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University of California Berkeley 




University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley 
Regional Oral History Office 



Robert Grabhorn 
FINE PRINTING AND THE GRABHORN PRESS 



An Interview Conducted by 
Ruth Teiser 



Berkel ey 
1968 



All uses of this manuscript are covered 
by a legal agreement between the Regents of 
the University of California and Robert Grabhorn, 
dated 1968. 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 at Berkeley. No 
part of the manuscript may be quoted for publica 
tion without the written permission of the Direc 
tor of The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California at Berkeley 

Requests for permission to quote for pub 
lication should be addressed to the Regional 
Oral History Office, 486 Library, 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 Robert Grabhorn requires that 
he be notified of the request and allowed 
thirty days in which to respond. 




Ruth Teiser interviewing Robert Grabhorn. 
January 1967 - Photograph by Ted Streshinsky. 



Books and Printing in the San Francisco Bay Area 
Interviews Completed by October, 1968 



Brother Antoninus Brother Antoninus: Poet, Printer, and 

Re ligious 

Edwin Grabhorn Recollections of the Grabhorn Press 

Jane Grabhorn The Colt Press 

Robert Grabhorn Fine Printing and the Grabhorn Press 

Warren R. Howell Two San Francisco Bookmen 

Haywood Hunt Recollections of San Francisco Printers 

Lawton Kennedy A Life In Printing 

Oscar Lewis Literary San Francisco 

Bernhard Schmidt, Herman Diedrichs, Max Schmidt, Or. The 

Schmidt Lithograph Company 3 Vol . I 

Albert Sperisen San Francisco Printers 1925-1965 

Edward DeWitt Taylor, supplement to interview with Francis 
Farquhar 

Adrian Wilson Printing and Book Designing 



INTRODUCTION 

Robert Grabhorn was for nearly forty-six years an integral 
part of the famed Grabhorn Press of San Francisco. Born in 
1900 in Indianapolis, he was the -Fe<jr~Ci\ c+ seuen ch,i^r^n in his 
family, eleven years younger than the eldest, Edwin Grabhorn. 
By the time Robert was fourteen, Edwin had established the 
Studio Press in Indianapolis and invited his younger brother 
to work with during school vacations. There, as he related 
in this interview, Robert Grabhorn learned "the case," the first 
step in learning, as he did over the ensuing years, the re 
finements of typography. 

Late in 1919 the two brothers came to San Francisco, and 
early in 1920 The Press of Edwin and Robert Grabhorn was 
established. About five years later the name was changed to 
The Grabhorn Press, a more manageable designation, the firm 
continuing however to be the shared responsibility of the two 
brothers. When at the end of 1965 The Grabhorn Press was 
closed, many people who had known it well over the years were 
surprised to learn that Edwin Grabhorn had been the sole owner, 
while Robert was, as he stated in this interview, "a favored 
empl oyee . " 

The history of the Grabhorn Press has been the subject of 
many articles and fully chronicled bibl iographi cal ly to 1956 



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in two notable volumes which it printed: The Heller and Magee 
Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press, 1915-1940 (it also in 
cludes The Studio Press) and the Magee Bibliography of the 
Grabhorn Press, 1940-1956. The press has also been discussed 
by most of the others interviewed in the Regional Oral History 
Office series on books and fine printing in the San Francisco 
Bay Area. That series includes interviews with Edwin Grabhorn 
and Jane (Mrs. Robert) Grabhorn. 

The interview with Robert Grabhorn was held in three 
sessions, on January 3, February 8, and March 3, 1967. All 
took place in the Grabhorn-Hoyem press at 566 Commercial 
Street, San Francisco, which Robert Grabhorn and Andrew Hoyem 
established in 1966. Following the final session, Jane Grabhorn 
added interpretive comments on the collaboration between the 
two brothers . 

Mr. Grabhorn spoke thoughtfully, with some hesitations, 
clearly making an effort to be accurate in his statements and 
assessments even while making amusing comments and recounting 
anecdotes. Mrs. Grabhorn spoke with similar thoughtful ness . 
Few changes were made in the transcript. 



Ruth Teiser 
Intervi ewer 



25 September 1968 
Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 
University of California 
Berkeley, California 



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CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION 1 

FAMILY AND EARLY YEARS 1 

THE STUDIO PRESS 6 

PRESSWORK, TYPOGRAPHY, AND TYPOGRAPHIC DESIGN 10 

OUTSTANDING BOOKS AND TYPES 18 

PRINTING BOOKS IN THE 1920 S and 1930 S 22 

SOME GRABHORN PRESS EMPLOYEES 29 

PRINTING FINE BOOKS AND PRINTING FOR PROFIT 33 

THE AMERICANA SERIES 38 

COMMISSIONED BOOKS AND EPHEMERA 42 

ADVERTISING TYPOGRAPHY, WINE LABELS AND COMMERCIAL 

PRINTING 50 

ILLUSTRATIONS 54 

PRINTING EQUIPMENT 59 

BOOKBINDING 62 

TYPE 68 

THE GRABHORN PRESS CHARACTERIZED 75 

BOOK COLLECTING AND PRINTERS OF THE PAST 88 

PRESENT PRINTERS AND PAST EMPLOYEES 97 

GRABHORN PRESS LOCATIONS 110 

GRABHORN PRESS BIBLIOGRAPHIES 113 

COMMENTS BY JANE GRABHORN ON THE GRABHORN BROTHERS 115 

PARTIAL INDEX 123 

BOOKS PRINTED BY THE STUDIO PRESS, THE GRABHORN 

PRESS AND THE GRABHORN -HOYEM PRESS 128 



INTERVIEW I 
January 3, 1967 
Fami 1y and Early Years 



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When were you born? 
May 17, 1900. 
And where? 

Indianapolis, Indiana. 
Who were your parents? 

My father was of a German family. His name was 
Henry Grabhorn. He worked always in furniture 
factories. My mother was of British ancestry- 
mixed up as usual: Welsh and British. 
Was your father born in Germany? 

No. His father came to this country in, I think, 
1848, when so many came to avoid military service. 
He ended up by becoming a veteran of the Civil War 
You had some family tradition of craftsmanship? 
Oh, yes. I had artisans, craftsmen. My mother s 
family were tailors mostly. 
What sort of man was your father? 

Well, I was always proud that he did Sunday after 
noon painting. Not very good, but he did. 
Do you have any of his paintings? 
I have one at the old Grabhorn shop. I used to 



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have another but it was lost. Only valued it because 

he did it. He went around doing barns and things 

1 i ke that ; gardens . 

Did you live in Indianapolis? 

Yes, but then my father was a traveler, too. You 

see, Ed was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. My father 

was always going to change his condition by changing 

his geographical location. So I lived in two small 

towns in Indiana. When I was six or seven we lived 

in a quaint little place called Orleans, Indiana. 

I was reading about it in a guidebook, and they said 

that nine-tenths of the inhabitants were descendants 

of the original inhabitants. My father went there 

to work in the furniture factory. Then he went to 

Logansport, Indiana. Then back to Indianapolis, 

where I spent the rest of my life until I came here 

with my brother in the winter of 1919. 

Who were your brothers and sisters? 

Edwin, Walter, Lewis that survived; one that died 

in infancy; and two sisters; and a younger brother, 

Kenneth . 

What has happened to your brothers and sisters? 

My brother Walter died early; that is, what I call 

early: 44. My brother Lewie is older than I am; 

he was a plumber, a successful plumber. 

What has your younger brother done? 



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Not much besides being a nice human and raising 

two nice sons and a daughter. He is still in 

Indianapolis. 

Are your sisters alive? 

Yes. One sister is retarded mentally. She s had 

to be taken care of. My other sister worked all her 

life, from graduation from high school until she 

retired, at the Eli Lilly plant in Indianapolis. 

Did you have a happy childhood? 

I had mi seri es . 

What were you interested in as a child? 

Various things. I went through all the normal 

ambitions: being a detective, policeman, cowboy. 

But early, when I was 14, I was working for my 

brother Edwin. He had been away to Seattle. He 

wasn t home very much in my youth. 

How much older than you is he? 

Eleven years older. 

How did he happen to choose you to work with him? 

That I don t know. 

He had a lot of other kids to choose from. 

But they were too close to him. There was a 

necessary gap there. He worked in my uncle s--my 

father s brother s --pri nting office in Indianapolis. 

Oh, there was a printing office in the family! 

What was your uncle s name? 



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Harry Grabhorn. His specialty was music printing. 
That s how Ed journeyed to Seattle, because he 
learned what is known as the music case, which is 
a complicated thing. It has four hundred charac 
ters in it. Now they don t print music that way 
any more. By lithography. 

He had gone into your uncle s shop early then? 
Fairly early. It wasn t his first printing job 
though. He worked around printing offices, then 
graduated to my uncle s, then left for Seattle, where 
he realized there was a music publisher. He wrote 
and asked for a job. When he got there this is 
the story, how much is legend I don t know he found 
that this man had all of this expensive music type, 
but no one in Seattle knew how to handle it. Then 
he graduated from music to just general printing. 
You had gone, then, to grammar school where? 
Indianapolis. Oh, I went to grammar school in 
Logansport. I was too young to go to school in 
Orleans. Or, if I did, I ve forgotten about it. 
Did you like school? 
Yes. Yes, I liked it. 
You must have liked reading. 

Yes, very much, and that was the connection with Ed 
and me, because he became interested in books and 
would take me with him on his book hunting expeditions 



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Even as a youngster he was interested in 
collecting books? 

Well, he must have been--say I was ten--he would be 
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Did your parents read much? 

No. I have a story that I always like to tell about 
my mother reading, picking up the sporting page of 
the newspaper. The ball team in Indianapolis was 
known as the Indians, and the St. Paul team was 
known as the Saints. And she saw the headline one 
day, and it said, "Saints Massacre the Indians." 
She said, "Isn t that awful I" 
Was she quite a serious person? 

Anyone that had that many children, I think would have 
to be serious. 

Was your father quite a serious man? 
He seemed to be. I went on fishing trips and paint 
ing expeditions with him. 
Was he a good companion? 
Yes , quite so . 

How far did your formal education go before you 
started working? 

I still lived in Indianapolis, graduated from 
high school. Then during the war, in 1918, when 
I was eighteen, I went to Butler College for a few 
months. Because everyone that passed the physical 



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examination was inducted into the Army, I belonged 
to that thing--not many people remember it called 
the SATC, waggishly known as the Saturday Afternoon 
Tea Club. It was really the Student Army Training 
Camp. I think we were members of the Army. We 
had uniforms. I have a discharge from the Army. 
I m always embarrassed where it says, "Battles, 
Engagements, Wounds;" it says, "None." 
Did you then serve in the Army at all? 
After that, no. The war ended after I was in col 
lege two months, sixty-six days. We all were dis 
charged, that is if we were healthy. 
You had been working for your brother while you 
were going to school, then? 

Yes. In summer vacations I worked in his shop, 
from 1914 on. 

But during the school year you devoted yourself to 
school ? 
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The Studio Press 
What shop did he have then? 

It wasn t music. He had switched back. He had a 
little shop in Indianpolis called The Studio Press 
Fascinating to me because of the people that came 
around. 



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I don t think of Indianapolis as a great cultural 
center, but I suppose there were many interesting 
peopl e . 

There were small groups. He was usually associated 
with musicians and advertising men. At that time 
they had a standing that they re losing now. 
He did general commercial printing, would you say? 
Of a superior kind. He was always interested in 
superior work. I imagine he was the first printer 
that ever used handmade paper in those parts to 
any extent. When he was young, he was in communica 
tion with the big American printers. He wrote to 
Goudy regularly. Goudy wrote to him. Updike wrote 
to him. He would send his work to be criticized. 
Isn t that wonderful that people could do that then, 
Yes. I imagine they still do it. Any ambitious 
youngster who commences to play with type usually 
tries to do something good, or what he thinks is 
good. It usually takes the place of setting up a 
business card. 

I guess you encouraged Andy Hoyem similarly, didn t 
you? 

Andy had quite a bit of experience before I knew 
him. I never saw him when he went through the be 
ginning . 
What were your first jobs in the shop? 



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You proceed to learn the case and distribute type. 
Then in a place like that you would set up what we 
call straight matter; that is, just follow your 
copy under instructions. No attempt to create, as 
we call it. 

What were you doing then, brochures and things of 
that sort? 

Yes, and my brother was very early in what we call 
advertisement composition, from advertising agen 
cies, where you set up ads that are plated and sent 
to newspapers and magazines. 

Then I supposed you must have become interested in 
the kind of typographic design that he was. 
Yes. Books. All printers want to get into books. 
I think all printers do. If they can. 
Were any books done by the Studio Press? 
Oh, yes. One of the local dilettantes [George 
C. Calvert] wrote an essay called A Defense of the 
Dilettante [published in 1919]. It is one of the 
first books that we printed. Of course, he paid 
for its publication. And we did a series of poems 
for a man who was secretary to one of the Indiana 
senators. He had invented a form of poetry he 
called the "linnet," which is thirteen lines in 
stead of fourteen for a sonnet. One of our books- 
it wouldn t be called a book, it was a pamphlet-- 



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was called The Laugh, of Christ and Other Original 

Linnets . 

Is it linnet like the bird? 



YesT 

Did you have much of a part in printing it? 
Oh no. I was too young. I just followed instruc 
tions . 

How long did the Studio Press last? 
I don t remember the dates. You could find that in 
the first bibliography.* It was sold by my brother 
to an advertising man, and we came to San Francisco 
together in the winter of 1919. I would say the 
Studio Press lasted from about 1914 to 19. I m 
speaking from memory. 

When you got out of the army training service, then, 
did you go in the business with your brother full 
time? 

I worked elsewhere for a while. Some member of the 
family got me a job in an electrical supply house. 
I lasted about two or three months there, then I 
went with my brother. 
Doesn t sound like your kind of work. 



*The a,uThcr- 5 /><wue on the title page of the book, pub 
lished in 1917, is St. Claire Jones. 

*Heller, Elinor and Magee, David. Bibliography of 
The Grabhorn Press, 1915-1940. San Francisco: 
[David Magee], 1940. The Studio Press was owned by 
Edwin Grabhorn from 1915 to 1919. 



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No, it wasn t. I was pretty good when I started 
as a receiving clerk, but I got pretty bad when 
they promoted me. They had me checking invoices. 
I didn t know what I was doing. 

So almost all of your working life has been with 
your brother? 

Yes. Shortly before I went into the Army, I worked 
for the Burroughs Adding Machine Company as a 
student, so I could be taught to repair adding 
machines. [Laughter] I went to school for three 
months to learn all about adding machines. I ve 
forgotten everything now. 



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Presswork, Typography, and 
Typographi c Design 

There s no relationship between any of that and 

the mechanics of a press, is there? 

No. I knew less than nothing about presswork. My 

brother somehow didn t want me to work with the 

presses. Oh, I did what you call feeding a press. 

That means after the press is set up, you put the 

sheets in and take them out. I know the theory 

behind the presswork, but I m no pressman. 

I thought any printer who didn t have to be a 

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printing something that you ve worked on. Take 
Lew Allen. He s a devoted pressman, a very superior 
one. I imagine the composition for him is painful 
compared to printing. I imagine, now. 

That s a point of view 

Oh, and especially if you have a hand press. Just 
as a child wants to set up his name and print it on 
the little proof press. If you don t let him turn 
the crank, he s disappointed. It s magic to see 
this stuff that he can t read, really, and then he 
can . 

It always seemed to me that setting type and design 
ing was so much more demanding and creative. 
Well, I think this word "designing" is over 
emphasized. I think if you work with copy, many 
times it sets itself. Printers generally have an 
advantage over "designers" who just sit down with a 
paper and pencil. They can try something, and right 
there reject it. 

You mean set and run it off on a proof press, and 
discard it? 

Yes. Where the minute you try to "design" something, 
especially if you haven t had a world of experience, 
you re going to be too obviously "designing;" you re 
going to try tricks that you shouldn t. If you just 
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than if you try to play with it. 

It seems to me there s a kind of inspiration that 
is in effective printing, that must come from the 
typesetter. 

Well, ... I was content to be a typesetter, and 
nothing else. But I know that many of these young 
fel 1 ows are not. 

You liked what you were doing, and I presume your 
brother liked what he was doing? 
Yes, I think so. 
Did he do any typesetting? 

Oh, of course, of course! He taught me. He also 
taught me to approach it right; in other words, 
learn something about the history of what you are 
doing. This kind of thing had been going on since 
the fifteenth century, and there are various ways 
of solving a problem, by the evidence. 
Did you then read much about the history of print 
ing? 

Oh , yes . 

You still do, I presume. 

Well, not so much. But I did. I collected that 
bunch of books because I was interested in that. 
This is the one that went to the San Francisco 
Public Library? 
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Haywood Hunt, in his interview in this series, 
indicated that he prized his acquaintance with you 
and your brother. 

I worked for Haywood once for three months. I 
became dissatisfied with the lack of varied exper 
iences in printing in what you might call a specialty 
shop. I thought I wanted more experience in other 
kinds of work. So Haywood offered me a job there 
[at the Kennedy-ten Bosch Company], which was a 
much more commercial enterprise. It had all kinds 
of work. So I worked three months. I evidently 
learned enough, [laughter] Haywood was always a 
little too finicky for me. He would labor over 
correcting, even putting in tissue paper spaces. 
I was too impatient. 

Someone told me that at one time it was thought 
that Haywood would inherit Nash s mantle. Did you 
ever hear this? 

