publication. 

Clif next began experimenting with various means of printing 
adapted by him to the disadvantages of using only his right hand. 
He enlarged photographs, built a silk screen press, and finally 
built his own wooden letterpress, a flat-bed model involving a hard 
wood rolling pin and a hinged strut to the -kitchen ceiling arch. In 
1967 he printed covers for a booklet, "Household Hints for Hippie 
Housewives," on this press, then proceeded to print the whole 
eight-page booklet on it. He was well into the project of printing his 
autobiography, "Here's How, Part One," when he acquired a 6 x 9 
Sigwalt Ideal of ancient vintage, which he used until 1972; it was 
operated by pulling a shovel-handle like a slot machine's. 

In 1972 Clif acquired a IO x 15 Chandler and Price job press 
operated by electric motor, adapting the operations including hand- 
feeding to his own capabilities (he did a little book called "One- 
Handy Man" detailing some of the adaptations). 

Clif has been married twice. By his first wife Gertrude he had four 
children, who have presented to the world his grandchildren and a 
number of great-grandchildren. He and Lois were married in 19^6. 

Lois Rather 

THE SECOND MEMBER of the Rather Press team was born in 
Chicago, lived in Streator, Illinois, where her father William G. 
Poster was an architect and her mother for a time a newspaper edi 
tor, until the family moved to California in 1925. She received a 
teacher's credential from San Francisco State College, then con 
centrated on dramatic work, teaching and directing in the San Fran 
cisco Children's Theater of Mrs. John Cuddy; acted as studio direc 
tor for an early series of children's plays on KPO radio; with Samuel 
J. Hume wrote a book called "Theater and School." She was then 
research supervisor of the WPA Federal Theater 1935-1936, danced 
in the Ruth St. Denis-Martha Graham modern dance school of Betty 
Horst for some years, studied painting and decorative art in private 

For several years Lois worked as typist-editor of a graduate the 
sis shop in Berkeley, also at various times employed by Lawrence 
Kinnaird and Herbert Bolton of the University of California history 
department in transcribing and research of historical materials. 

She was married in 1936 to DeForest Rodecape / a librarian at 
the University of California Library; he died in 1943. Thereafter she 
became a teacher in the Oakland Public Schools, primarily in kin 
dergarten-primary areas. During her 27 years in this field, she wrote 
and helped compile several teaching manuals. 

In the period I94O-I944 six of Lois' studies were printed in the 
Calif.ornia Historical Society "Quarterly." She has for 12 years con 
tributed a regular column to the MAFCA "Restorer." 

In 1969 Lois left teaching to devote herself to the Rather Press: 
does the research and most of the writing, serves as printer's devil, 
sets a little type, hand-sews the books, assists in most operations. 

The Rather Press 

EARLIEST PUBLICATIONS of the Rather Press were in pamphlet 
or booklet form, center-stapled. The first hard-cover book was 
'Here's How, Part Two,' which was amateurishly home-cased es an 
experiment. Thereafter Clif developed his own tools, machines and 
equipment, and an early book now out of print, 'Stiictly Amateur/ 
tells of some of the solutions. 

It was in I97O that the Rather Press decided to sell enough 
books to pay for the additional expense of top-quality paper and 
binding materials. The first three such books were bound by 
Brothers of San Francisco; all subsequent put licoticrs hcvt btfn 
hand-cased with simplified equipment at the Rcther hoire. 

Major publications of the press have included: 
'Household Hints fo^ Hippie Housewives' by Clif Rather (1968) 
'Here's How, Part I : An Autobiography' by Clif R.ither (1968) 
'California's First Printing Press' by Lois Rather (1969) 
'San Francisco's First Printing Press' by Lois Ritner (I97O) 
'Here's How, Part II' by Clif [and Lois] Rather (!97o) 
'Life with Sammi' by Lois Rather (I97O) 
'Women as Printers' by Lois Rather (I97C) 
'Books and Societies' by Lois Rather (l97l) 
'A Jug of Wine, a Waterbed, and Wow!' by CliF Ratlier (I97l) 
'Strictly Amateur' by Lois and Clif Rather (I9?0 
'Some Little Magazines' by Lois Rather (<97l) 
'Oakland's Image' by Lois Rather (1972) 
'Printer's Progress' by Clif Rather (1972) 
'Encounters' by Lois Rather (1 972) 
'One-Handy Man' by Clif Rather (1972) 
'Stevenson's Silver Ship' by Lois Rather (1973) 
'Railway in the Valley' by Lois Rather (1973) 
Two Lilies in America' by Lois Rather (1 973) 

Clifton and Lois Rather, 32OO Guido Street, Oakland CA 94602 



Friday. November 26. 1 982 Volume 5. Number 7 

Good Impressions 


Clif and Lois Roll*? 


By Dennis Drabelle 

I love books. I love to hold 
them. I love to smell their ink 
and -paper. I love to riffle 
their pages (gently). I low to shelve 
and reshelve them until suddenly 
they're in an order that lights up a 
wing of neuronic circuitry in my 
brain. (Norman Mailer and Gore Vi- 
dal as neighbors perfect!) I even 
love to read them and usually have 
two or three working. I hate it when 
people mistreat books: break their 
spines or spill picante sauce on 
them or truly Visigothic bend 
down a page-corner to mark the 
place. In short, I am a fussbook- 

So naturally I drool over but just 
to the side of well-made books. 
Their number is not legion these 
days. Some of the most prestigious 
New York houses are issuing hard 
backs that cohere just longer than 
TV Guide (Bookstores ought to 
display these ephemerals in separ 
ate sections and put little wheel 
chair stickers on them.) For hand 
some, durable books, the bibliophile 
has to look more and more to uni 
versity presses and modest-sized 
commercial houses like Boston's 
David Godine and Berkeley's North 
Point Press and to private printers 
like Oakland's Rather Press. 

The Rather Press is the trade 
name (or a Mom-and-Pop venture 
run out of Clifton and Lois Ralh- 
er's East Oakland home since the 
mid- '60s. The press is dormant now 
Clif is not in the best of health. 

and Lois spends most of her time 
looking after him but the 25 com 
mercial editions that the Rathers 
have produced are stellar examples 
of bookmaking: sturdy, clearly 
printed, embellished with orna 
ments and classic touches like the 
little curve that connects the top of 
an 5 to the bar of a following/, hand- 
sewn, the cover and spine often em 
bossed in gold. ("We used real 
gold," says Lois, "until recently 
when the price went up so much.") 

Clif Rather is a white-haired and 
moustached 89-year-old who be 
came a printer because he lives by 
his hands. He's always used them 
intensively in his work and hobbies, 
and even now as he sits in the fam 
ily room, reviewing his many ca 
reers, his good right hand is in mo 
tionstroking the edge of an end 
table, fiddling with a tube of Chap- 
stick, combing the cat's fur. 

"When 1 was a kid about thir 
teen or fourteen." he says, "I work 
ed for a newspaper in Copperas 
Cove, Texas. 1 was a printer's devil 
an unskilled handyman but 
sometimes I helped operate the 
press (I had to jump to grab the 
handle). I joined the Navy and came 
to San Francisco before the First 
World War, and 1 was a bootlegger 
during the Depression, but I did 
have one more fling at printing 
when I was young. I did a little 
counterfeiting. It wasn't very good 
stuff, and I never tried to pass any, 
but some friends of mine took the 
lOfMinurU on pagr 9 

There was a time when 
type was actually "set" 
and books were made 
one by one. For former 
bootlegger, machinist, 
and printer's devil Clif 
Rather and his wife Lois, 
times haven't changed 
one bit. 


November 26. 1982 EXPRESS 9 

Good Impressions 

h 'om pagr I 

biOs to Sacramento and managed to 
spend them. 

"1 was a machinist in the ship 
building industry during World 
Wr II." In fact, according to Clif s 
autobiography, he was a counterfeit 
machinist who succeeded in pass 
ing himself off as an experienced 
journeyman. Though he had no 
training or experience in running 
the machines, he had bravado and 
his clever hands, and he became a 
whiz at the controls. "1 was a part 
ner in a small record company after 
the War, but my later career mainly 
involved buying old houses in San 
Francisco, fixing them up, and re 
selling them. I designed and built 
this house myself. I also took and 
developed my own photos, and res 
tored Model A Fords." In 1961, one 
of Clif s restored cars took first 
prize for Pre-War Non-Classics at a 
show grandiloquently called the 
Eleventh Annual Pebble Beach 
Concours d'FJegance. 