No. He was a friend of Nash s, but I don t think 
he had a chance. He didn t have a broad enough 
outlook, I don t think. He liked to fiddle. 
I remember. . .Brother Antoninus was speaking of press- 
work rather than typesetting, but it can apply. He 
once said he was trying to avoid the overpreci si on 
of the Bremer Press. That s a fine excuse for bad 
work. Not that I he s another superlative 



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pressman. He does really good work, in the 

tradition of the best paper, the best ink. 

I think he said, or wrote, that he learned a good 

deal from the Grabhorn Press. 

He admired our work, our best work, quite a bit. 

You speak of your best work. 

We did a tremendous amount of inferior work, 

compared to our standards. 

Under what circumstances did you do that? For 

advertising typography? 

Oh no, advertising typography is easy. I don t 

know why these advertising men thought they had 

to have better than average printers, because 

usually they were pretty sure exactly what they 

wanted. No, it was a matter of money. If you 

have to, in order to keep the place going, you 

will accept a job and do it more economically than 

you would otherwise. That s the economic outlook. 

People mention Chickering Piano work. Did you do 

some of the actual designing of the Chickering 

ads in the Grabhorn Press? 

We worked very closely sometimes with the art 

directors, and experimented with them, and offered 



Antoninus, Brother, Poet, Printer, and Religious, 
a 1966 interview in this series. 



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suggestions. But that was just a few times when 

they asked us to. 

Why do people keep mentioning these Chickering 

Piano ads? 

Because this man that supervised them was interested 

in typography, and he was sort of an innovator in 

a sense. He would come to the office and work 

right with us, try something. He was the arbiter. 

He had a scheme of full-page newspaper ads. Lots of 

copy. You shaped them like a bowl. Sometimes it 

got pretty wearisome, because he was saying, "Move 

this a brass." (A brass means 1/72 of an inch.) 

Ten o clock at night, you could get pretty weary. 

Sometimes you could just pull out a letter and put 

it back in the same place, take another proof. You 

know the old story of throwing dust in their eyes. 

"Now, isn t that better?" you d say. 

Many of the things that I ve seen that I ve thought 

were so wonderful were things that you ve done for 

fun . 

For instance? 

That little type specimen sheet....! guess Jane did 

that, though. The one that s now in the Gleason 

Li brary . 

That s entirely Jane s. Jane was the fun printer. 

We were a bit more serious. 



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I m trying to grope around in my mind for examples 
of what I mean. It seems that so much of your 
work had a lightness and an inspirational quality 
that no one else s had. 
I agree, but I can t remember instances. 
Can you account for it? 

All I can account for is that we enjoyed our work. 
If we could be funny and not be solemn about it, 
we enjoyed it. 

Originality, I suppose, is the word I want. In 
the best of your work, there has been so much of 
it. How was the work divided in the shop? Was 
there any formal division of duties between you 
and your brother? 

In the main, I did typesetting. Of course, my 
brother did typesetting too. When I got more 
experience, we would work together on details. 
Actually, many things determine the page look: 
what type is available; how long you want the book 
to be; what type you have in your shop that you 
can use, and how best to use it. To a printer the 
fun [is the title page] , and most of the printers 
I know save the title page to the last. First of 
all, the general look of the book will condition 
the title page quite a bit. And within the limit 
ations of the type used in the rest of the book, 



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that imposes some limitations on the title page. 
But in general, the title page is truly an adver 
tisement for the book. You ve got to take it out of 
just doing it. You love to play with it and put a 
little fun into it if you can. Now that doesn t 
always work. Sometimes it s inappropriate. Then 
you do it the simplest way. The rules are hard to 

enunciate. I ve seen us work together anybody s 

contribution is welcome if you re stymied. You 
just ask them what they think. Someone might come 
up with something. So, in that case, there is no 
"designing." I ve seen us take a hundred proofs 
of a title page, and still be dissatisfied; we didn t 
make it. That s when time was no object. 
It wasn t because there were other things that you 
thought were more important? 

We liked to be successful. And sometimes you start 
out with the idea that you have it, that this is 
going to be an easy title page; it ll be effective 
without much effort. Then you get to working on it, 
and it doesn t come out that way, and you have to 
alter and alter. Sometimes you get so despondent 
because nothing looks good. Then you go back to 
the beginning again. 



Robert Grabhorn at a Book 
Club of California reception, 
1957. Reproduction rights 
reserved by Ruth Teiser. 





Robert Grabhorn setting type 
at the Grabhorn Press, 1959. 
Reproduction rights reserved 
by Ruth Teiser and Catherine 
Harroun. 



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Outstanding Books and Types 

It seems to me that Oscar Lewis mentioned that you d 
sometimes start a book and then just junk it because 
it wasn t right, and start over again.* 
This happened two or three times. We had a terrible 
time on the Leaves of Grass. We had an artist 
working with us [Valenti Angelo]. He didn t mind 
dashing off an initial letter, or anything that was 
required for an illustration. We bought especially 
for it a type called Lutetia. This was a big folio 
book, and Lutetia was too weak. We had bought 
quite a bit of type when we had decided that 
Lutetia would be the type for it. We printed about 
twenty-five pages and junked them, and started 
over with another type. 

The book itself was a great success, was it not? 
It s a success in terms of accomplishment. It 
came out at a bad time as far as the sale of it 
was concerned. They had rather a rough time selling 
four hundred copies at $100 a copy. Well, it was 
in 1930 that it was finished. There weren t 400 

peopl e 

It was a very notable book in those years. 
Oh yes. Among American books, I think it is. 



Lewis, Oscar, Literary San Francisco, a 1965 
interview in this series. 



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I just told you about two types on that. We set 

up a few sample pages in three or four types 

before we decided on this Goudy type. I can t 

imagine anything we took more pains with than 

that. We knew we were printing a book and the sale 

price was going to be $100. 

How did you happen to undertake that book? 

Random House. We had already had a book practically 

printed, and Bennett Cerf came out here and bought 

the whole edition from us. Then he decided that 

we ought to do a monument together. And he decided 

that we should work on an American classic. It 

was a mutual decision that we print the Leaves of 

Grass . 

It took some financing, didn t it? 

It did, and they financed it. 

What was the other book that Cerf had bought? 

The travels of Sir John Mandeville.* That was 

sort of an archaic exercise, and I m still proud 

of it, but it s still in the incunabula tradition. 

Blackletter type. Valenti Angelo really made the 

book with his initials. You see, every initial in 

it was hand illuminated in the old illuminator s 

tradition, with three colors. It was done with 



Maundevile, Sir John, The Voiaya and Travailc of. 
. 1928. 



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20 

tremendous labor on his part. But he was enthus 
iastic. 

Was a project like that inspired by your interest 
in seeing if it could be done? 
That happened, in my recollection, because we 
got hold of this interesting type. Not simply a 
copy of an existing type, but an interesting form 
of black letter [Koch Bibel Gotisch]. It had just 
been brought out by the Klingspor Foundry. At 
that time, a young boy, the nephew of the founder 
of the Klingspor Foundry, was working, getting his 
international experience at our shop. He called 
our attention to this type, and we liked it. That s 
the case of finding a subject to fit the type. 
This was in the rude days of the English language. 
This was a rude, very interesting letter. I like 
it. It s not for every book. 

What was the type that was designed for your press? 
Franciscan, designed by Fred Goudy. Now, we did not 
say, "Mr. Goudy, you design this type," and "we want 
this kind of type." We said, "We like that type," 
and if we could afford it, we d like to have it. 
And he said he had this type in design for another 
printer. Something happened that the printer didn t 
accept it. The details are very weak in my mind. 



He was Karl Klingspor, nephew of the elder Karl 
K 1 i n g s p o r . 



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But at any rate, he offered it to us for what we 
considered a low price. He changed a few of the 
letters, had the matrices made. We liked it. There 
again, type not for general use, probably inspired 
by Ashendene Press Subiaco type. Subiaco is the mon 
astery near Rome where the first Italian printing was 
supposed to be done. 

Did others use this Franciscan type then? 
I really don t know whether this man in upper New 
York. . . I ve never seen it. 

Did the Grabhorn Press use it much? 

* 
We used it on our bibliographies, both of them. 

The first book that we used it on was one in the 

Americana series. We only used it in two or three 

lines at each chapter beginning. We ve done a lot 

of small things in it, memorials. The bibliographies 

are the most important books it has been used in. 

Probably some others, but I can t name them. 

How did you happen to name it Franciscan? 

San Francisco. 

Not that you thought that it had any period 

California feeling, or did you? 

No. Naming a type is a tricky thing. Franciscan: 

well, it s a special type for San Francisco printers, 

and it s a romantic sounding name. It has nothing 



See footnote, page 9, for the first bibliography. 
The second was: Magee, Dorothy and David. Bib 
liography of the Grabhorn Press, 1940-1956. San 
Francisco: [David Magee], 1957. 



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22 

to do with its design, except that it looks old, 
like black letter. I don t think I m competent 
to give you much information here, unless I go 
home and bone up. [laughter] You see, I rarely 
look at a book we ve done after it s been done. 
I don t think my brother does either. 
Have you been pleased by the bibliographies, though? 
Did you enjoy doing those? 
Very much . 

I should think it would be a unique experience 
for anyone to sum up in his own medium the work 
he s done in that medium. 
We had nothing to do with the text. 
No, but I mean the production of it. 
Probably the first one was a little more interest 
ing textually because we could remember details, 
little stories connected with each item. There s 
not so much of that in the second one.* 



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Printing Books in the 1920 s and 1930 s 

Did you have much to do with John Henry Nash? 

No. We knew him, of course, and attended a few 

formal lunches he organized, things like that. As 

a matter of fact, we had very little sympathy for 



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his work. We knew it was amazingly well done, but 
it wasn t our style, that s all. 
Did the fact that he and a few others had created 
a kind of interest in fine printing in San Fran 
cisco have any influence on your decision to come 
to San Francisco? 

Well, I didn t have too much to do with that. 
That was up to my brother. I think he liked the 
idea of coming to San Francisco. He was still a 
very young man then, in the thirties. He had 
never been to San Francisco. He had been to 
Seattle. It was a romantic place, and he knew 
Nash was here and there was some support for that 
kind of printing, because Nash was getting it. 
And it might be well to muscle in on it. [laughter] 
Although I don t suppose it would have been easy 
for Nash to have felt threatened by a couple of 
young men, I should think he still might have been 
a little annoyed. 

Printers are a little bit akin to actors. They re 
prima donnas. They have the same jealousies, 
belittling of competition. 

It seems to me that there was some kind of funny 
story about Nash and a man named Ray. 



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24 

Oh. That story. Let s see if I can get it. This 
man came into our office with a book of poems that 
he had illustrated with photographs of the Farallon 
Islands. We had printed a few books of poetry. 
I always say we printed the worst poetry in the 
world, but we never made much money out of them, 
and I was a little sick of dealing with poets. 
The story goes that my brother sent him down to 
Nash with his book, and the imaginary interview 
with Nash and Ray was: Nash looked at it, and his 
way of discouraging was to say, "Such a book would 
cost you $10,000." And Ray countered with, "Fine. 
Do you want a deposit?" [laughter] Well, who was 
there? 

How was the financing of most of the books that 
you ve done arranged? 

When we first started to print books, we financed 
them ourselves. We made our bread and butter from 
the advertising agencies, and in fallow periods 
we d work on a book. 

What was the first book that you printed out here 
under that circumstance, do you remember? 
I think the Mandeville was done under that. And 
we did a little tiny book of Hawthorne s called, 
The Golden Touch. Then the big things took financing 
and Random House did that. We were always dissatis- 



25 

R. Grabhorn: fied, of course, because there s a vast difference 
between what you get and what the customer has to 
pay in our modern distribution system. I remember 
we got $16,000 for printing 400 copies of the 
Leaves of Grass. That s $40 a copy. It s usually 
three times that. Then they did give us $1000 
extra when the book was finally finished. Of 
course, we d used up most of the $16,000 doing it. 
With the Book Club, especially in later days, they 
finance a book as they go along. Of course, that 
wasn t always so. We financed the Book Club in a 
fallow period. We printed books that they only 
paid us for as they sold them. The great book 
that we printed for the Book Club it s got the 
Book Club s imprint on \t--The Santa Fe Trail to 
California, was done that way. 

Teiser: So in effect, you financed it, and they paid you 
back? 

R. Grabhorn: We financed it. 

Teiser: That was during the Depression, wasn t it? 

R. Grabhorn: It came out in the Depression, 30, I think.* 

That came from my brother s interest in collecting. 
He had bought the manuscript. That book was entirely 
our creation. We furnished the material, and we 



* 

Watson, Douglas S., Editor, The Santa Fe Trail 
to California. San Francisco, 1931. 



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set up and printed the book. 
Were there others? 

Oh yes. There were quite a few. Then we would 
sell them to the Book Club, because we didn t want 
to be bothered with the collection and bookkeeping 
and all that stuff; keeping a mailing list. 
You and Oscar Lewis had the Westgate Press, didn t 
you? 

Yes. A funny little thing. That s the time when 
the signed limited editions were very popular. I 
can remember Oscar--we were interested in publishing 
We thought we d like to be big publishers. We 
started out by Oscar selecting magazine articles 
by what we thought were collected authors. We 
obviously offered these people too much money. We 
sent off letters that said we would give them $250 
for the right to print their article or short story 
as a book. All they had to do was give us per 
mission and sign 500 sheets. And they jumped at it. 
I can remember we got a telegram from Sherwood 
Anderson. We printed some little article of his. 
He sent us a telegram after he accepted our prop 
osition. He said, "When you know me better, you 
will know that I always need money. Please send me 
$100." [laughter] 



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27 

How did you come out of that on that basis? 
We never knew how we came out, because our 
printer was the Grabhorn Press, you see. And the 
Grabhorn Press, being Edwin Grabhorn, would never 
give us a price as to how much this book cost. He 
would say to us, "Has the Westgate got any money 
in its treasury?" Then we d turn it over. 
Has your brother always been formally the owner 
of the Grabhorn Press? 
Yes. 

And your position has been ? 

An employee. A favored employee, let s say. 

Was this always satisfactory to you? 

Yes. I was considered a partner in a loose sort 

of way. This had nothing to do with business, in 

a sense, but it was assumed that I was a paid 

partner. 

I presume the recent dissolution of the Grabhorn 

Press also had nothing to do with business, but a 

variety of other factors. 

Yes. 

Do you want to talk about that, or not? 

No, I don t well, it had sort of outgrown its 

usefulness. My brother is a very old man now, and 
he s still working. He s interested in printing his 
Japanese print catalogues. And I had to make money, 



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frankly, and the books we were printing were solely 

for my benefit. It was retarding his progress on 

the Japanese print books. So he s printing his 

catalogue, and I m trying to make money. That s 

about it. 

Let me go back to your enterprise with Oscar Lewis, 

the Westgate Press. How long did it last? 

It lasted quite a few years, but then it became 

just an imprint that we d use for certain things, 

the last two or three books. But it lasted five 

or six years. 

You didn t lose a lot? 

No, we didn t lose a lot. We lost our time. 

Then the name of the press was taken over with your 

permission, was it? 

Yes. By Lawton and Alfred Kennedy. That s the 

first Alfred, Lawton s brother, who worked at our 

shop at various times. He was a very good printer. 

He was accurate and efficient. His contributions, 

intellectually, weren t the greatest, but they 

were adequate. He was above average, and he was 

certainly interested in his craft. His idea of a 

holiday was to come over to our shop and help us 

distribute type, even after he had left us. 



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Some Grabhorn Press Employees 

I do want to ask you about the young men of talent 
who worked with you. 

There was always some anxious and ambitious young 
man who loved books and wanted to get closer to 
them, always bothering us. We couldn t possibly 
accept all that we were offered. Some of them 
would say, "You don t have to pay me a cent." But 
we never liked to do that, completely that way. 
We didn t pay them enough. But they really, 
actually just wanted to learn and then go on. 
They were students. They had no intention of 
staying with us a lifetime. 

They went out and did many things, didn t they? 
Yes. Some of them forgot it altogether. 
There must have been a point in the history of 
the Grabhorn Press at which you discovered that 
you were famous. 

Yes. When that was, I don t know. But I think 
sometimes that people were overemphasizing the 
contribution. It s a nice thing to have done, and 
to be doing, but it isn t that important. We were 
proud of our books, naturally. 

We had a young apprentice named Jack Gannon. He 
died early. He worked for money, and he was making 
printing his career. He was hired as an apprentice 



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Helen Gentry, the same way. Those were the first. 

And this young man from Germany, Klingspor. Well, 

he d heard of us, I suppose. 

How did you happen to hire a woman? 

She was the protege--or her husband was associated 

with--Porter Garnett. I think he introduced us to 

her. But she was hired as a printer. Of course, 

women take lower salaries. We were interested in 

that. After all, the way this kind of business is 

operated, you can t pay top salaries. 

You never paid union scale, did you? 

No. Except in the things we had done outside the 

shop. Among our employees, no. But they were, 

strictly speaking, apprentices. 

You probably never got union wages. 

Ourselves, no. I don t think either my brother or 

I ever got union wages. 

Are you members of the union now? 

No. 

Neither of you? 

Neither of us. My brother was, in Indianapolis at 

various times. When I worked for Haywood Hunt, I had 

an apprentice s card in the union. I had to have one 

to work in that kind of a place. Short duration. 

Who were your longest employees? 

Sherwood Grover and Katharine, his wife. She worked 



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for us before he did. 
Was she a printer? 

She was taught in our shop. Everybody in our shop 
was expected to do everything that was needed, 
folding paper, setting type, proofreading, anything 
they can do. 