"In 1962, 1 had a bad heart attack 
and a stroke. I lost the use of my 
left arm most of it, anyway. (I ask 
ed the doctor why he didn't just am 
putate it, and he said the only rea 
son was that it would give me a bal 
ance problem.) Restoration work 
was out of the question. I could still 
use a camera, but it was a clumsy 
maneuver, and I couldn't do any 
more developing. 1 was determined 
to regain my strength, though. I 
proved myself by driving alone, 
one-handed, to Texas and back in 
my Model A 

"But I still needed something to 
keep me busy. I was a director of 
the Model A Ford Club of America, 
and 1 put out a monthly newsletter 
for the local chapter. Once I had the 
newsletter printed by an offset 
press, but it was so expensive I 
said, 'Jesus Christ, 1 ought to print 
this myself.' 1 took a book out of the 
library called Printing as a Hobby by 
Ben Lieberman, who's since be 
come a friend of ours. The chal 
lenge was to adapt the techniques 
of printing by hand to someone who 
has only one of them." 

There was printing before 
Gutenberg, but it was a 
painstaking affair. Each 
page of type had to be carved in 
wood or chiseled in stone; it was 
faster and cheaper just to write out 
books in longhand. In fashioning his 
printing press, the great innovation 
that Gutenberg capitalized on was 
movable type: separate, reusable 
metal letters. 

The typesetting process used by 
most hand-printers today hardly dif 
fers from Gutenberg's five hundred 

"The way we print books is hopelessly old- 
fashioned. Sometimes the title page of a book is 
still done by hand, but almost no one prints whole 
books by hand anymore except people like us who 
are in it for the personal satisfaction." 

years ago. Printers "set" type as 
semble letters into words arid lines 
in a "composing stick," an adjust 
able metal box with one side open. 
It is held in one hand while' the 
other hand selects letters and 
spaces from a large-compartmental 
ized letter-case and drops them into 
the stick. (Spaces are blank pieces 
of type that are not as high as let 
ters and thus don't print.) 

When the printer finishes a line, 
he "justifies" it makes it fill out 
the length he prescribed for every 
line on his page when he adjusted 
the composing stick by slipping in 
spaces where necessary. He cor 
dons off the justified line with a lead 
strip and begins another. When the 
stick is full, he transfers its contents 
to the "chase," a metal frame in 
which completed lines are arranged 
to form a page. When he has a page 
worth of lines in the chase, he 
"blocks" them by hammering in 

wooden wedges (called "furniture") 
to hold them in place. He inks a rol 
ler and applies it to the type face. 
He lays paper on the type face and 
applies another roller to make an 
impression. If all has gone well, he 
lifts up a printed page. 

In his pamphlet, "One-Handy 
Man," Clif explains how he chang- 
. ed the process to suit his handicap. 
Essentially, he junked the compos 
ing stick and set type directly in the 
chase. He propped the chase up, 
slanting downhill toward him, and 
leaned each letter on the previous 
one. He kept each line in place with 
furniture and justified them only 
after the page was all set up. Clif s 
method is too slow to justify wide 
spread two-handed adoption. The 
advantage of a composing stick is 
that it's small and maneuver-able, 
and printers who can use one can 
stand and move it back and forth as 
they pick letters out of their case. 

But Clif sits while composing and 
rests his arm inside a hollowed-out 
coffee can hanging from the ceiling, 
and his way works fine for a mono- 
dextrous person. 

"I built my own flat-bed press out 
of wood," he says, "with a rolling 
pin and an elbowed strut attached 
to the kitchen ceiling to give me 
pressure. But I didn't have anything 
to print, so I wrote a pamphlet call 
ed 'Household Hints for Hippie 
Housewives,' which was an instruc 
tion manual for brewing beer at 
home. That was illegal at the time, 
but the law has since been changed, 
and you're now allowed to brew 
small amounts so long as you don't 
sell it. We had the text mimeo 
graphed, but I printed the cover in 
April of 1967. The next year, we 
bought an old Sigwalt press, six 
inches by nine inches, and I printed 
the autobiography I'd written while 

For the most part, though, the 
Hems that rolled off the Sigwalt 
during the early years were hijinks 
and exercises: A* ABC of Cats, Ax 
ABC of Dogs, a collection of drink 
ing toasts. Lois began to illustrate 
the editions first with linoleum 
cuts, and then with woodcuts. In 
1969, Clif persuaded her to give the 
books some content "He told me I 
had to be the author," she says, 
"because he was out of ideas." To 
reflect Lois' participation in the en 
terprise, the Rathers designed a 
logo that shows three hands her 
two and his one reaching toward 
one another. 