I guess Jane was a long-time employee too. She 
gave a good account of how she started working 
with you. How did Sherwood Grover come to you? 
From his wife. He worked as a sort of apprentice 
at a commercial shop in Oakland, called the Good- 
hue Printing Company. And after his wife got a 
job from us, she kept trying to get us to give him 
a job, which we finally did. 
How long was he with you? 

Twenty-six or seven years. This was a living to 
him. He wasn t one of the rich boys who wanted to 
smell printers ink. He was a faithful typesetter 
and pressman. And he always did things himself, 
on his own. He used to do things as a youngster 
with John Dos Pasos. He d take parts of John Dos 
Pasos and make a Christmas book out of them. Then 
he decided that Dos Pasos had sold out to the 
Establishment and he was through with him. Now he 



Grabhorn, Jane, The Colt Press, a 1966 interview 
in this series. 



32 

R. Grabhorn: is printing his commonplace books, quotations he 
likes. He likes to do them in all sorts of type. 
He s got a printing office at home. Now he is a 
successful book salesman. But he s just bought a 
press and installed it in his house. He s doing 
printing in odd hours. 



* 

For further discussion of people who worked at the 
Grabhorn Press, see chapter, "Present Printers and 
Past Em pi oyoes . " 



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INTERVIEW II 
February 8, 1967 

Printing Fine Books and 
Printing For Profit 

When we were talking the other day (not on tape), 

you told a story about some rare books and an 

automobi 1 e . 

Oh, yes. Well, you see, we were interested, when 

we first commenced to get in the printing of fine 

books, in other fine books that had been done and 

were still current, like the Kelmscott Chaucer 

and the Ashendene--any book of the Ashendene Press 

and the Doves Bible. And we bought those books, 

mainly from John Howell. We traded printing for 

them, actually. That s the way I ve got a great 

many books, by trading printing for them to book 

dealers. The amusing thing about this was we 

suddenly decided we must have an automobile and 

we sold the books and bought a $1200 automobile. 

[1 aughter] 

What kind of car was it? 

A Stutz Bearcat, of all things. Secondhand of 

course, [laughter] That was in 1922. We sold 

three books. 

Just three? 

Just three. The Kelmscott Chaucer, the Ashendene 



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Morte D Arthur (that s not the most expensive of 

the Ashendenes, but it s up there) and the Doves 

Bible. Twelve hundred dollars wouldn t buy them 

today . 

Had you got all three of those from John Howell? 

Yes. 

Do you remember at all how much you paid for them 

in printing? 

I would say it was pretty close to the same price. 

What books were you doing for him then? 

Well, let s see if I can remember. I think we 

did something of Robert Louis Stevenson s, not his 

Baby Book . . . 

The Best Thing in Edinburgh* or something of that 

sort? 

No, that wasn t it. That came along later. This 

was a fragment of an unpublished manuscript. I 

think it was called Diogenes at the Savile Club; 

either that or Diogenes in London.. Later on a 

man in Chicago had a part of the same manuscript and 

we printed it the same way. One or the other one 

was Diogenes at the Savile } and the other was 

Diogenes in London. Now that wouldn t be the only 

thing [for Howell]. We did a number you know; it 

was just commercial printing. No longer can I 

remember. . . oh yes. We did a book about Abraham 

Lincoln. 



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Did you enjoy working with John Howell? 

Yes, yes. Pretty much. Very little cash ever 

exchanged hands. [laughter] 

Was he pretty close fisted? 

No, no. I don t think so. He was fair. 

I guess everybody had so little money . . . 

That s right. [laughter] However, that wasn t 

exactly the Depression. The early twenties that 

was, when we first came to San Francisco. I forget 

who was the author of this life of Lincoln, but it 

was more or less of a commercial type book.* It 

was not a press book in our sense. 

I see. I think Nash had done, previously, some 

pri nti ng for Howel 1 . 

Yes, he did a Stevenson s Baby Book, or something 

like that. I think John Nash was a little too 

expensive for Howell.* 

How did the Grabhorn Press do its pricing? How 

did it do its estimating? 

Oh, God! laughter: That is tough. We made 

several attempts to be business-like and have what 

they call an hour cost and keep time on the time 



Bissett, Clark Prescott, Abraham Lincoln, A 

Universal Man. 1923. 
** 

See Howell, Warren, Two San Francisco Bookmen, a 

1966 interview in this series. 



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expended, but we couldn t keep it up. We d guess 

as to how much time we d spent. Lots of times it 

was how much money we needed, [laughter] There was 

nothing efficient about the pricing, except with 

the advertising agencies. That was the best pay, 

of course not the book pay--just doing composition 

for the advertising agencies. 

That you coul d keep track of your cost for? 

Yes, and charge a legitimate price per hour. 

What kind of charges were the legitimate prices 

per hour in the twenties? 

Oh, I have an idea that $7.50 an hour was about as 

high as you could get. I endorse Eric Gill s 

statement, you know, that the decline of the 

crafts commenced with the invention of double entry 

bookkeepi ng . 

You certainly never had any intention of keeping 

track of the time that you and your brother put in, 

di d you? 

On a book, no; on commercial work, yes. A book 

generally ended up with what it would sell for. 

That was the difficulty of trying to do a book for 

the big publishers, for instance Random House. 

Because the price the printer gets is so much less 

than a book sells for, because they [the publishers] 

have so many expenses of salesmen, salesmen s 



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commissions, and discounts to book dealers that 
often you find yourself printing a thirty-dollar 
book for ten dollars, and it must look like a 
thirty-dollar book, not ten dollars. 
Did you do much publishing under your own imprint? 
Uh, yes, we started little trifles, like the--oh, 
let me think--T?ze Golden Touch of Nathaniel 
Hawthorne, and then the biggest thing was Oscar 
Wilde s Salome about that time. Then we started 
a really big book--I think we covered this before- 
the travels of Sir John Mandeville, which Random 
House took over. Then we did three or four books 
for Random House. 

And you didn t really come out on those? 
We came out all right . 

Your approach to the whole printing world has 
never allowed you to do little Christmas books of 
your own or many things of that sort, has it? 
No. I only reluctantly print Christmas cards. 
About once every ten years I do it, because after 
you have the pressure of doing Christmas cards so 
many years for people who are hurrying you up, 
you don t feel too enthusiastic about it. 
Maybe I wasn t making my point. Your printing for 
pleasure was of a professional kind? 



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That s right. Create a book, even if we had to 

dig up the material, which my brother s collecting 

helped out enormously. 

But it was always a book to sell? 

Yes. 



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The Americana Series 
What of the Americana series? 

Well, now, that came in the Depression. That came 
after we decided we didn t want to work with these 
publishers that had to mark up a book so high. 
And that came through my brother s collection of 
Cal i forni ana , rare things that he decided would make 
small-priced books. It was the reprinting of 
rare books. There were no original works in it. 
They were just books that were scarce and in demand 
by the collectors. Cal i forni ana--we tried to make 
it include other things besides Cal i forni ana , but 
there weren t very many. You know, like an early 
history of Kentucky, something like that. 
Did they sell well? 

The Americana series sold very well, after it got 
started. It had difficulty getting started. I 
think the story s been told so many times, or some 
version of it. The first book in the first series 
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enthusiastic review from Joseph Jackson. And 
that sold. Of course, it was seriously underpriced 
We said there were 500 printed and there were less 
than 500 printed, so it became a rare book in no 
time. And the price went up. And since we an 
nounced a series of ten books, that helped sell the 
rest of the ten. That appeared successful, so we 
went into a second and third series, price going 
up slightly all the time. 
How were you pricing them? 

As I remember, the Joaquin Murieta sold for $3.75. 
Then on the last series, I think the usual price 
was $7.50 for a book. 

Was Douglas Watson involved in that series? 
Yes, yes. He was sort of the editor and proof 
reader. He wrote introductions to them, and kept 
books at the shop. He was a great help to us. 
What position did he occupy in your arrangement? 
I don t know whether he got any salary or not. I 
doubt it very much. I don t remember. But of 
course he always got books. And he was looking 
for something to do; he was occupied. 
Had he been a journalist? 



Joseph Henry Jackson, book editor for the r,an 
P rands .ao Chronicle. The book was Joaquin Murinta, 
I kc. Urif/and Chief of California, edited by Francis 
P. Farquhar and published in 1932. 



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No, not to my knowledge. He had been a real estate 
dealer at one time in his life. He was an enthus 
iastic Californian who knew his subject. Of course, 
his prose style was a little rococo at times. He 
could say, "Gold! Gold! Gold!" in an introduction. 
[1 aughter] 
Had he retired? 

Yes, he d retired from any sort of business. 
When did you first know him? 

Oh, I can only date it by where we were. I think 
it s shortly after we moved to Commercial Street, 
about 1933. Then he was around for three or four 
years . 

What did he look like? 

I m poor at that, "What did he look like?" He 
looked like an American business man. [laughter] 
Nothi ng else. 

Was he an enthusiastic sort? 

Yes, but of course he was elderly then. He was 
probably seventy at that time. He wasn t any 
young enthusiastist. 
I see . 

His wife took lessons in bookbinding from Belle 
[McMurtrie] Young, who was well-known at that time. 
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41 

families, the Moodys, I think. It wasn t necessary 
for him to work, even though he had been up and 
down in the real estate business. He used to re 
gale us with stories. I was always amused at his 
statement about what a promoter was: a promoter 
is a man that says, "You furnish the ships, I ll 
furnish the ocean." [laughter] 
Oscar Lewis wasn t involved in that Americana 
seri es , then? 

Oh, yes! Oscar wrote our letters and kept the 
books, and he was there even before that time. 
Oscar we first came in contact with when he was 
the secretary for the Book Club. He was the house 
clerk. He did all of our letter writing. A great 
deal of that--i ntroducti ons . That was before 
Watson s time. We didn t see so much of him after 
Watson s time. However, we were always close. 
I guess he got busy with his own writing. 
Well, he was always busy with his own writing, but 
his income did not depend on his writing at that 
time, or anywhere near it. He was secretary of 
the Book Club. Of course, I had gone into a little 
partnership with him earlier in the Westgate 
Press, as I mentioned. 

So you had a little knowledge of publishing by the 
time of the Americana series? 



42 



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Oh, yes. But we were nevei you know we didn t 
ever even keep an efficient mailing list, [laughter] 
Surprisingly enough, book shops took a lot of the 
Americana series. And of course we always had 
access to the Book Club list because we were so 
close to it. 



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Commissioned Books and Ephemera 
When did you start printing for the Book Club? 
Oh, I think our first book might have been 1921, 
22. 

How did that come about, do you remember? 
I think Albert Bender, who, of course, no matter 
who was secretary, was the mainspring of the Book 
Club, gave us a book to print. Oh, what was that 
book? I think the first book we did for them was 
The Gracious Visitation, a book of short stories 
by a California writer, Emma Frances Dawson. I 
thi nk that was the first book. But whether Albert 
was responsible for us getting that or not, I 
don t remember. But he was responsible for other 
books, the kind we liked to do, the more press book 
types, not California, beginning with the parts of 
the Bible, new translations, Song of Songs, the 
Book of Eccl esiastes . 



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You did those for the Book Club? 
Yes . 

Under Albert Bender s influence? 
Yes. Of course, Oscar belonged in there all the 
time. I think at that time he was secretary of 
the Book Club, also sort of a ghost writer for 
Bender . . . not exactly that. . . took care of 
his correspondence, any official writing he had to 
do. 

We interviewed Oscar Lewis* and he indicated some 
thing of that sort. When did you first meet Bender? 
Just shortly after you came here? 

Yes. We put out little things to give away, little 
pamphlets. Gave them to book dealers and advertis 
ing agencies. Bender got wind of us and looked us 
up. He gave us commissions lots of times. 
What was he like? 

Well, ebullient, short, enthusiastic. He used to 
give us Chinese brocade neckties and our wives 
j ewel ry . 

I guess he was responsible for a good deal of 
tradition here. 

He certainly was. I sometimeseverybody , I think-- 
got annoyed at him. [laughter] 



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Did he have good taste? 

Oh, that s hard to say. He certainly didn t 

have bad taste. 

The things he was interested in, in general you 

liked doing well enough? 

Oh, yes. 

So to that extent his taste corresponded with yours? 

There was no doubt about it, he was of great benefit 

to us. And to lots of artists in San Francisco. 

Weren t there other wealthy people in San Francisco 

who were interested enough in fine printing to 

occasionally have you do something? 

Oh, yes. They usually might have come through book 

dealers. I remember very early we printed a book 

for Mrs. Tobin Clark, a tribute to her sister or 

someone . 

Was that one that John Howell published? 

He might have been the ostensible publisher. It 

was hardly a book that could be published; it was 

a f ami ly th i ng . 

Sometimes, I suppose, Howell or Magee or others act 

as publishers when it s just a nominal function? 

Yes, that s right, just a nominal function. That s 

always been true. Someone would ask them where 

they could get such a book, and they would refer 

it to whoever they thought could make it. Of course, 



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Nash got the rich commissions, [laughter] We 

got the leftovers, [laughter] 

Did you ever do anything for Templeton Crocker? 

No. We did several little things of Bender s 

again. We did a George Sterl ing--sl ight poem. You 

could hardly call it a book, except that it had 

hard covers on it. About sixteen pages. A poem 

called, "To A Girl Dancing." Now, most of those 

Bender took, those copies that the author didn t 

take . 

As I remember, later you did a good deal for Tom 

Morris, little keepsakes. 

Yes, those were Christmas things. Well, naturally, 

as my brother got interested in collecting Calif- 

orniana, other people who were interested in Calif- 

orniana too became habitue s of the shop, you see. 

Some of them we printed things for, especially at 

Christmas timemostly trifles. 

Was there a W. P. Fuller book? 

Yes. That was later. We printed two books for the 

Fuller Company. Sort of anniversary books, you know 

Did you do many books like that? 

No. Those were rather long books. We did lots of 

memorials for people that died. Some would be 

just a couple of pages, but printed on vellum and 

bound. Those were usually resolutions by a board 



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R. Grabhorn: of directors, you know. 



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To present to the family? 



R. Grabhorn: Well, usually there d be one or two copies pre 
sented to the widow. I always said in the hope 
that the widow wouldn t dump her stock on the 
market. [laughter] 

Teiser: Were they set in type, or were they calligraphic? 

R. Grabhorn: They were set in type. When Valenti Angelo was 
around, or even later Mallette Dean, they would 
hand illuminate and hand initial them. My brother 
has lots of stories about those things. When he 
was talking to a vice-president of Standard Oil 
Company, he said he always imagined how his name 
would look in type. I think he called himself a 
mortician among printers. [laughter] We did 
quite a few of them. 

Teiser: Did you charge for those on a commercial rate? 

R. Grabhorn: No, that was higher, usually. I think my brother 
said he had two prices of course he was joking-- 
$500 for a president and $300 for a vice-president. 
Many years ago we printed a book that always amused 
me. It was when one of the young--at that time 
young--F1ei shhackers (he s probably a grandfather 
now, if he s still alive) was a hero in a Stanford- 
California football game. A friend of the family 
had us print the newspaper account of his last- 



Fleishhacker Jr. 



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minute saving the game as a book. [laughter] 
It s difficult to make a book out of a column of 
newspaper material, but we could do it. 
I think Oscar Lewis said that he used to occasion 
ally bulk things out for you so theyti look like a 
book [1 aughter] . 

Sometimes the introduction was longer than the 
book . 

Then a fair amount of your work was thorough 
luxury printing, wasn t it? 
Oh, yes. Vanity printing was more like it. 
Did you do much of the kind of vanity printing 
where somebody wrote a little thing and wanted to 
have it published as a literary effort? 
Yes. We rarely undertook the sale of those 
things. We printed some of the worst poetry in 
the world. It s usually poetesses want their 
little book. But they re difficult. They think 
that if they could get a book of poetry for $2.50 
from a book shop they should be able to get 
twenty-five copies of their book for $2.50 each. 
They didn t realize the matter of quantity. 
Were they difficult to do as books? 
No. We ve done some very funny ones. I ll never 
forget one book. It was called Poems and Philo 
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think she ll ever hear about this. But one of her 
thoughts was: "Sickness is like a window, some 
have one big pane and others many little ones." 
We didn t have much pride. [laughter] 
This would have been all hand-set? 
Usual ly , yes . 

On the whole, though, you continued doing a regular 
stream of books that were commercially reasonable, 
didn t you? 

Like the Americana series? 
Yes. 

We used to do sort of gift volumes for a local 
attorney named Herbert Rothschild, who was also 
the owner of some of the movie palaces in San 
Francisco: the Granada and the California if 
you remember them. He was a book lover, you see. 
And he would have us print books at Christmas time 
to give to his friends. Those were usually small 
editions. Fifty copies, something like that. Then, 
of course, we got in the habit of doing for Ranso- 
hoff s a Christmas book for them to sell. The first 
one was King Edward s (I suppose VIII) abdication 
speech, with an introduction by William Saroyan, who 
was a friend of ours. I think we gave him a hundred 
dol 1 ars . 



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Did you then do the editorial suggesting for 

these Christmas volumes sometimes? 

Oh, yes. Then we printed two or three two I 

think-- that are very hard to get hold of and are 

collected Churchill s wartime speeches. 

Were they for Ransohoff s? 

Those were for Ransohoff s. They sold them for, 

I think, about $10 apiece, usually. 

What relationship did that bear to the actual 

cost? 

Well, we never got rich out of the printing 

business, so it wasn t enough. 

They took a profit? 

Profit? Not much. Less than a book dealer would. 

Most of the poetry and vanity volumes were an 

adjunct to our main business, which was doing the 

work for advertising agencies. As I say, the 

serious books we tried to do were usually our own 

efforts . 

About how much of your time went into the advertis 

ing work? 

Oh, that was sporadic. There would be periods 

when we did nothing else for three or four months. 

Or maybe on Saturdays and Sundays do other things. 

Did you work most Saturdays and Sundays anyway? 



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R. Grabhorn: Well, at that time everybody worked Saturday 
morning. But we would often work nights and 
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Advertising Typography, 
Wine Labels and Commercial Printing 

Some one told me that those ads for Chickering and 
others were really the first distinguished printing 
for advertising in San Francisco. 
Yes, I think so, because they were out of the 
ordinary and they were usually full-page newspaper 
ads and exclusively typographical. Little or no 
illustration. For instance (I think I told you 
this) the Chickering Piano ads were usually in the 
shape of a bowl; it was fairly difficult to do. 
The Zenith Radio ads: a bolt of lightening. They 
were for the same advertising agent. For a man 
named M. E. Harlan, who was original in that way. 
We also did, through him, work for Schilling Coffee 
Company. 

There s a long story; it s been told before. I 
don t remember whether it was through Harlan or 
Douglas Watson, who was close to the Schilling 
business, [that] we got the contract to print two 
or three copies of a book celebrating Schilling s 
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something like that. But he was so enamored of 
it, he had us print a reproduction of the gift 
volume in three or four, maybe five hundred copies. 
And he sent those out. Naturally he got letters of 
acknowledgment. Then he had us print a book re 
producing all the letters, [laughter] Craziest 
book. And then that thing was going on from 
there, but I think his family stopped him. 
[laughter] This was August Schilling? 
Yes. But I think he was in his dotage. That was 
how come they had to stop him. 
They were very particular about their printing 
in that company always, weren t they? 
They were particular about their labels . I knew 
a man that used to slave over the labels. But I 
can t say that we d be too proud of these repro 
ductions of letters of acknowledgment. 
Were there any other notable ads that you did? 
We did lots of ads through McCann-Eri ckson for the 
Standard Oil Company. We did those for years. 
But then we stopped doing ads for them. Then they 
came back to us, oh, perhaps around 1930, and we 
did a little more than just follow instructions 
there. We worked right with the art director, 
Charles Stafford Duncan. He was a local artist of 
some repute at the time. I think actually he was 



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one of the executors of Bender s estate. But 
we did the Standard Oil ads announcing Standard 
Ethyl gasol i ne . 

This is interesting because although your name 
always appears in your books, these ads are anony 
mous . 

Oh, yes. Who would know? 

Except maybe people would recognize your style. 
That s right. But, of course, we can t assume any 
credit for the design of the Checkering ads. Those 
were conceived by Harlan; we just followed his lead 
But in the Standard Oil ads you had a little more 
free reign? 

In that last group, we did. Of course, we weren t 
commissioned to do a series of ads and do anything 
we wanted. We always had to work with the art 
di rector. 

You yourself recently did some wine labels for the 
New Almaden Winery? 

We refurbished the Almaden labels, but those are 
not creations. We just sort of snapped them up a 
little bit, changed colors. But we always have 
done a few wine labels for friends that were wine 
makers. There we created the labels actually. We 
created the ones you see around now on Ficklin Port. 



53 

R. Grabhorn: And then the Hallcrest Wi nery--that s a small 
winery. It s sort of a large plaything for an 
attorney here in town, Chaffee Hall. Then before 
Chaffee was in the commercial business, we did 
some private wine labels for him that I liked 
very much. I haven t seen one in years. 
I worked for some months on the Almaden wines. 
Did a couple of original labels. I remember one 
for a brandy that I haven t seen around. I don t 
know whether they re making a brandy or not. 

Teiser: That was you alone, wasn t it, working on the Al 
maden labels? 

R. Grabhorn: Well, my brother helped in taking proofs, and the 
color business. 

Teiser: Were there any other kinds of fugitive work that 
you created? 

R. Grabhorn: Oh, we ve done many business announcements. Of 
course for years, when Jim Ransohoff was alive 
(I suppose there s a younger Jim Ransohoff now) 
we did the Ransohoff announcements each year of 
their fashion openings. We did those in quantities 
which were huge for us: 30,000. 

Teiser: Could you handle that many of one thing in your 
shop? 

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We very rarely had anything printed by other 
printers. Now and then. Lawton Kennedy printed 
one of the Fuller histories for us. And then we 
did some pamphlets, large pamphlets, for Stanford 
University in which the presswork was done by 
somebody else. We did the design. That was very 
seldom. We d rather do it ourselves. 



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II lustrations 

What about illustrations? Didn t you use litho 
graphed illustrations in certain books? 
No, not until later. We were printing books before 
offset printing was common, you see. So we would 
have to depend on woodcuts and zinc etchings of 
line drawi ngs . 
Did you use many halftones? 

No, no halftones. We could never print a halftone 
properly. We tried but we never could, because 
we didn t have the ideal kind of presses for half 
tones, for one reason; and besides that, we weren t 
good enough, [laughter] We always avoided them. 
And so we always had halftones lithographed when we 
got to the point of using them. Up until offset 
became usual, why we were limited to line drawings, 
woodcuts. When we had a good, hard workman like 
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Andrew Hoyem: 
[who had just 
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decorated several of them. I mean things of 
forty or fifty copies. 

You mean the color was applied by hand? 
Yes. 

When you did later have illustrations lithographed, 
who did them? 

I think the first time we used an offset litho 
grapher was when we printed those facsimilies of 
the letters written to Schilling. You see, we d 
just take the whole letter, with the letterhead 
and everything, and that was reproduced by offset. 
I forget even the man s name. We ve used A. 
Carlisle for offset. And the local man here, 
Waters . 

We prefer collotype. We ve had lots of our collo 
type done at the Meriden Gravure Company. That to 
us is better than offset. 

They have finally stopped. I got word of that. 
One of the men died, and the other three retired. 
Is that right? They ve stopped. I know they 
threatened to stop doing collotype. 
This is a recent development. 
You can t get collotype then anywhere now? 
In the United States, no. 
You can get it in Europe. 
Japan also. 



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I think Jaffe, who used to operate in Europe, 

operates in New York. I think he might still be 

in business. 

I think that man that was out here from Meriden 

said they were the only ones [left]. 

Did you ever use gravure? 

Yes, when we got it in Oakland [from Oakland 

National Gravure]. I think the last book we used 

any gravure on was . . . 

Photographs . 

Oh, yes. Photographs of the Grabhorn Press in 

that catalogue of Magee s --Grabhorn books he had 

for sale. About six, seven years ago. 

Oakland National was the only place that did 

gravure in this area,was nt it? 

Yes. The most elaborate book was a book we printed 

for the Americana collector, Holliday. I think his 

son is over at the Bancroft Library now. 

He was--Jim Holliday. He s at San Francisco State 

now . 

Well, his father was a very important Americana 

collector, and he had us print a book about a man 

that had made elaborate illustrations--! forgot the 

name of the book. The ostensible publisher was the 

Arizona Historical Society. Those were gravure 

illustrations. 



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There s a book that I have that you did that was 
edited by Eleanor Bancroft and Edith Coulter. 
California Towns! 
Yes . 

That was probably offset. That was some local 
[offset lithography] company. That wasn t collotype, 
I m f ai rly sure . 

It looks like very good offset. Were you fussy 
about it? 

Well, not too. Not the way some men are. 
How about the maps . . . 
The Disenos, you mean? 
Yes. Who did those reproductions? 
Well, the groundwork I think was done by Waters, 
the black. We added the colors, you see, with 
linoleum blocks, which we ve done. The Japanese 
print books, you see, the background was done by 
collotype. We added the colors with linoleum 
bl ocks . 

That sounds harder to print than halftones. 
It isn t nearly as hard as you think, thank good 
ness. You see, we had nothing to do with the 
groundwork. That s where the shading is. 
I m just thinking of the registration. 
The registration is tough, especially on collo 
types. Because on the Japanese print books, you 



*Becker, Robert H. Disenos of California Ranohos. 
San Francisco: The Book Club of California, 1964. 



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see, we would have to slice, with a razor blade, 

the sheets with the illustrations in order to get 

registration. There were guide marks printed; 

[but] if we just used their press guides, the color 

would wander all over the illustration. 

What of the San Francisco Bay Area map book? 

Maps of San Franaisoo Bay! 

Yes. 

I think those illustrations were collotype. 

I see . 

I think. We ve used quite a bit of collotype. 

That has its drawbacks. It s a matter of getting 

the paper there, and back. Especially if you want 

to use the same kind of paper the rest of the book 

is on. 

I saw some gravure work of Charles Wood s the 

other day. 

Wood did the illustrations by offset for the first 

volume of Carl Wheat s Mapping the Trans-Mississippi 

West. It s a six-volume thing. We printed the 

first volume. The rest of them were pri nted--several 

by Taylor and Taylor--and somebody else. We had 

nothing to do with them, only the first volume. 



Harlow, Neal . The Maps of San Franaisco Bay. 

San Francisco: The Book Club of California, 1950. 



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59 

Printing Equipment 

This brings up the presses you used. Let me go 
way back. When you first came to San Francisco, 
did you bring any equipment with you? 
Type. That s all. No presses. 
Did you have much type? 

No, no. We had some English Caslon and Kennerly. 
But we only had a couple of cases of English Caslon, 
which we traded to Taylor and Taylor for some type 
that we wanted. I forget what it was. But we 
bought type regularly. 

Then how did you set about getting the rest of your 
equi pment? 

We bought it here. Bought the press. I forget our 
first press. It was a Colt s Armory. We ve always 
been partial to Colt s Armory presses. 
Is that what you had in Indianapolis? 
I do not remember the press ... I don t. . . 
yes, we did. We had a form of a Colt s Armory 
press. And also an old Chandler and Price. 
Why have you always been partial to the Colt s 
Armory? 

Because of the heavy, the nice impression you get. 
You get a heavier impression, usually, and better 
ink distribution, than you could on a Chandler 
and Price, at least. We never liked the idea of 



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cylinder presses. Of course, they re ideal for 
halftones. If you work with dampened handmade 
paper, it s a little more troublesome on a cylinder 
press . 

Has much of your work been done on dampened paper? 
Quite a bit. The whole Leaves of Grass was done 
on dampened paper, which was a tremendous job. I 
mean just dampening it. 

I think I asked Albert Sperisen, whom I interviewed? 
about why the Colt s Armory press was held in such 
high esteem in general, and he said, "Oh, because 
the Grabhorns use it," or something to that 
effect. But I think he was indicating that it was 
a difficult press to use. 

Well, it s not a fast press. But you see, when we 
were starting, the automatic feeders had just been 
invented, and they were usually attached to an 
inferior press. But we never did tremendous quanti 
ties. We didn t need a fast press. 
There is no automatic feeder possible with the 
Colt s Armory? 

Now there is on a form of Colt s Arfhory called the 
Victoria. We have one upstairs [in the Grabhorn- 
Hoyem press] that isn t as efficient as the modern 



Sperisen, Albert. San Francisco Area Printers, 
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presses like the Heidelbergs. But those are 

cylinder presses. These are platen presses. The 

Victoria s just another name for a Colt s Armory. 

It has the same type of action. 

Where is it made? 

It was made in Germany. Now I think it s made in 

Switzerland, if it s made at all anymore. Sherwood 

Grover bought one recently for his home printing 

office, in England. Rebuilt. 

Do you remember how much you paid for your first 

press when you came here? 

No. I think about the second one, we paid $450 

for. 

Did you get first just one? 

Oh, yes. 

When did you get your second? 

About 1924, I would say. One press in 1920 when 

we started. 

What else? 

Just one press. One press and type. 

I see. 

Well, we did lots of curious work there. We did it 

in quantities. And one of our richest jobs was a 

political thing. After the fire in Berkeley, when 

there was an attempt to pass a law that you couldn t 



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use redwood shingles for roofing, we did a lot of 

work for the Redwood Association, or its publicity 

man, who was an amusing old character. He started 

us printing postal cards, or things like a postal 

card, about the size. Then he ordered a thousand 

and we printed them one at a time, naturally. Then 

he ordered 20,000. Then we would print them four 

at a time. And he never asked for a reduction in 

price. [Laughter] So it became very rich. I think 

we must have printed 100,000 of those. As a matter 

of fact, he tried to give us work we couldn t 

handle. They spent a lot of money defeating that 

[law] . 

And were successful ? 

That s right. I think after about six months of 

doing work for the Redwood Association, I took a 

trip to Europe. 

How long were you gone? 

A year. 

Bookbinding 

Were you just traveling? 

No. I spent most of my time in Paris. I was supposed 
to be studying bookbinding, but I took some lessons 
in bookbinding from a woman in Paris, a Danish woman. 
I shouldn t have any pride about it, but I wrote a 
book on bookbinding, with my teacher. 



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We wrote it in English, and it was never published 
in English. But it was later published in France, 
in a French translation. My French is not good 
enough. "Lessons in Binding for the Amateur^ by 
Madame Ingeborg Borgeson and Her Pupil." I was 
her pupil, R. Grabhorn. [laughter] I doubt if it s 
in print. She later had a Danish edition put out. 
I don t think my name was on the Danish edition. 
Did you continue bookbinding when you came back? 
No. No. Everybody laughed at my attempts. As 
a matter of fact, it was just fun. I did a few 
bookbindings, but with my teacher looking over my 
shoul der . 

Did you study typography at all? Did you go 
around. . . ? 

Oh, I always hated to go around to printing offices. 
I have gone to a few. Later on, in France, I went 
to a fewyears later. But not then. 
Did you buy any books that trip? 
Yes. I always bought books. 

Did you buy some books on printing at that time? 
Not at that time. I bought books to rebind, or I 
thought I was going to rebind, and books with 
illustrations. But on my second trip to Paris in 
1936, I bought books on printing. I bought quite 
a few. I always remember when the ship landed at 



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Los Angeles, because of a dock strike here, I 

had a couple of suitcases full of books and went 

through the customs down there. And the man said, 

"What are those books?" I said, "Books on 

printing." He said, "Let s see." I had to go 

through all those. He was bitterly disappointed, 

because they were. 

[laughter] Was your studying in Europe an attempt 

to beat the bookbinding problem in San Francisco? 

No, no. This was an attempt to find out something 

about it. We were sel f -taught there were some crude 

bindings we put out at that time, that we concocted 

oursel ves ,just from reading books on it. 

You were actually doing binding, though, yourselves? 

In a way. 

What then did you do about having your books bound? 

Well, unless the edition was pretty large, and if 

it was a pretentious book, we nearly always sewed 

them ourselves, folded them, and--you can t trust 

a good book to a commercial folder, you see. 

Did you have folding equipment? 

We folded then by hand, gathered them, and sewed 

them by hand on small editions. Now, of course, 

most of the books are sewn by machine. But if it s 

possible we like to fold them and gather them on 

the premi ses . 

Did you do the folding yourselves? 



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Oh, my wife, or whoever wasn t employed at some 
thing else. That isn t so bad, especially if 
it s a 200-copy thing. Sewing is much harder! 
Who sewed? 

Why, usually Jane, or Ed s wife. She d even take 
them home. She d have a sewing bench at home. 
She d sew as many as possible; Jane would sew as 
many as possible. Now, you understand, this would 
be a comparatively expensive book, and then a small 
number of copies. When it got up to be 500 and 
over 100 pages, then we would have them sewn. We 
bound our own books. Up until a few years ago, even, 
we bound them. Unless it got up, like the Bohemian 
Club play, to 2,000 copies. That s too much, you 
see, and we d send them to Cardoza. 
Well, for a time did you employ a bookbinder? 
Oh, yes. We had a very good bookbinder, Bill 
Wheeler, who actually was sel f -taught--al most . But 
he got better and better. He was a very neat work 
man. And especially got better when we hired a 
young man from England, who was a fairly good book 
binder. Bill tried to emulate him became very 
successful at it. Now this fellow was hired by Hazel 
Dreis. And then she couldn t keep him busy, so we 
hired him. 
Do you remember his name? 



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He had a hyphenated name. . . Sanders-White, or 
some such name. I can t remember. No. He went 
to Los Angeles, never heard of him afterwards. He s 
a younger man than I am, so I presume he s still- 
it s peculiar you never hear from him. Maybe he 
went back to England. 
What was Wheeler s period with you? 
Well, we used to give him things to do in his little 
loft, or room, or wherever he worked. But that 
wasn t too successful. And then I think about 1925 
or 26 he came to work with us. And he lasted all 
through the printing of the Leaves of Grass - -wh i ch 
Hazel Ore is did a lot of work on. It was too big, 
you see. And, I think it was around 33, no, pos 
sibly 35 or 36, that he left us. He lasted a 
long time. 

Jane [Grabhorn] had studied bookbinding, had she? 
No, she just graduated into it by being around the 
shop, folding and proofreading, and then graduated. 
When Wheeler left, she took over. But we ve had 
several bookbinders. 
Who were the others? 

Oh, there was an old Englishman. He was pretty 
sloppy. I forget his name. And a young man that 
joined the Army. He was taken prisoner in the 
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nothing especial. They re not bookbinders. I 
mean, they re case-makers. A bookbinder, in the 
strict parlance, is someone that does individual 
volumes, and laces them in, laces the cords into 
the sides, and usually works in leather, something 
like that--in the Peter Fahey tradition. She s 
bound a few books for us. 
Has she? 

Well, I mean, odd volumesor I mean five or six, 
maybe at a time, I remember. 

Who bound those presentation pieces that you did? 
Wheeler, usually. Very good at it. Because they re 
very thin. It s very difficult to bind a very thin 
book, and those were usually bound in full Morocco. 
The economics of the binding part of the book 
busi ness . . . 