Lois claims she was a 
"dowdy schoolteacher" 
when she met Oif, who is 
a dozen years her senior, at a Berk 
eley folk-dance party just after the 
Second World War. In light of her 
appearance today a lively, bhie- 
ey ed face framed by I mogene Coca 
bangs, a smooth vigor that makes 
'the word "spry" seem patronizing 
the characterization doesn't ring 
true. Yet she does have a teacher's 
careful enunciation, and Clif un 
doubtedly saw something solid in 
her that he hadn't found in an un 
successful first marriage and a 
string of affairs in the bootlegging 

She was born in Chicago, where 
her father was an architect and her 
mother a sometime newspaper edi 
tor. The family moved to California 
in 1925. She became certified as a 
teacher, but her first jobs were the 
atrical. She directed children's 
plays on KGO radio, co-authored a 
book called TTuatar ami Sduol. and 
served as a research director for the 
WPA Federal Theater in San Fran 
cisco in 1935-36. Her first husband 
was DeForest Rodecape. a librarian 
at the University of California, who 
interested her in fine books. She 
worked as a researcher for the Cal 
history department from time to 
time, and during the '40s published 
several articles in the California 
Historical Society magazine. Rode 
cape died in 1943, and Lois became 
a teacher in the Oakland public 
schools, where she worked until re 
tiring to become Rather writer-in- 

Their first major joint effort was 
a book on women printers that ap 
peared in 1970, in an edition of 150 
copies, some of them bound by the 
Rathers themselves. (Since then 
they've done all their own binding.) 
A year later they bought a 1926 
Chandler and Price platen press, a 
job press of the kind that commer- 
condnued on pagr 10 


EXPRESS November 26, 1982 

contnued from pige 9 

cial printers use (or business cards 
and letterheads. "It's capable of 
turning out superior work, though." 
says Lois. "Andrew Hoyem used 
one similar to it to print his 
beautiful Arion Press edition of 
Moby ttok. which sells for $1000 a 

The CAP, which still works quite 
well, was so large that the Rathers 
had a room added to their house 
specifically to hold it. They also 
asked a friend of theirs, Monroe 
Postman, to equip it with a control 
to accommodate Clifs handicap. 
"Monroe's a brilliant guy," says 
Lois. "He invented some of the 
electronics systems that libraries 
use to keep from being ripped off. 
We had him install an electronic 
governor in the C&P it's a speed 
control that Clif can use to stow 
down the press. That way he can 
put and take paper with his one 
good hand instead of the usual two. 

"We've had a tot of encourage 
ment from other printers. There 
was Lawton Kennedy, who did the 
printing for the Bancroft Library at 
UC Berkeley for years. And the 
Grabhoms, the famous San Fran 
cisco printers, gave us support and 
advice. Incidentally, at one time 
California had some of the finest 
printers in the world. The early set 
tlers brought printing presses along 
with them as far back as the 1850s. 
so we have a long and rich printing 
tradition here." 

The subjects that Lois chooses to 
research and write about have in 
cluded Ambrose Bierce, Gertrude 
Stein, Isadora Duncan, jack Lon 
don, and other prominent local fig 
ure*. "What I've tried to do is fill 
gaps left because certain material 
out here isn't always readily avail 
able to the biographers who write 
the big books." Her book on Lon 
don, for example, concerns his 1905 
campaign for mayor of Oakland on 
the Socialist ticket. And the one on 
Stein depicts her life in Oakland, 
with special attention to her inabil 
ity to find a there here. (In his colo 
phon at the end of the Stein book. 
Clif chides Lois for spending so 
much time on a writer whose work 
is "incomprehensible" and wishes 
the book had been about Lola Mon- 
tez or Sally Stanford instead.) 

William Sturm, librarian of the 
Oakland History Room at the Oak 
land Public Library, calls the Rath- 
en' books "quite beautiful, as well 
as important contributions to local 
history. Whenever someone comes 
in asking about Gertrude Stein 
which is fairly often I reach for the 
Rathers' book on her." 

We began selling our 
books about the time 
we bought the Chand 
ler and Price," says Lois. "We 
weren't out to make a profit, but we 
had to start recouping our costs, 
which, by and large, we've done. 
Muir Bawson of Dawson's Book 

Good Impressions 

One of the great ironies of the era, Clif says, was 

that he and other bootleggers "contributed 

generously though anonymously to the WCTU, the 

Anti-Saloon League, and other groups fighting 

against repeal. But FDR had the support of the 

wealthy brewers and distillers, and he put us on the 

street when there were few jobs to be had." 

Shop in Los Angeles advised us 
about pricing and selling our books. 
We print one hundred to one hun 
dred fifty copies of each one. and 
they usually sell out. We have 
standing orders for all of our work 
from about thirty libraries and insti 
tutions, including Yale and Texas 
A&M and the Huntington Library 
and the New York Public Library. 
We don't know how they all found 
out about us, but they've always 
paid without grumbling. Around 
here. [UC's] Bancroft [Library] has 
all of our work, and the Oakland Li 
brary has most of it. Last summer 
we consigned all our remaining 
copies for sate to the Printers' Shop 
in Pato Alto. 

"The way we print books is hope 
lessly old-fashioned. Sometimes the 
title page of a book is still done by 
hand, but almost no one prints 
whole books by hand anymore ex 
cept people like us who are in it for 
the personal satisfaction. And as far 
as I know, we're the only private 
press that issues only books that we 
originate ourselves. Several people 
have come to us with requests that 
we print their books, but we always 
turned them down. We've done this 
because we wanted to please our 
selves. It would have lost its fresh 
ness if we'd printed for somebody 

"Our best book? That's hard. We 
did one in 1972 called Oakland's Im 
age. " She gets down a copy from a 
shelf devoted to in-house books. It's 
a lavish job, with a lino cut of a leaf 
and acorn on the cover, a reproduc 
tion of a Victorian drawing titled 
"Oaks in Oakland" on the endpa- 
papers. and an excellent map of the 
Bay Area drawn by Lois as the 
frontispiece. The text notes that 
Oaklanders referred to their city as 
"the Athens of the Pacific" when 
the University of California was 
founded there (on a site bounded by 
12th and 14th Streets and Franklin 
and Harrison) and serves up Bret 
Harte's crack about Oakland's vir 
tually unscathed condition after the 
1906 earthquake: "There are some 
things that even the earth cannot 

swallow." "We've been getting 
calls for this since the city started 
on its new image-raising ad cam 
paign," says Lois, "but we don't 
have any more copies and no way to 
reprint our books aside from start 
ing all over. , 

"I also like Bohemians to Hip 
pies." She hands me a copy. It's a 
long work for the Rathers, almost 
200 pages, published in 1977, which 
celebrates Northern California's 
role as a magnet for nonconform 
ists. And it's crammed with en 
thralling tidbits: the term "Bohemi 
an" came to signify unorthodox 
dress and behavior because people 
thought the Romany gypsies came 
from Bohemia; Herb Caen coined 
the word "beatnik"; Allen Ginsberg 
insists that "beat" didn't mean "ex 
hausted" but came from "beatific." 

The Rathers have also produced 
several miniatures books that can 
nestle in the palm of an adult hand 
and are considered the neplus ultra 
of bookmaking. Though Clif pro 1 
fesses to "hate the damn things" 
because they are so hard for him to 
handle, theirs are splendid exam 
ples of the genre. One is called, ap 
propriately, Rather A Small Press 
and is a short retelling, with tiny 
photos, of the Rather printing story. 

Another miniature is a selection 
from The Devil's Wordbook, the cyn 
ical dictionary perpetrated a hun 
dred years ago by Ambrose Bierce 
in retaliation for the human condi 
tion. A Bierce aficionado myself, I 
note that the Rather edition in 
cludes one of his best barbs: 

Peace, n: In international affairs, 

a period of cheating between two 

periods of fighting. 