That s the ruination of ... or was for a long 
time . . . general publishing in San Francisco. 
I would say that s why there haven t been more 
commercial publishers, because it cost more to 
bind a book locally for many years than the whole 
production in New York, or Chicago, or wherever the 
book factories are. And that was because, of course, 
they were not mechanized. They didn t have a case- 
making machine. Now they have. Recently, I hear, 
a place like Cardoza, that is a modern bindery, 



68 

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us. Because they re too busy binding schoolbooks. 
We asked them for a price, I think on a 2200 
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Type 

I wanted to ask about the amount of type that you 
acquired over the years. 

Oh, trememdous, I would say, for this kind of 
printing. We bought type in old-fashioned quanti 
ties. We bought that early American type called 
Oxford. We bought over 1200 pounds of it, which is 
a huge quantity in this day. We could set by hand, 
in ordinary six by nine size, ninety -six pages- 
something like that if we had to. Now, the first 
book we used any quantity of that on that we 
needed that quantity for, was Two Years Before The 
Mast, that we did for Random House. See, that s 
hand set. It s a nice book, too. I don t know 
whether we bought that type deliberately for that 
book or just wanted to buy 1200 pounds [laughter]. 
Well, it s a great relief to be able to get way 
into a book without having to stop and distribute. 
Because often you don t know what problems you re 
going to get into, so the more paqes you can have 
up the better it is. Our first huge quantity was 



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when we thought we were going to use a type 
called Lutetia on Leaves of Grass, and we bought 
a thousand pounds of that--and a European type 
too, and that was quite expensive. And, we de 
cided it wouldn t do for . . . 
This is it? [broadside on wall: Lutetia Type, 
A Specimen, designed by the Grabhorn Press, 1948]. 
That s it. Well, we had the ei ghteen-poi nt size, 
you see. 

Di d you set this? 

Yes. We set that for a paper company that issued 
some years ago a series of broadsides they gave to 
different printers, showing types. I thought it was 
a very interesting series. They must have had 
about thirty in the series. That one [broadside] 
up there of Cheltenham is designed by Dwiggins. 
That one over there is about the lost Goudy types. 
And that s the one we pri nted--Luteti a . 
What paper company was it? 

The Eastern Paper Corporation, Bangor, Maine. 
That s a beautiful broadside. 

Yes. Now, we didn t print it, you see. It was 
printed in the East. We set the type, and had the 
plates made. They wanted a huge quantity --thirty 
thousand . 

Didn t you do something similar for Mackenzie and 
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No. That was a series of ads they called "From 
Gutenburg to Grabhorn." 
Oh, that s it. 

They had Mallette Dean illustrations. But they 
set the type. We did print about nine of the 
advertisements, to be put out in a folder. But 
those were all set in the same kind of type. I 
concocted and printed a type specimen book that 
Magee published, strictly on Victorian types. 
I ve always wanted to do a type specimen, and I 
thought I wanted to do one different from any 
one else s. This was a sort of a feeler, to see 
what I could do. And so we had some Victorian 
types in the shop, and I played with them and 
concocted--i t was just about nineteen different 
types, you know. I wish there was a copy here. 
I thought it was amusing/ I was facetious about 
the beauty of these types. You know, it doesn t 
exist. For instance, I called one type the type 
had a name, but the heading of the specimen was 
"Barnyard Elegance." [laughter] 
This was an idea you generated? 
Yes. 

And Magee went along? 
Yes. It was printed a little more elaborately 



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than I wanted it to be, because the idea wasn t 
such luxurious elegance. My brother did the press- 
work; he used very good hand-made paper. That I 
thought was gilding the lilly. 
Did you have any other major type holdings? 
Well, then we had a lot of the type we called Fran 
ciscan that we owned the design for. That Goudy 
made. You see, we could get that made locally, and 
we d get it made as we needed it, you see. 
Who made it? 

Mackenzie and Harris. And we must have made five 
or six hundred pounds of that it s still at the 
Grabhorn Press. And we had quite a large font of 
Goudy New Style, that we did print the Leaves of 
Grass in. I forget exactly how many pounds we 
had. We lent a large quantity of that to Brother 
Antoninus when he was printing his Psalter, which 
he never finished. I think Dawson issued it, when 
he abandoned it, as much as he had printed. 
We interviewed him. He thought that was very 
generous of you to lend the type to him. 
Inasmuch as he never gave me a copy of the book. 
[1 aughter] 

I think they gave him one, [laughter] 
Well, let s see. We had quite a bit of what we d 
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72 

We bought it when it was known as Bible Gothic 
because it had been used to print in Germany 
an edition of the New Testament. Well, the German 
name was Bibel Gotisch. But as I told you, that 
young Klingspor worked for us. He got the type for 
us when it was virtually a private type. But later 
they made it in all sizes, and they renamed it 
Jessenschri f t after a German cal 1 igrapher . 
I don t know whether I told you or not about the 
time we ordered extra characters. I typed out the 
order to this foundry: so many pounds of this 
letter, so many pounds of that letter. And my 
typing was pretty crude, and I got a little hyphen 
over the top of the ru And when we got the type, 
there was a little line above the ru We had to 
take a file and file it off. [laughter] This 
was a German type company, the Klingspor Foundry. 
Were there other types, then, that you held in 
major quantities? 

When Nash dissolved his printing office up in 
Portland, we bought types from Nash. We never got 
exactly what we ordered, [laughter] We got a huge 
quantity of this Italian type called Incunabula, 
possibly five or six hundred pounds. 
Did you use i t much? 



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We never used that too much. We printed a 
Shakespeare, one of the Shakespeare volumes, in 
it, The Tempest. But that didn t take near all 
of it. We experimented on several books with it, 
which we never used. Of course, there are tons 
of type at the Grabhorn Press that nobody can af 
ford to hire printers to set up any more. I don t 
know what s going to happen to all those big fonts. 
This is the day of the machine. Nobody can afford 
to hand set, really. Unless it s something so 
short. Lew Allen manages to do it. 
Well, he doesn t do it on a very strict economic 
basis, does he? 

No, no. No, he does it himself. I don t think he 
has any very large fonts. I think he has to dis 
tribute and reprint all the time, as everybody does 
I m going to stop now and come back again. 
Well, I think we might ve repeated ourselves. 
You ve discussed some of the same things, but in a 
little different way, and you ve added something to 
what you said before. 
I m apt to be garrulous, I guess. 
No, you re telling just the sort of things that I 
think are important. So much has been written 
about you, of course, but a lot of what you re 
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74 

I m trying to do is supplement what s been written 
Well, I know that a lot of my anecdotes are the 
same as my brother s, but they ll probably be in 
a little different form, [laughter] 
Yes, everybody remembers things differently. 
Well, I ve been credited with things that I know 
I never said. 

I hope they were good things. 
Sometimes too good, [laughter] 



75 

INTERVIEW III 
March 3, 1967 

The Grabhorn Press Characterized 

R. Grabhorn: I was trying to think about our position as crafts 
men at the Grabhorn Press. It s sort of ambi 
valent, you know. Sometimes we re good, but we re 
not always thorough craftsmen in the sense of 
Brother Antoninus, as far as presswork is concerned. 
What I mean is, many of our books could be faulted 
on the grounds of meticulous detail, you see. I 
do think we did superb presswork in several books, 
but not always. Our presswork is of variable 
quality, according to the nature of the work. We 
were never what you could call finicky, you know 
like I think I mentioned Haywood Hunt using tissue 
paper, and Porter Garnett also used tissue spaces 
between the letters of the same word. That, we 
think, is over-meticulous. Always did. I think 
our reputation depends more on the content of a 
book. You see, we printed for collectors. Not 
collectors necessarily of just fine books, but 
collectors of subjects too. Cal iforni ana . In 
other words, that probably saved our lives as 
printers, printing for collectors. Now our books, 
I think, are more widely collected than much finer 
presses, that is, consistently finer presses, 



76 

R. Grabhorn: because our books have increased in value greatly. 
And that is because collectors wanted them. I 
mean collectors of subject, not printing. 

Teiser: Oh, but aren t you collected by collectors of 
printing, too? 

R. Grabhorn: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And many times it gets to be 
like the stock and bond business. Our books have 
gone up in price, many of them, so tremendously 
that people think it s a good investment that are 
not true collectors. And it s not true of all 
books. They ll collect something and pay a high 
price just because not many people have it. Some 
thing privately printed for twenty-five people, 
never designed for the general public but if 
somebody can get ahold of one, because he s making 
a collection, he will pay a high price. But on the 
other hand, some of these Californiana books have 
increased tremendously, like Santa Fe Trail to 
California, which is a pretty good book typograph 
ically, and presswork and everything about it is 
pretty good--not superl ati ve--pretty good. But 
it s a new subject, an important book in its field. 
That book was issued for $30 and you have to pay 
$300 for it now. A great printer like Bruce Rogers, 
who has a tremendous inf 1 uence--none of his books 
have increased that much in price. 



77 

Tenser: Does the size of the edition have any bearing on 
this? Did he produce books in larger editions 
than you? 

R. Grabhorn: No. Not while he was at the Riverside Press, when 
I think he had the greatest influence he ever had. 
In fact, he s influenced lots of designers, influ 
enced us. I think we were probably one of his best 
students, you see. We didn t ever copy some one 
thing he did, but we approached the problem of 
printing many books the way he did. I think we 
were pretty good at it. [Chuckle] 

Teiser: How would you characterize that approach? 

R. Grabhorn: Well, it s general ly--l ots of people called it 
allusive printing. Not necessarily just period 
printing because period printing would be this: 
if you have an Elizabethan book to print, you do 
it in the Elizabethan style, you see; typography. 
That s obviously period work and it s a good 
recipe. But also, if the nature of a book is 
feminine, you can give it a feminine touch, you 
see, a delicate piece of typography. Now, we 
printed a book that I like very much in the Amer 
icana series, called The Spanish Occupation of 
California. We printed that in our Franciscan 
type, which is a half black letter, half Roman kind 
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Spanish California look, if there is such a thing. 
It s got a great title page. 
You said allusive printing? 

Allusive either to the nature of the subject or 
the period of the subject. Rogers did that in a 
whole series of books when he worked at the 
Riverside Press, oh, from around 1900 to 1911-12, 
before he went to England. For instance, one of 
his famous books is the Song of Roland, and it s 
set in a French Lettre Batarde , or, you know, a 
sort of current Gothic type. It was made in France 
to reprint old texts. And he did this in a nice 
tall folio, double columns, with hand-painted 
illustrations like stained glass. Now that s 
allusive to the period and the nature of the book, 
you know, a French romance. That s what I call 
allusive printing. 

I think this perhaps was what Albert Sperisen was 
alluding to when he said that you invented ways 
to create effects that earlier printers had created, 
but didn t use the same methods. 

Modern methods. We used old type sometimes. Lots 
of printers are contemptuous of that, but then it s 
a matter of period. I know Updike liked many of our 
books, but he was very contemptuous of a thing like 
the Mandeville s Travels, which was printed in the 



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15th Century manner. But he was an allusive printer, 
too. But his period, his favorite period, was a 
bit di f ferent . 

What was your favorite period? 

All periods. But the older were the better to us. 
Old John Johnck said, "Those fellows are not 
printers, they just produce old books." [laughter] 
Who was he saying that about? 
Us! [laughter] 

Now a man like Rogers could print in almost any 
period, even in a bad period typographically, and 
make a fine book out of it. He would refine it so. 
He made almost a creation. If he made an Eliza 
bethan book, it d be better than any Elizabethan 
book . 

What were the main influences on your work? 
I would say, well, all the private presses. We 
printed our bibliography; that was certainly in 
fluenced by the Ashendene bibliography, which was 
a private press. Because we have inserts of old 
sample sheets, just as the Ashendene did, and used 
an attractive type, our private type, which is 
appropriate. He had a private type too. 
Was Rogers your main general influence? 
He certainly was mine, and I m certain that my 
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whole Rogers collection because he said he got 

tired, when he was confronted with a problem, of 

going to one of Rogers books. Which he actually 

didn t do. That was just a reason for getting rid 

of it. [laughter] But Rogers rarely used a text 

that was new and collectable, you see. That is, if 

you bought his book you did it because you admired 

his printing style. Subject, I think, still has a 

tremendous influence on what a book s going to cost 

the collector eventually. 

How did you choose subjects, then? 

We started out by choosing classics of literature. 

You know, the English are always printing literary 

masterpieces, and that s more or less correct, 

because if people pay a high price for a book they 

want something, sort of a monument to their favorite 

author. They usually took the Canterbury Tales, or 

Dante or Boccaccio, or big names. 

The Mandeville was a fugitive piece wasn t it? 

The Mandeville was that s a one-book thing. That s 

an early book of travels, you see. And we wanted 

to use this new type we had on hand, that Koch Bible 

Gothic. We were the first ones in this country to 

have it and wanted an appropriate subject for the 

type. 

That sort of consi deration, though , could not have 



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81 

often influenced your choice of books to print? 
Oh, no, not often, not often. Now, The Santa Fe 
Trail, for instance is a journal of crossing the 
plains. That is not period typography. That s in 
Centaur type, which isn t anythi ng like the type 
that would have been used in 1850. It s anything 
but. 

How did you happen to choose that type for it? 
Well, it was available in a size large enough. 
It is not what I call period typography in any 
sense . 

Nor even allusive? 

Nor even allusive, no. It was an old journal that 
had never been published. The nice thing about it; 
it had nice drawings of the missions, you see. I 
think one of them was a drawing of a mission that 
is gone. It s probably more Italian in feeling 
than any other but not so. It s just a good book. 
I m still trying to find out how you were smart 
enough, lucky enough, or what , to choose things 
which were collectable, as you say, and significant. 
Well, I think they stemmed out of the fact that my 
brother was a collector of Californiana himself. 
And he knew that he had some tremendously rare books 
that lots of collectors would want a reprint of. 
And whereas these people wouldn t have bought the 



82 

R. Grabhorn: book if it was one of the classics of literature, 
they would buy it because they wanted that par 
ticular text. When we first started to print books 
we printed Mandeville; we printed as experimental 
typography Oscar Wilde s Salome and The Golden 
Touch of Hawthorne s. Then we got the idea, since 
we are American printers, we d better use American 
classics. And while we were on that kick we 
printed the Whitman, and Hawthorne s The Soar-let 
Letter-. And that s not period typography. None 
of these were. Maybe closer to period typography 
would have been the Two Years Before the Mast , but 
not exclusively. But then we re aware of the period, 
you see, when we re doing this. That s why I say 
if there was any influence besides all old books-- 
certainly old books influenced Rogers, for a long 
time. Then he tried to be contemporary, and was 
successful in a few books. But never, never did 
he try to be freakish, to be "modern." We used to 
all be concerned with modernity in the days of the 
Bauhaus, you know. We used to have tremendous 
arguments about what s modern typography. And some 
people would say to use a sans serif type throughout 
the book. Well that didn t work. Some would say, 
"Change the margins." That worried me for a long 
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of the page, some few experimentally printed a big 
margin on the inside, just to change it. I asked 
Jo Sinel, an industrial designer, about this once. 
I said, "Now why is it, it s never successful to 
fool with the margins of a book?" "Well," he said, 
"don t you see, the book is functional the way it 
is, without improving on it." 

Still, much of your design is what one would call 
contemporary . 

Yes, with a background of the knowledge of other 
typographic style. I can see a man like, oh, 
William Morris, loved the medieval. And his books 
were his concept of the medieval. He had two or 
three heavy types, heavy incunabula type of decora 
tion, and the books were all the same. Then you 
have a man like Cobden-Sanderson who says, "That s 
nonsense. The sole function of a book is to be 
read." So he printed all his books the same way. 
Very austere. But then, those presses all had a 
personal style, strictly personal. They didn t go 
to all the periods of typography, use all the types. 
You find us using types that were popular in 1850 as 
well as 1940 or 1490. 

Still, I think that anyone who is acquainted with 
your books can almost always tell them from any 
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84 
Yes. 

You have some imitators, but they don t, of 
course . . . 

I wasn t aware of any imitator. 
You have a style . . . 

Well, our title pages are usually strong, but we 
print delicate books. I m just trying to arrive 
at why we did things the way we did. We did have 
a devotion to good paper. But we also had to buy 
paper cheaply. Sometimes we used paper we shouldn t 
have because it was something we had and it was 
good, but not suitable for a particular book. Of 
course, any printer can, after a book is finished, 
fault what he did. Afterward. If somebody else 
doesn t do it for you. [laughter] 
Some of the other people you were speaking of, such 
as Garnett, perhaps, Rogerswere they in the same 
position that you were, of having to make a living 
by printing? 

Well, no. Rogers, for instance, did his great work 
when he was hired by the Riverside Press. That 
was owned by Houghton Mifflin, I think, the pub 
lisher. He was on salary. They supported him. 
My brother was even offered a job to take his 
place when he left. He had quite a free hand. 
They indulged him. These Riverside Press books 



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that he did, the good ones, took a lot of indul 
gence. They bought types for him, and went to a 
lot of expense. And they were not money makers. 
You could buy them, years after he left the River 
side Press, for the published price. They weren t 
printed in large numbers, either. 
If you did not print each book to be what you 
felt perfect, it was not as if you had all circum 
stances within your complete control. 
Well, that s true. You have to calculate the market 
for a book and what you can possibly charge. We did 
our best on quite a few books. I mean money was no 
object, you see. 
Yes, I realize that. 

But with quite a few, it was. [Chuckle] 
I m trying to figure out another word for "design." 
Well, design s a hard thing. [laughter] I m not 
much in favor of the word "design." You take a 
modern publisher. I think the word "design" is 
more than anything being a bookkeeper. You have 
to realize what the book s going to sell for and 
how much you can afford to spend on its manufacture, 
and work within those limits. 

I m thinking of it, as you know, in terms of simply 
how the type is selected and how the book is put 
together. 



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86 

Well, in the commercial books it s what the 
company you re dealing with has available. 
But so far as your work has been concerned, it s 
come from your sense of rightness, has it not? 
Yes. We often bought types deliberately for a 
book, you see. Of course, we used them again. 
Did you get tired of them and sell them? 
No, no. Very seldom. We traded. We sold some 
Caslon to Henry Taylor of Taylor and Taylor once. 
He needed some. I think he sold us some of his 
Oxford. I can t remember accurately. 
Of the books that you have been speaking of, or 
have in mind, which do you feel came closest to 
satisfying you? 

Ah, that s very difficult. Well, I liked The 
Santa Fe Trail because it was a decent book as 
far as materials and the effort that went into it, 
the paper, presswork, and the subject. I like the 
Leaves of Grass because it is one of our best pro 
ductions as craftsmen. I like the book we printed 
one time called, Cabeza de Vaea, around 1930*1 think 
The presswork in that was exceptional for us, I 
think. 

Haywood Hunt said that when your brother was in 
Seattle, he came to know Henry Anger, "art printer" 



1929 was the publication date. 



87 



Teiser: or whatever they called him, and that perhaps 

your brother got something from Anger. Did he? 

R. Grabhorn: I doubt it. I knew Anger. I doubt whether you 
could. [laughter] They all liked Anger. But 
I think they liked him because of his character. 
He was aware of better things, but I don t think 
he had much influence. My brother told me they 
used to call him "The Rule Man of the Rockies." 
[laughter] It always amused me. 
I guess that was before Nash? 

Well, Nash used rules, but Anger used them in a 
different way, in the old-fashioned way. 
You mentioned John Johnck. I never knew him, but 
I gather he was a man who inspired many printers. 
Not so many. I think [Harold] Seeger quite a bit. 
He was a good printer of no particular style, I 
think he first printed a very impressive book of 
Colonel [C.E.S.] Wood s, a book of poetry, up at 
Portland, before he came to San Francisco. I 
forget the title. 
Maial 

That s it. Which was a deluxe book of the period. 
I have heard him spoken of as if he had at least 
a cultured outlook on the world? 

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than a Henry Anger or a Haywood Hunt. 
And of course, Harold Seeger was a very accomplished 
man . 

Yes he was. Never any definite style, I don t 
think. He worked in the shadow of Johnck for so 
many years. But he was a very careful typesetter. 
There was really, in effect, no one here who in 
fluenced you, was there? 
No. Not that I m aware of. 



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Book Collecting and Printers 
of the Past " 

Let us then go on to your collection of books on 

pri nti ng . 

That s just something that grew out of buying 

other printers works. And then buying books on 

the history of printing. And being influenced by 

the books you read. I think it s a combination of 

things. The books themselves, then books about 

them, about the books, bibliographies, specimen 

books. It was based mainly on Updike --kind of 

extra-illustrating Updike. 

Do you recall about what year you started this? 

Really concentrating and spending what money I 

could afford? 

Yes. 



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All the money I could afford. Why that would 
be. . . Well, I had a little collection of 
principally press books like Golden Cockerell, a 
few Doves, and maybe a couple of Kelmscotts, things 
like that, that I sold in 1932--the year I got 
married. [laughter] And after that I naturally 
started another collection. And I would say I was 
hooked by 1936, when I made a trip to Europe and 
bought concentrated on books that I had learned 
about from reading the history of printing. I 
made lots of nice buys on that trip. 
Where? 

Mainly Paris. And London. Then, of course, from 
the local book dealers I bought lots of books, by 
then. Magee and Howell. I bought the book that is 
the most expensive in my collection from Howell. 
What one is that? 

That s a first edition of Euclid. Because Howell 
had a lot of them I bought quite a few Euclids. 

then. And I see the [San Francisco Public] Library 

* 
is more or less trying to keep it up buying more. 

I had the first edition and several very early 
editions, like the first Arabic edition. And so 



Robert Grabhorn s collection of books on printing 
was acquired by the San Francisco Public Library 
in 1965. 



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90 

people might get the idea that I m a mathematician, 
but I m not. They are intriguing books by virtue 
of the diagrams all through. 

Was there anything else that you bought heavily? 
No, no one author. But if there was a book existed 
that several printers had printed, the same book-- 
I tried to get different printers handling the same 
subject. I wasn t too successful at that. But that 
was the main idea. I stuck to the Euclid after 
I d seen how the different printers approached the 
problem. 

This went in directly with your own approach to the 
problem of a book, didn t it? 

Yes. It s well to know how other people approach 
the same thing. 

When you printed, for instance, the Leaves of Grass., 
did you study earlier editions? 
No. Except that Whitman himself was the printer 
of the first edition of Leaves of Grass. And it 
isn t what you d call a private press book, but 
it s a nice, straightforward book. Of course, he 
was a Victorian printer, and some of his stuff, his 
typography in some things, was strictly of its day, 
and over-ornate. But this first edition of Leaves 
of Grass is very simple, very direct, a very nice 
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We wanted a strong book; that s why we changed the 
type. We bought Lutetia for it and then changed to 
Goudy New Style because Lutetia was too weak for 
this massive folio, you see, and not strong enough 
for Whi tman . 

Had it ever been done by a fine press? 
Not that I m aware of. That s strange; there were 
a couple of American fine pressesnot many. It s 
strange Rogers never touched any of the American 
subjects. He might ve, but I m not aware of it. 
For instance, he was printing Song of Roland and 
The Centaur. I think several presses have printed 
The Centaur. That s strictly 1890. I had a col 
lection from a little press that I liked very much. 

It s probably collected now more, but it wasn t col- 

v\ 
lected when I formed my col 1 ecti on--the Eragray Press 

The printer was the son of Pissaro, the painter. 
He had gone to London, got mixed up with the Vale 
Press crowd and made woodblocks and printed a whole 
series of little, very thin books, fragile books. 
He was interesting. And he tried varieties of 
treatment with i 1 lustrations the matter of illus 
trations in colors that printers had not tried. He 
used other colors than the straight red and black. 
He printed woodblock in colors, you see, in books 
there. They re very nice little books. The chief 



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92 

attraction to me was they didn t cost very much. 
I think the highest price I ever paid for one of 
his must have been about. . .oh, well! No! Fin 
ally I got into it. But on the paper copies the 
highest price I ever paid was $25. But I bought 
a couple printed on vellum I had to pay more for. 
Albert Sperisen gave me two or three very rare 
ones that he came by. He knew that I liked Eragfay. 
And if he d see one, on a birthday or Christmas he 
would try to find one I didn t have. He gave me 
a couple of the rarest. I ended up--stopped--havi ng 
all the Eragmy books that are credited to him but 
three. One, of course I d never get. It was sort 
of printed in about twenty-seven copies. 
When you say that he used color in an unusual 
fashion, did that suggest any technique to you that 
you ever used? 

I don t think so, I don t think so. Of course, we 
used plenty of color inwell, now the illustrations 
in the Scarlet Letter were colored woodblocks that 
Valenti Angelo had made us. Square. But very nice 
little things. Of course, we labored over that 
book. Our original conception was to use as a 
chapter head a large initial A--not too decorative-- 
in each chapter head, but starting out in a very 
light pastel color and increasing in intensity till 



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we got to the big scarlet A. [laughter] But we 
gave it up. Well, the same with the Leaves of 
Grass. Valenti worked terrifically hard on that. 
We were going to use huge initials. We printed 
a lot of the book, and the spaces were there, and 
we decided it would look like an alphabet book, 
[laughter] And then we had the spaces there and 
we had to fill them up. We gave up the initial 
idea. Valenti made those decorative things, wood 
cuts . 

Did you collect actively until the time you ac 
tually turned over your books to the San Francisco 
Public Library? 

Yes. I sort of eased off when I knew I was going 
to sell them. I bought a few after that, two or 
three. When you re finished, you re finished. 
As I recall, you sold them to the library, but 
there was also a gift aspect to it, was there not? 
Well, that s usual. Everybody knows about income 
taxes. I got the price I demanded, you see. They 
had them appraised. And it was a fair appraisal. 
As a matter of fact, it was too fair, I imagine, 
now. And the price I demanded was quite a bit 
lower than their appraisal, so they said I gave 
them the difference. 



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Who appraises collections like that? 
Warren Howell did this. Magee does a lot of apprais 
ing . 

I forget that we have these experts. 
Oh, I m an expert myself. I knew what I was doing 
when I asked $50,000 [laughter] Actually, I 
don t like to be credited as a benefactor. I d 
made up my mind that that was what I wanted for 
the books. That s all. I m still getting it, 
of course. They didn t pay right at once.i 
Are you still collecting? 

You can t say that, no. If I see something that I 
know is underpriced, and is appealing, I ll buy it. 
But prices are generally too high now. 
I imagine your collection had gone up in value 
considerably since you purchased it, hadn t it? 
Oh yes , every day . 

Did you buy much through catalogues? 
Quite a bit. 

Just every way, then. You used every resource. 
Every way. I didn t make big purchases, except 
through the local book dealers, who gave me un 
limited credit. [laughter] 

How many volumes all together in the collection? 
I ve never counted them, actually--! imagine there 
are about 1,500. A lot of them were strictly 



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ordinary books in the field. 

Did you ever trade some and get others, better 

copi es? 

In two or three cases. Not many like that. Not 

many. 

What you originally bought, you kept? 

Yes. I was always more interested in getting 

another book. I wasn t too meticulous about 



condition. 

Teiser: Were there any kinds of books you didn t collect 
just because you didn t like them? 

R. Grabhorn: No. I wanted an example of as many different 

printers as I could get. I even had Elbert Hubbard, 
that most people wouldn t touch, one or two that I 
came by. 

There was a much better printer, in fact one that 
could hold his head up and you don t hear much 
about in America of about that period, called the 
Elston Press. It printed more or less like the 
Vale Press. I never had a single book of theirs 
for some reason. Then. . .let s see. I like a 
lot of the trifling things that were printed in 
America in the nineties, like the Stone and Kimball 
for instance. They were primarily publishers, but 
they printed some very interesting books typograph 
ically, even popular novels. I often think that the 



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American Institute of Graphic Arts hasn t done 

much to raise the quality of the ordinary book, 

when you look at some of those printed around 

1910, 1912. They had some concern about the 

quality of their books. 

Of course Updike printed many books for publishers 

They usually were gift volumes, a thin essay of 

Stevenson s or something. For Scribners. 

What would collectors do without Stevenson? 

Why that s right. [laughter] We printed a 

couple. We printed them for people that owned the 

original manuscripts. 

Two of them were for Howell, weren t they? 

Yes. One that I thought was an interesting book, 

one of our late books, was the Silverado Journal^ 

where we tried to indicate his corrections in the 

manuscript by taking rule and putting it around 

the word that was transposed, you know, and place 

it in the place it was. 

It must have been a terrible job. 

It was. There were lines spaced very widely 

apart so we could do that. 

One thing I should ask is about the size of books. 

It seems to me that back in 1910 books weren t so 

big. 







Left to Right: Glenn Todd, Robert Crabhorn, , ane Grabhorn, 
, ndrew Hoyem, at Orabhorn-Hovem Presa, January 1967.. 
Ph - igraph by Ted Streshingky. 



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97 

That s right. People have often objected to the 
size of our books. Well, I don t know why. 
Except that people might say they like little books 
But they won t pay for little books. [laughter] 
That is, not what they re worth. You see they take 
just as much effort as a big book. They d 
rather buy an eight-page folio than a forty-page 
duodecimo. 

Don t you think it must mean they don t read them? 
I m sure they don t, [laughter] That never inter 
ested me as a printer, whether they read them or 
not. I always think, "Of course you re not going 
to read Leaves of Grass. You can buy a pocket book, 
But if Whitman s your favorite author, you like a 
monument to him." That s the same for many books. 
I think the most elaborate book that Rogers printed 
at the Riverside Press was Montaigne s Essays, hand 
set folio, in three volumes. Of course, they used 
such heavy paper, they were almost like decks of 
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Present Printers and 
Past Employees 

I think I ve asked you a good deal about printers 
who preceded you or were contemporaries of yours. 
But what about the young printers who are coming next? 



98 

R. Grabhorn: Oh, I really don t know. They ve all been at it 
so long, like Lew Allen, whose work I like very 
much. Brother Antoninus I always did [like]. 
Both those men are superb craftsmen. They re 
not considered young printers coming up. 

Teiser: Are they also good typographers? Does their 

typography match their presswork do you think? 

R. Grabhorn: Yes. There s no attempt with Antoninus other than 
just straightforward typography. And good type, 
well printed, and good paper. Lew tries things. 
I think he s very successful sometimes. Sometimes 
I don t think he s so successful. But this is not 
a criticism at all. It s just a personal thing. 
I think he prints type in these pastel shades lots 
of tiroes. But it makes an interesting book. And 
interest in a book is far more important to me 
whether the printer is successful or not. If he 
tries. Lew has quite a following. 

Teiser: He s a remarkable man, isn t he, to have devoted 
so much. . . 

R. Grabhorn: To have done it, given his life to it actually. He 
retired at an early age in order to be a printer. 

Teiser: Of the younger menyour associate Andrew Hoyem 

worked with the Grabhorn Press for a time, didn t 
he? 

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a pressman and he was at the Auerhahn Press. And 
someone suggested he might welcome a job part 
time in addition to working at Auerhahn. We tried 
him and he helped us out. 
He is a pressman and a typographer too? 
He s a very good typographer and a very good 
pressman. I like to work with him because we 
really work together very nicely. If I don t like 
something he does, I say it; if I do something 
he doesn t like [he says so] and then sometimes 
we re both stubborn. But it s never offensively so. 
No one getting mad. And it s very difficult to work 
with someone in a matter of design, I think. That s 
why we let a thing grow, rather than design it. 
Did he work at the Grabhorn Press for a long time? 
Oh, I would say a year, maybe a year and a half. 
Then he bought out his partner, Dave Haselwood, at 
the Auerhahn Press, and he was by himself. Then 
he moved down here.* And he was here about a year 
when I joined him. I took some of the equipment 
from the Grabhorn Press. 
What have you brought here? 

Oh, some of the type and one press. And some other 
equipment, like a stone and things like that. My 



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100 

brother doesn t need it. He s only printing 
his own catalogue of Japanese prints now. If I 
need a type every now and then, I go down and 
get some that he s got. 

Are there any other young men coming up? 
Well, no. I like the work of the--of course it s 
more commercial, more like the Grabhorn Press-- 
the Plantain Press of Los Angeles. If you want my 
opinion, I think Ritchie used to be a very good 
printer, but he s a big business man now. It s 
like a factory, and it s a factory product. But 
they re not young . 

No, they re not. And even Adrian Wilson is not a 
boy. 

Not any more. No. Adrian is a designer prin 
cipally now. He s probably very good as those 
things go, because he has usually, I think, a lot 
more personal contact than most designers have with 
the [publishers]. For that matter, people level 
their criticism at Bruce Rogers, and he was never 
a printer. But that s sort of ridiculous because 
he knew types and could print. He can letter a 
line of type accurately, making a layout. You see, 
a printer ought to know more than just type. He 
ought to know paper, the ideal paper for a book. 
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And he s got to know what a Linotype machine 

can do, even if he doesn t operate one? 

Yes, yes. Well, he very seldom went to Linotype. 

He might ve when he did some work for Harvard 

University Press. 

But, for instance, you have to know what Monotype 

could do, even if you never operated a Monotype 

machi ne? 

Yes. Sometimes you have to know--a trick we learned 

from Rogershow you could work with a Monotype 

and change the face, for instance. Like Rogers 

created something called Riverside Caslon. What 

he did was take the body type of a Caslon and, for 

capitals, use another size of the same type, you 

see. We ve experimented even more than that. In 

one of the Shakespeares we printed we used what s 

called Goudy 30, but we used capitals from two 

other Goudy types. 

Oh, I d forgotten the Shakespeares. We haven t 

discussed those. 

Those were principally issued, I don t know it s 

a combination of using my niece s drawings and 

[being] sort of bored with Cal if orniana. 

Have they too been successful in that their value 

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I don t think so, no. There again, the private 
press concentrated on an idealistic approach to 
the ideal type, the ideal paper, and so forth. 
That s sort of past. The last great exploiter 
of that was--his books dj^ command probably a 
higher price than any of the presses, including 
the Kelmscott--the Ashendene. A few of his books 
were completely successful. I like them all be 
cause they re in the old hand tradition. But 
usually his illustrations did not come up to the 
quality of the Kelmscott illustrations. I m 
thinking now principally of Burne-Jones and the 
Chaucer. 

Back to Adrian Wilson. I would say he had been 
influenced by the Grabhorn Press, wouldn t you? 
Possibly, but not noticeably so. 
You don t see it? 
I don t see it. 

A number of the young men who worked with the 
Grabhorn Press have gone on to become well known 
in their own right, haven t they? 
Bill Roth, who was an apprentice at the Grabhorn 
Press. He hasn t gone on [in printing] but he was 
influenced enough to go into partnership with Jane 
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103 

publisher. But he was one of our less serious 
apprentices. He used to practice on the flute on 
the noon hour, [laughter] 

But they [the young men who worked for the Grabhorn 
Press] were interested in books rather than printing 
They wanted to be associated with someone--that goes 
for my brother-in-law [William Bissell]. That s 
how I met my wife. He was an apprentice. He only 
worked about a year, and he didn t do much except 
wash presses, run errands. 
Well, you got some work out of him. 
I got a wife out of it. Well, the printers, let s 
see; I m trying to remember. Of course, Gregg 
Anderson was closely associated with Ward Ritchie. 
He was an apprentice, or worked for us. He was a 
little more than an apprentice. 
He wrote of that, didn t he? 