My favorite among the 
Rather publications is 
not one of their polished 
later volumes but the amateurishly- 
printed early pamphlet that con 
tains the first installment of Clif's 
salty-dog autobiography. He calls it 
Hen's How. but a better title might 
have been Theory and Practices of 
Bootlegging. I haven't seen any fig 
ures on how many Americans man 

ufactured and sold liquor in defi 
ance of the Volstead Act, but the 
number must have been substan 
tial. (My own family a pretty con 
ventional lot harbored a bootleg 
ger in its bosom, my grandmother's 
second husband.) Gif's little book 
helps explain how so many respect 
able citizens could have gone 

He learned to make bathtub gin 
from one of his customers at the 
garage and repair shop he ran brief 
ly after World War I. "Incidentally, 
that term is a misnomer," he says. 
"I never knew anyone who made 
gin in the bathtub, though some 
people used the kitchen sink." Gin 
was a favorite concoction of boot 
leggers because it was easy to 
make. "Gin was made then, as it is 
today," Clif wrote, "of a good grade 
of alcohol, cut to about 85 proof 
with plain or distilled water and fla 
vored with a few drops of juniper 
berry extract." Cheap gin could be 
made from recleaned rubbing alco 
hol, but Clif produced quality stuff, 
with cologne spirits from Belgium 
serving as the alcohol. 

Later he added beer, bourbon, 
and Scotch to his line, and the suc 
cess of the business depended on 
payoffs to the police. Before he un 
derstood the cost of the game, he 
got busted by the Feds and did 60 
days in the San Francisco County 
Jail. "Bootleggers were treated 
very well there. We had special 
food, and our quarters, a cellblock 
far away from the other prisoners, 
were clean and light and comfort 
able, and we had a reasonable 
amount of freedom . . . County sher 
iffs welcomed the bootleggers. 
Their board and keep bills were 
paid by the Federal Government, 
and a smart sheriff could make a 
nice profit on this. . . " 

Big cities were swarming with 
stoolies, but Clif's payoffs, which 
averaged about a hundred dollars a 
month, kept him out of trouble ex 
cept for one other time. Against his 
better judgment, he agreed to make 
a delivery across the Bay to a Berk 
eley host who complained his party 

would go sour without more liquor. 
It was a trap. Clif was arrested, and 
the next day his picture and a story 
ran in the Berkeley Gazette. He had 
to pay a $500 fine, but the same 
amount slipped to the judge got him 
out of a threatened six-month jail 

Bootlegging was prosperous for 
Clif. He lived well and kept an ex 
pensive mistress: "no diamonds, 
fur coats, and such things, but she 
liked $15 a pound candy and black 
silk lingerie." Marijuana was still 
legal then, "readily available and in 
expensive." but Clif found it did 
nothing for him. And he turned 
down an opium-running opportuni 
ty because he felt it was "too rich 
for this simple country boy." 

He has no qualms about his boot 
legging. "The law was ridiculous," 
he says, "and it had exactly the op 
posite effect of what was intended. 
It permanently increased the per 
capita consumption of alcohol and 
changed Americans from beer 
drinkers to whisky drinkers. It also 
gave organized crime its start." For 
small-time operators like Clif, how 
ever, Prohibition was a godsend, a 
profitable opportunity during a time 
of economic turmoil the moral 
equivalent of the Small Business 
Administration. One of the great 
ironies of the era was that Clif and 
other bootleggers "contributed gen 
erously though anonymously to the 
WCTU, the Anti-Saloon League, 
and other groups fighting against 
repeal. But FDR had the support of 
the wealthy brewers and distillers, 
and he put us on the street when 
there were few jobs to be had." 

Lois has all the background 
work finished for another 
book, this one on Susan B. 
Anthony. "She came out to the Bay 
Area often and got into several 
scrapes because of her suffragist 
agitation. Someday 111 go back into 
the dark recesses of Bancroft and 
do the research." 

Like so many of the Rathers' 
books, this one would center on a 
rebellious outsider, and disdain for 
convention is a recurrent theme in 
the Rathers' autobiographical writ 
ings and conversation. Lois turned 
away from her sheltered upbringing 
and ignored her relatives' disap 
proval of Clif's racy past and lack of 
a college education. Clif worked for 
others as little as possible, became a 
printer late in life and against great 
odds, and rejected the wisdom pur 
veyed by the ruling class. (In the 
Cold '40s he published an essay in 
a WPA newsletter which viewed 
Russia heretically, as a nation too 
preoccupied with improving its in 
ternal standard of living to bother 
attacking the US.) Without making 
a crusade of their nonconformism, 
they've done what they damn 
pleased for most of their married 
life, and few couples have had such 
a productive old age. If that isn't 
happiness, it's passable counterfeit. 


INDEX- -Clifton and Lois Rather 

ABC of Cats. 8 
ABC of Dogs. 8 

Bancroft Library, 10-11, 14, 21, 25, 30, 37 

Bargas Bindery, 17 

Bierce, Ambrose, 14 

Billings, Josh, 34 

Bohemians to Hippies: Waves of Rebellion. 34 

Bolton, Herbert, 10 

Books and Societies. 14, 15 

Butler Paper Company, 16, 25 

California Historical Society Quarterly. 10, 11 

California's First Printing Press. 9, 23 

Calvert, Marvin, 25 

Chandler & Price printing press, 6, 23-24, 27-28, 37 

Children's Theater, 10 

Cooking with Beer. 8 

Cuddy, Mrs. John, 10 

Cunningham, Carol, 33 

Duncan, Isadora, 31 
Dunsmuir House . 34 
Dye, Wayne, 26, 27 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 14 

Filmer Brothers, 15, 23 

Fine Points: A Miscellany for Printers. 18 

Foster, Willis, 25, 30 

Grabhorn, Jane, 12, 25, 29 
Grover, Sherwood, 25 

Harris, Colonel Carroll T. , 19-20, 33 

Hart, James D. , 21, 30, 37 

Here's How. An Autobiography. Part I. 21 

Here's How. An Autobiography. Part II. 12, 13, 19 

Here's Know-How. 8 

Hopper, Edna Wallach, 34 

Household Hints for Hippie Housewives. 5, 22 

Hume , Sam , 10 

J. D. Christian machine works, 1-3 


Kane , George , 32 

Kan tor, Jim, 21 

Kennedy, Alfred, 25 

Kennedy, Lawton, 9, 15, 25 

King Brothers paper company, 6 

Kinnaird, Lawrence, 10 

KPO radio, 10 

Lee, Bill, 25 
Lee, Helen, 20, 33 
Levenson, Roger, 25 
Lieberman, Elizabeth, 9 
Lieberman, J. Ben, 6, 9, 17 
Lloyd, Les, 25, 26 
Lloyd, Richard, 25 
London, Jack, 14 
Lovely Isadora. 31 

McCabe, Charles, 8 

Mackenzie & Harris, 20 

Mencken, Henry, 34-35 

Men Will Be Boys. The Story of E Clamous Vitus. 31, 33 

Miss Kate: Kate Douglas Wiggin in San Francisco. 33 

Moxon Chappel, 9, 21, 25-26, 32-33 

Oakland's Image. A History of Oakland. California. 23 
Osborne, Lou, 32 

Pfeiffer, George, 9, 32 
Postman, Freddy, 33 
Postman, Monroe, 28 

Rather a Small Press. 30 

Rodecape, Deforest, 11 

R. W. Emerson. Tourist. 21 

San Francisco's First Printing Press. 23 

Shumate, Albert, 33 

Sigwalt printing press, 6-8, 22-23, 37 

Solo, Dan X. , 20, 31-32, 37 

Some Little Magazines. 15 

Stein, Gertrude, 14 

Sterling, George, 34-35 

Strictly Amateur. A Personalized Manual of Bookbinding. 35 

Ten Years of the Rather Press. 18, 30, 31 
Vessels, Glenn, 30 


Wessels, Kay, 30 
Wilson, Adrian, 9, 16, 25, 31 
Women as Printers. 14, 15, 34 
Works Progress Administration, 11 
World War II, 1-2 

Ruth Teiser 

Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay Area 
in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 

Stanford University, B.A. , M.A. in English; 

further graduate work in Western history. 

Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco 
since 1943, writing on local history, 
business and social life of the Bay Area, 
and the wine industry of California and Italy. 

Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Co-author of Winemaking in California, a history, 

An interviewer -editor in the Regional Oral 
History Office since 1965. 

Shannon L. Page 

Graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with 
honors in 1989, with a B.A. in Rhetoric. 

In 1986 was hired as a student employee with the Regional Oral 
History Office to transcribe oral histories. Has stayed on since 
graduation and is currently an editorial assistant. 

Writes short stories, and is completing her first novel about 
life in rural northern California.