Yes. It was published in Connecticut, where he was 
working at the Meriden Gravure Company. They had 
a club. They put out a little book called Remi 
niscences of the Grabhorn Press. And he also wrote 
an article for one of the printing magazines. Then 
there was Helen Gentry. 



See Grabhorn, Jane, The Colt Press, a 1965 
interview in this series. 



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Did she just come to work as an apprentice? 
Yes. She had had some experience. She was a 
friend of Porter Garnett s and had done some print 
ing. Very little. She was an apprentice. And 
later she was a printer here in town for Goldberg 
Bowen, who had a printing press. That was very 
funny, in fact. Then she went in business for her 
self, right here on Commercial Street. Then she 
went to New York. There she s principally--! don t 
know what she s doing now. She was a partner--! 
don t know whether it still existsin the Holiday 
House, which concentrated on children s books. 
I can t even remember all of the apprentices. Lots 
of them didn t last very long. Lots of them, they 
just had summer vacation jobs. 
Did Wilder Bentley ever work with you? 
No. We were close friends. Wilder is a peculiar 
chap. He gave up printing suddenly. I don t know 
why. 

Apparently he was an accomplished printer? 
Oh, I would say so. I don t think he was terrifically 
so, but he knew his subject. He was more of a poet 
than a printer, a writer. He was very much dis 
gustedhe did very good work and none of his books 



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were ever included in the Fifty Books Show. I 
think that disappointed him. I don t know 
whether it did, but I always had a hunch it did. 
That s the terrific thing about those shows. They 
discourage people as much as they encourage them 
when they re not included. 

That s a nasty one, too, isn t it, because of the 
capital it takes to enter your book? 
Oh, that s getting terrific. We thought we might 
send this book. . . . 
The Letter Sheets?* 

Letter Sheets. Well if the book is accepted, they 
want six copies, you see. Now it doesn t mean 
anything for an ordinary five dollar trade book. 
But you get a book that costs $60 a copy. . . of 
course, it wouldn t cost us $60 a copy, but never 
theless, I don t think the show is that important 
anymore . 

Valenti Angelo was only an illustrator with you? 
Or did he do some printing? 

He never did any actual printing. I think our 
business with Angelo was: he got a salary of $25 
a week, and he was to do anything we had to do, and 



Baird, Joseph Armstrong, Jr., California Pictorial 
Letter Sheets, 1849-1869. San Francisco: David 
Magee, 1967. 



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he was to do as a free lance artist anything he 
could get, you see. And Valenti was not lazy. 
He was tremendously industrious and he didn t mind 
redoing things. That was a lovely thing about 
him. We d stand over him and make him redo them. 
Of course, he was facile. A tremendous worker. 
When you think of the labor of putting in all those 
initials in the Mandeville by hand, that was tre 
mendous. But he woul d fold and do other tasks about 
the shop. I don t think he ever learned how to set 
type. But he does now. He nas a little press at 
home in New York. 

Did he leave the Grabhorn Press after a row or 
somethi ng? 

Not a row with us. I think he was a little put 
out at the direction the Grabhorn Press was taking 
when Douglas Watson was around. There might have 
been differences between him and Douglas. I can t 
say for certain. But I think he wanted to get 
away, go to new fields. Of course, I think Valenti 
needed us to stand over him; I really do. He needed 
a firm hand. But, as I say, he was willing. He 
would try, and he would arrive at something finally. 
Mallette Dean, I suppose, is one of your prize 
past associates, is he not? 



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107 

Mallette Dean did some wonderful work for us, 
but typographically he isn t in the league with 
Allen and Brother Antoninus. There, again, he 
must earn a living. He does a lot of things for 
the wineries. A prize apprentice? No, I don t 
think so. Because he s primarily an artist. He 
learned to set type. I don t mean he doesn t do 
good work, by any means. 

It is a practical combination for him, isn t it, 
being an artist and a printer? 
Yes it is. He s developed some things. He can 
make his wine labels and print them. It would be 
a good idea for lots of printers to be artists or 
artists to be printers, perhaps. 
Did he come to you first as quite a young man? 
Not qui te young. Around in the late Depression 
era. I think he did a lot of work for the Federal 
Art Project. I think the first book he illustrated 
[for the Grabhorn Press] was one of the Americana 
Series called Wah-To-Yah. It s a very famous book. 
I think it was originally published about 1837, 
about this man s experience in the Indian country. 
Was Arlen Philpott working with you? 
Arlen was what you might truly call an apprentice. 
He was about 18 years old when he came to work with 
us . 



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Did he work with you long? 

Let s see. He must have worked two or three years. 
That s quite a while. Then he went into the Coast 
Guard, traveled around, and ... I always think of 
Arlen as 18 years old. [laughter] Now he has a 
lot of children. 

Is he not doing some Book Club work now? 
Yes, he does the Book Club Quarterly [News Letter]. 
He hasn t done a book. I m amazed that Arlen has 
never done a book. 
Who has among the younger men? 

Printing s a hobby with most of them. You ask about 
young men. I don t know any. I really don t. 
Andy s the youngest, and Andy s thirty-one. 
To go back to other people--did Jo Sinel work with 
you? 

Well, he spent an awful lot of time at our shop. 
He was not on salary. He offered to be at one time, 
but we decided he would cost us too much because he 
was so meticulous. I remember we printed some trifle 
where he was mixing the ink. There were some colors 
on it. My God! There were more pieces of card 
board around the shop! Trials of ink mixing. I 
think no matter how cheap he would work, he would 
cost a lot of money. But he was amusing. I had 
a lot of fun with him. He did things. . .he made 



109 



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a font of initials for us that- we use to this day. 
You see, at that day he was an artist at the 
advertising agency that s now McCann-Eri ckson . It 
was H. K. McCann. But he was not very happy there. 
He had all sorts of theories. Then he became 
interested in industrial design. He was one of 
the first in the field. He went to New York, and 
he had quite a success. But he s an eccentric. 
Well, a lot of those artists used to come and play 
around our shop. The commercial artists, like Don 
Schmidt and Maynard Dixon, even. We printed some 
books of Maynard Dixon s. He belonged to this 
group of artists called Advertising Illustrators. 
I don t think Maynard ever did much advertising work 
We printed a book of Maynard s poems once with some 
of his drawings in it. Those were characters. 
There was an artist named McKay? 
Donald McKay was another of the same group. 
Did he work with you? 

Well, he did some initials, a couple of decorations, 
not a lot. 

Was that in the same period that Saroyan was around? 
No. Saroyan was much later. These were in the 
twenties. All these men were around in the twen 
ties, when we were on Kearny Street. Before 1926. 



110 
Grabhorn Press Locations 

Tenser: I d like to go back to your early days in San 

Francisco. What was your first impression of San 
Francisco, when you first arrived here? 

R. Grabhorn: I don t know. I can t remember. The only man 

we knew was Haywood Hunt. Ed knew him in Seattle. 
He found us an apartment at some foul place where 
he lived, right near the tunnel on Stockton Street 
[laughter]. My brother took a job at a commercial 
printing office. This is an anecdote. We had 
rented a couple of rooms in a little building on 
Kearny Street. There was a candy store on the 
bottom floor, a tall, thin building. There s a 
barroom on the bottom now and nothing above. I 
wonder why. I d like to have that. And I set up 
the shop while Ed was working. You see, he used 
to come around noon, and we d work nights. He had 
sent samples to a trade magazine, a local trade 
magazine called Pacific Printer, and they had been 
reproduced and written up in this magazine. So 
Ed went to work one day after this article on his 
work had appeared and his fellow workmen said, "I 
see we have an artist working for us." And he just 
left at noon that day and never went back, [laughter] 

Teiser: What was the shop where he was working? 



Ill 



R. Grabhorn 



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Tesier : 

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It ll come back to me. I can t remember it. 
Chris Beran, later associated with John Johnck, 
was one of the partners of this place. 
So you went first into the Kearny Street location? 
Kearny Street. That was 1920. While I was in 
Europe in 1923 to 24, Ed moved to Powell Street. 
A new building, sort of an arty building. There 
was an architect there. 526 Powell. It s right 
up the side of the hill. I remember while we were 
there they were tearing down the old temple before 
they put up--what is it?--450 Sutter. And the 
noise was tremendous. We were only there about 
two or three years. Then we moved from there to 
Pine Street. 

Did you have more space than you did on Powell? 
Yes. We had a whole floor there. I don t know 
whether that s the reason we moved or not. That 
was about 1926, I think. 510 Pine, that s where 
Peter Fahey is now. We had one floor in that 
building, the same place she s got. 
The rent had gone up on Powell? 

I think so. Or something like that. That s where 
we printed Leaves of Grass [510 Pine]. 
Then, I think, my brother had some money, or his 
father-in-law financed it. At any rate we decided 
we might buy a building. And we bought this place 



112 



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on Commercial Street, where we were until the 

war, 1942. You see, we bought this building from 

A. Lietz (this amused me) who made the navigation 

instruments. And they had built this building we 

were in for their war contracts in World War I. 

In 1942 they had another war contract, so they 

wanted that building back! 

So you sold it back to them? 

We said, "You find us another building, or we ll 

find a building." In other words, they paid for 

the other building. That s the one out on Sutter 

Street. Now there is some insurance company, all 

prettied up, you know, in the place we had on 

Commercial, in the next block up on Commercial 

[from 566 Commercial]. We had two tremendous floors 

and a tremendous basement. And the top was very 

efficient. It was also uncomfortable in hot weather 

because it was almost all skylight. 

And every time you moved did everybody go through 

terrible agonies? 

Oh, yes, yes. Well, the last move was sort of 

costly: we lost the matrices for our private type. 

You did? Franciscan! 

Yes. 

How d it happen? 



113 



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The moving men were a bunch of winos, I think, 

and they got everything mixed up. 

And they really lost them? 

Really lost them, yes. They were packed away in a 

garbage can with lots of things, and then they 

never got out. 

Did you have insurance? 

No. 



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Grabhorn Press Bibliographies 

I wanted to ask a little about the details of the 
publication of the two bibliographies.* 
David Magee had sold lots of our books to a collec 
tor, Mrs. Heller. And he and she compiled this 
bibliography. She financed the printing of it. 
David handled the sale. And then when we printed 
the second one, it was David s own project. Mrs. 
Heller had nothing to do with it. 
He financed it? 
He financed it. 

Well, they were both done with considerable co 
operation from you, were they not? You and your 
brother? 
Oh , yes . 



see also pages 21 and 22. 



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114 

This amounted to a considerable investment of 
time and effort? 

Yes. Both--on all of our parts. 
Did you feel they came out as they should have? 
Yes. I like them. I like them. 
Did you have control over the printing of them? 
Oh, yes. Yes. We were left strictly alone. 
I suppose there haven t been p_ many occasions on 
which you ve been able to exert so much control 
over anything that you printed? 
Oh, I don t know. I think we really usually had 
full control, except, well, work for advertising 
agencies and things like that. 

But in the bibliographies you could change the text 
if you wanted, couldn t you? [laughter] 
Yes! Yes, we certainly could. And did. [laughter] 



115 

Jane (Mrs. Robert) Grabhorn was asked to 
comment upon the relationship between Edwin and 
Robert Grabhorn as a factor in the character of 
the Grabhorn Press . 

Jane Grabhorn 

March 3, 1967 

Com ments by Jane Grabhorn on the Grabhorn Brothers 
J. Grabhorn: Ed would remember perhaps the look of a page that 
he d seen, in the early years, when Bruce Rogers 
was starting out, and so forth. Bob is a little 
slower study and is more the studious type, I 
think, and a lot more interested in the intellec 
tual aspect. You have somebody else s judgment or 
opinion, and you re circumscribed by the quality 
of your own intelligence, your own knowledge. I 
think that if I had to--oh, one of those Henry Luce 
words, what is i t?--encapsu1 ate or encapsulize it, 
[I d say that] I ve always felt that Ed was a good 
deal more aggressive, a good deal more experimental, 
a good deal more. . .whatever inspirational means. 
Whereas Bob has, I would say, definitely contributed 
to the Grabhorn books, from all points of view, the 
things that I think Ed lacksand I could be wrong- 
taste and restraint, and intelligence, which Ed 



116 



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has never felt were important especially. Ed 
would be more likely to take a chance on something 
or to take the plunge. More the female type the 
seeming quick, spontaneous. I know a lot of people 
think, probably Ed himself, that Bob for many years, 
although he was the younger, acted as more of a 
restraint than anything else. But then of course 
as you get older, that age gap gets lesser and 
lesser. Whereas when somebody s ten and somebody 
else is twenty-two there s a big difference; when 
you get up in the thirties, forties and fifties, 
then it becomes less and less of a difference. 
But I think Bob has always felt himself more or less 
an arbiter, a restraining influence, an organizer, 
the intellectual member of the team. As far as I 
can see, that s the way his mind works and that s 
the kind of character he has. 

Their relationship was, of course, to some extent 
i nheri ted . 

Ed was twelve years old when Bob was born. He 
remembers wheeling Bob around in a baby carriage. 
He had charge of him. Their mother was too busy. 
And so that relationship persisted along. They 
were apart for many years on and off. Bob spoke 
to me about that the other day. He didn t know Ed 
at all, as an adult. And, as I say, the person who 



117 

J. Grabhorn: is the more aggressive tends, whether rightly or 
wrongly, to take the authority. Like the parent, 
he has the authority. But I think that Bob feels 
that Ed was genuinely interested in printing, both 
as a craft and as a trade. He always had the 
greatest respect and regard for him professionally. 
Bob Grabhorn is one of those rare people. . . he 
is no different with me at home alone than if you 
were there or anyone else--he is polite if he feels 
like it; if he doesn t, he isn t. There is abso 
lutely none of the four-flusher about him, no pre 
tenses whatever. 

Whether or not there are any resentments I don t 
know. It seems to me he s one of those rare people 
that is an adult; he is mature. I don t mean by that 
the weak word "tolerant," or anything like that. 
But he s understanding, and he is interested. But 
always in a detached sort of way. And Ed has some 
of that. That seems to run through that whole 
family. At least in the ones I ve met they have 
that trait. Very rare. In my family, for instance, 
we re all so close, so emotionally involved. 
Building up that business--! think it s something 
that grew. I don t think either one was more 
dedicated than the other. It was just that each 
one had his own department. But I think in the 



118 



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J. Grabhorn 



beginning probably they worked together a good 
deal more closely because they had to. There 
were only the two of them. They were poor, they 
were unknown. But Ed would be the one always to 
get the ideas. Not always , but by and large. 
Always the one to go out and get the business. 
I was surprised to hear Bob say he regretted not 
operating a press. I always thought it was the 
more mechanical aspect of printing. . . . 
Of course it is more mechanical. Well, let s put 
it this way: unless you re printing on the hand 
press--if you re printing with a machine then 
you ve got to be able to fix that machine if some 
thing goes wrong. You have to have a feeling for 
machinery. Whereas a compositor, who is technically 
known as a printer, can rectify his mistakes. He 
can make changes. He has time, but if you ve got 
a machine going. . . . 

Designing, well. . . .1 think there again they 
always worked closely. I can t imagine either one 
of them doing anything, like putting out a book, 
that met with the specific and outspoken disapproval 
of the other one. This would be impossible you see. 
But in their work they re quite different people than 
they are otherwise. They re infinitely, I would 
say, painstaking and patient. I have seen them 



119 
J. Grabhorn: discuss something without raising their voices, 

without ever quarreling, without ever getting angry 
or emotionally involved. "Well, let s try this," 
or "Let s try that." And then of course there was 
that end! ess--whi ch is s_o_ important that endless 
trial and error and the patience, and above all a 
certain mutual respect. Sometimes I think that s 
good, and sometimes it isn t. 
I think in their case, their books improved as 
they got older, which might not have been the case 
with that kind of a relationship. But it seemed 
to me that each one grew along with the other one. 
As I say, they became closer and closer as far as 
their ages went. I can t remember ever having 
heard a harsh word or any really serious disagree 
ment. Because if there were, each one would begin 
to reassess, revalue his own judgment. Bob is no 
hero worshipper, none of that at all. But he might 
say, "Well, I think that cap s a little big, there," 
or "Let s try this." "Let s try that." Or Bob would 
set a page, and Ed would look at it, seriously, and 
he would say, "Well, I ll tell you what I don t 
like, Bob, I don t like the such-and-such position 
of the cut. Why don t you switch it around a bit. 
Why don t we try that as a chapter beginning?" And 
that s the way it always was. So then Bob goes 



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120 

back to work and says, "What do you think of this?" 
[Ed says,] "Well, yes, I think that s it; I think 
that s it." Or, "I don t know. Maybe I was wrong. 
Let s see the first one again." 

This is why, I presume, Bob and others object to 
using the word "design," which sounds as if you 
conceive of the whole thing full-blown. 
I think that s very pretentious, yes. They don t 
like it. It s essentially still in the mind and 
heart of a true printer, especially one with a 
little background, forty or fifty years. In Ed s 
case and Bob s case their uncle was a printer. 
A job printer. He was a tradesman. He might as 
well have been a plumber or a plasterer. All that 
business about "design." I can t ever remember Ed 
using that word. 

You ve got a challenge. You have a sheet of paper 
with something written on it. You ve got to trans 
late that into type. Because type in itself, you 
know, is a very rigid form. That s, I think, one 
of the reasons a lot of printers don t like the 
word "design." Because there is a limit to what 
you can do with these hard little pieces of metal. 
You can t end up drawing something. I think Bob s 
contributed far more, however, in the artistic line 
to the Grabhorn Press than he realizes. But this 



121 

J. Grabhorn: is true sometimes of just the fact of being a 
restraining influence. It may be a negative 
thing, which may lead him to believe that he 
wasn t actually creating something. But after all, 
somebody has to make the first move. And you re 
still part of that if you say I ve heard him say 
to Ed many times "Oh, no, don t do that." I think 
Ed would have been capable of a great many vulgar 
ities and a great many errors on the side of 
sensationalism if it had not been for Bob. 
All I do is observe. Of course I actually stayed 
out of it, you know. I was always appalled because 
right from the start--Ed is the sort of person 
that will ask anybody, "What do you think of this? 
What do you think of that?" And far from my re 
specting that, it irritated me. Bob does not give 
a damn what you think of it unless you re a pro 
fessional and somebody he respects. Whether Ed 
really does or not, I don t know. But I think Ed 
does. I think what people think to Ed- -it s true 
of a great many people of that sort--the reality is 
what people think you are: you are what people 
think you are. That page isn t good unless every 
body thinks it is. That s a difference in tempera 
ment. 



122 

J. Grabhorn: One person, one man, seems so much more outgoing, 
so much the extrovert, so much the driver, the 
more dynamic, the morewell , the louder, noisier, 
more ambitious personality. But I suspect that 
Bob has been the stronger, the steadier influence 
in that relationship. But there again, you see, 
I m biased. There is no limit to the strength of 
a limitlessly ambitious person. Bob is not. Bob 
will say, "So what?" 



123 



Partial Index 



124 



Allen, Lewis ("Lew"), 11 , 98, 107 

Almaden winery, 52, 53 

American Institute of Graphic Arts, 96, see also "Fifty 

Books Show" 
Anderson, Gregg, 103 
Anderson, Sherwood, 26 

Angelo, Valenti, 18, 19-20, 46, 54, 92, 93, 105-106 
Anger, Henry, 86-87, 88 

Antoninus, Brother (William Everson), 13-14, 71, 75, 98, 107 
Ashendene Press, 21, 33-34, 79, 102 
Auerhahn Press, 99 

Bancroft, Eleanor A., 57 

Bender, Albert, 42-44, 45, 52 

Bentley, Wilder, 104-105 

Beran, Chris, 111 

Bissell , William, 103 

Bissett, Clark P. , 35 

Bohemian Club, 65 

Book Club of California, 25-26, 41, 42, 108 

Borgeson, Ingeborg, 63 

Cal vert , George C . , 8 

Cardoza Company, 65, 67-68 

Carlisle, A. and Company, 55 

Cerf, Bennett, 19 

Chickering piano advertisements, 14-15, 50, 52 

Clark, Mrs. Tobin, 44 

Cobden-Sanderson , T. J., 83 

Coulter, Edith M. , 57 

Dawson, Emma Frances, 42 

Dean, Mallette, 46, 70, 106-107 

Dixon, Maynard, 109 

Dreis , Hazel , 65,66 

Duncan, Charles Stafford, 51-52 

Eastern Paper Corporation, 69 
Elston Press, 95 
Eragmy Press, 91-92 

Fahey, Peter (Mrs. Herbert), 67, 111 
Farquhar, Francis P., 39 
Ficklin winery, 52 
"Fifty Books Show" 105 
Fleishhacker, M-rfe1mer Jr., 46 



125 



Gannon, Jack, 29-30 

Garnett, Porter, 30, 75, 104 

Gentry, Helen, 30, 103-104 

Goldberg Bowen Company, 104 

Golden Cockerel Press, 89 

Goodhue Printing Company, 31 

Goudy, Frederic W., 7, 19, 20-21, 69, 71 



Grabhorn , 


Edwin ( "Ed") , passim 




Grabhorn , 


(second) Mrs. Edwin (Marj 


orie) , 


Grabhorn , 


Harry, 3-4 




Grabhorn, 


H e n ry , 1 - 2 , 5 




Grabhorn , 


Mrs . Henry, 1 , 5 




Grabhorn , 


Jane (Mrs . Robert) , 15 , 


31 , 65 


122 






Grabhorn , 


Kenneth, 2-3 




Grabhorn , 


Lewis, 2 




Grabhorn , 


Walter, 2 





65 



66, 102-103, 115- 



Grabhorn-Hoyem Press, 99-100 

Grover, Katharine, 30-31 

Grover, Sherwood B. ("Bill"), 30-32, 98 

Hall , Chaffee, 53 

Hallcrest winery, 53 

Harlan, M. E., 50, 52 

Harlow, Neal , 58 

Haselwood, David, 99 

Heller, Elinor, 9, 113-114 

Holiday House, 104 

Holliday, James S., 56 

Hoi li day, William J. , 56 

Houghton Mifflin Company, 84 

Howell , John, 33-35, 44, 96 

Howel 1 , Warren R. , 89, 94 

Hoyem, Andrew ("Andy"), 7, 55-56, 98-99, 108 

Hubbard, Elbert, 95 

Hunt, Haywood H., 13, 30, 75, 88, 110 

Jackson, Joseph Henry, 39 

Jaffe, , 56 

Johnck, John, 79, 87-88, 111 
Jones , St . Cl ai re , 9 

Kelmscott Press, 3, 89, 102 
Kennedy, Alfred Brooks, 28 
Kennedy, Lawton, 28, 54 
Kennedy-ten Bosch Company, 13 
Klingspor Foundry, 20, 30, 72 
Klingspor, Karl , 20, 30, 72 



126 
Lewis, Oscar, 18, 26-27, 28, 41, 47 

McCann, H. J. Company, see McCann-Eri ckson , Inc. 
McCann-Erickson, Inc., 51, 109 
McKay, Donald, 109 

Mackenzie and Harris, 69-70, 71 

Magee, David, 9, 21, 44, 56, 70, 89, 94, 113-114 

Magee, Dorothy, 21 

Meriden Gravure Company, 55, 103 

Morri s , Wi 1 1 i am , 83 

Music printing, 4 

Nash, John Henry, 13, 22-23, 35, 45, 72, 87 
Norris , Thomas W. , 45 

Oakland National Gravure, 56 

Pacific Printer, 110 
Philpott, Arlen, 107-108 

Pissaro, , 91-92 

Plantain Press, 100 
Presswork, 10-11 
Printing presses, 59-61 

Random House, 24, 36, 37, 68, see also Cerf, Bennett 

Ransohoff, James, 53 

Ray, Milton, 23-24 

Redwood Association, 61-62 

Ritchie, Ward, 100, 103 

Riverside Press, 77-78, 84-85, 97 

Rogers, Bruce, 76-78, 79-80, 82, 84-85, 91, 97, 100-101, 115 

Roth, William M. ("Bill"), 102-103 

Rothschild, Herbert, 48 

Saroyan, William, 48, 109 

Schilling, A. and Company, 50-51, 55 

Schmidt, Don, 109 

Seeger, Harold, 87, 88 

Sinel , Jo, 83, 108-109 

Sperisen, Albert, 60, 78, 92 

Standard Oil Company of California, 51-52 

Stanford University, 54 

Sterl i ng , George , 45 

Stone and Kimball, 95 

Studio Press, Indianapolis, 6-9 

Taylor and Taylor, 58, 59, 86 
Title pages , 16-17 



127 

Types 

Caslon, 59, 86, 101 

Centaur, 81 

Franciscan, 19, 20-22, 71, 77, 112-113 

Goudy New Style, 71 , 91 

Goudy Thirty, 101 

Incunabul a , 72-73 

Jessenschrift, 71-72 

Kennerley, 59 

Koch Bibel Gotisch, 19-20, 71-72, 80, see also Jessen- 
schri ft 

Lutetia, 18, 69, 91 

Oxford, 68, 86 

S u b i a c o , 21 
Typesetting, 11, 16 and passim 

Updike, Daniel B., 7, 78-79, 88, 96 
Vale Press, 95 

Waters, George, 55, 57 

Watson, Douglas, 25, 39-41, 50, 106 

Watson, Mrs. Douglas, 40-41 

Westgate Press, 26-27, 28, 41 

Wheat, Carl , 58 

Wheeler, William ("Bill"), 65-66, 67 

Whitman, Walt, 90, see also Leaves of Grass in Books Printed 

by the Studio Press, The Grabhorn Press, and Grabhorn- 

Hoyem 

Wilson, Adrian, 100, 102 
Wood, Charles R., 58 

Young, Belle McMurtrie, 40 
Zenith radio advertisements, 50 



128 

Books Printed by the Studio Press, the Grabhorn Press, and the 
Grabhorn-Hoyem Press 

INDEX 

Abraham Lincoln, A Universal Man, 35 

Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press 1915-1940, 9, 21, 22, 113- 

114 
Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press, 1940-1956, 21, 22, 113- 

114 

Cabeza de Vaca, 86 

California Pictorial Letter Sheets, 105 

California Towns, 57 

Defense of the Dilettante, A, 8 
Diogenes at The Savile Club, 34 
Diogenes in London, 34 

Edward VIII, King, abdication speech, 48 
Fuller, W. P. Company books, 45, 54, 55 

Golden Touch, The, 24, 37, 82 
Gracious Visitation, The, 42 

Japanese print books, 27-28, 58, 100 

Joaquin Murieta, The Brigand Chief of California, 38-39 

Laugh of Christ and Other Original Linnets, The, 9 
Leaves of Grass, 18-19, 25, 60, 66, 69, 71, 82, 86, 90-91, 
93, 97, 111 

Mandeville, Sir John, see Voiage and Travaile of Sir John 

Maundevi le 

Mapping the Trans-Mississippi West, 58 
Maps of San Francisco Bay , 58 

Poems and Philosophical Thoughts, 47 
Ransohoff s, books for, 48-49, 53 

Salome , 37,82 

Santa Fe Trail to California, The, 25-26, 76, 81, 86 

Scarlet Letter, The, 82, 92-93 

Schilling, August, book for, 50-51, 55 

Shakespeare plays, 101-102 

Silverado Journal, 96 

Spanish Occupation of California, The, 77 



129 

Tempest, The* 72 

Two Years Before the Mast, 68, 82 

Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundevile , 19-20, 24, 37, 
78-79, 80, 82, 106 

Wah-To-Yah, 107 




allin io 




O f) 



far as the crest due to the doubling back of the rays upon themselves. 
But why do they not liquefy by reason of that inborn fire, which acts 
most mightily upon the summit? The force of the fire ends a little 
below the highest point (otherwise it would come forth as in the case 
of the mountains which blaze up), and it has earth and exceeding 
thick rocks as though for a cover for itself; a cover which the apex of 
the fire does not pierce, being now, as it were, at its extreme point too 

13 



io 



thin and feeble, while the heavier and denser earth overpowers it. 
Thus it comes to an end before the summit is reached. The snows 
moreover are nourished, as it were, by the cold air and by the moist 
and icy vapors and they endure. 

Whence comes it that mountainous regions are rich in forests ? 
Because they have an abundance of nourishment, that is to say a bub 
bling source of waters, a copious supply of rain, and a great quantity 
of snow. The snow indeed is of great advantage, since in gradually 
dissolving it sinks into the soil and all the moisture is not lost by rush 
ing down in one single flow. For thus also can the earth best be brok 
en up, since the heat is hemmed in and enclosed on every side. In fact 
by the outside packing and by confinement of the cold the interior 
heat is increased (a fact which is evident in wells warmer during the 
winter) ; this heat drawn in by the roots is distributed throughout the 
entire shoot. Add to this that for the most part they are barren, or 
at least are not so luxuriant in fruit-bearing as the cultivated sort, a 
fact which contributes much to their shortness of life. Nor, on the 
evidence of Theophrastus,are they like the others attacked by disease. 
Whence do the mountains furnish so great a supply of water? The 
indwelling fire stirs up many vapors, conceived in the hollow caves ; 
when these seek an outlet, they are seized upon by the cold and are 
condensed. This is a thing we experience also in our own bodies, 
which when heated by exercise give off vapor which presently by the 
comparatively cool air is changed into drops of sweat. Likewise it 
happens in the case of those alembics contrived by the chemists, in 
which through the action of fire, fluids are evaporated and drawn off. 
There are full many other things on account of which I am capti 
vated beyond measure by scenes afforded by the mountains. And 
since in your home land they are most lofty, and above all, as I hear, 
most fruitful in plant life, the desire has come over me to go to visit 
them, whereto your friendship at the same time entices me. In order, 



however, that I might not without some gift approach so dear a 
friend, it has been my wish to gather together in some sort for your 
pleasure whatever on the spur of the moment should present itself to 
me, handed down from the ancients, on the subj ect of milk and of the 
products thereof. For this theme seemed not unsuitable to your na 
tion, a large part of whom are preparers of milk-food, adapting milk 
to various victuals. Of this number that well-known smooth cheese 
is deemed famous, which being seasoned with fragrant herbs wins 
great favor with all foreigners among whom it is wont to be brought. 
Moreover, you will pardon me if much has been brought together 
without regard to order, bearing in mind that such 
an assortment is commonly read 
without weariness. 
Farewell. 



At Zurich, the month of June, in the year of 
the salvation of mankind 1541. 



DESCRIPTION OF 

THE RIVEN MOUNTAIN, OR MOUNT PILATUS 
; AS THEY COMMONLY CALL IT, 
NEAR LUCERNE, IN SWITZERLAND, 
BY CONRAD GESNER. 



CONRAD GESNER, 

PHYSICIAN, SENDS GREETINGS TO J. CHRYSOSTOME 

HUBER, THE DISTINGUISHED 

PHYSICIAN: 




INCE it is my habit, in accordance with an old 
custom of mine, both for mental recreation and 
for my health, to undertake a journey, prefera 
bly in the mountains, either annually or every 
other year, it was recently my desire, my dear 
Huber, to visit you at Lucerne, together with 
our friends, Peter Hafner, the stone engraver, 
Peter Boutinus of Avignon, the pharmacist, 
and John Thomas, the painter and a relative of mine by marriage, all 
young men skilled each in his own art. In that place you bestowed 
upon us all the kind offices of courtesy; and there also we were enter 
tained right honorably, both privately by several citizens, and even 
publicly besides, wine being poured in abundance to do us honor. On 
the following day, having procured from the governor, the eminent 
Nicolas von Meggen, a most valorous knight, the privilege (as is cus 
tomary) of ascending Mount Pilatus, we departed. Moreover what 
ever we noted upon that journey I have determined to describe in the 
following brief account and to dedicate to you; so that by that means 
I may both present to you an evidence, such as it is, of our gratitude, 
and at the same time request of you that whatever error or omission 
has been made by me in this description you will correct and supply. 
It may well be that you can do both, since in the very famous city of 

19 



Lucerne, close by the mountain which I am describing, you follow the 
calling of a physician, rejoice in the friendships of numerous powerful 
men of that place, excel in learning and judgment, and also have re 
cently ascended the mountain yourself. But if not only concerning 
this mountain but others also, especially of our Switzerland (in which 
feature this country abounds beyond almost all regions), you either 
see personally anything noteworthy in certain instances or get it 
from men worthy of trust, you will at some time write me in full of 
it. I myself (if I live) will also add my own observations, so that an 
entire little book may be composed at last on mountains and their 
wonders. But for the present, though in former times I have trav 
ersed a great many and much higher mountains in various sections 
of Switzerland, it has seemed good on account of my fresh memory 
of it to write separately of yours only, which is called 
The Broken Mountain. 
Farewell. 



Zurich, August the twenty-eighth, 
in the year 1555. 



Coolidge, W. A. B.:Josids Simler et I origine de I dlpinismejusqu en 
1600, Grenoble, 1904. 

Gesner, Conrad: Epistola ad Jdcobum Avienum de Montium Ad- 
miratione. In Gesner s Libellus de Ldcte et Operibus Ldctdriis, Ti- 
guri (Zurich), 1 543 : and in Coolidge sjosuzs Simler , Grenoble, 1904. 
The letter is dated 1541 but was not printed for two years. 

Gesner, Conrad : Conradus Qesnerus. In Gesner s Bibliothecd Uni- 
versdlis, sive Cdtdlogus omnium scriptorum locupletissimus in tri- 
bus linguis, Ldtind, Qrdecd et Hebrdicd. Tiguri, 1545. 

Gesner, Conrad : Descriptio Montis Frdcti, sive Montis Pilati ut 
vulgo nomindnt,juxtd Lucerndm in Helvetid;in Gesner s Commen- 
tdriolus de rdris et ddmirdndis herbis, qude Lundride nomindntur. 
Tiguri, 1555. Also in Scheuchzer s Helvetide Stoicheiogrdphid Oro~ 
grdphid et Oreogrdphid;"Tigun, 1 7 1 6 ; in Cribble s Edrly Mountain- 
eers( Appendix H,p.28o),and in Coolidge sJositfsSim/er, Grenoble, 
1904. In Coolidge, as in this translation, the commentary on Vadi- 
anus is omitted; it is given in full by Gribble. 

Gribble, P.: The Edrly Mountdineers. London, 1899. 
Ley, Willy : Konrdd Qesner. Munich, 1929. 

Morley, H.: Conrad Qesner. In Morley s Clement Mdrot, dnd other 
Studies, ii, London, 1871. 

Pollock, Sir F.: History of Mountdineering. In the Badminton Li 
brary Mountdineering, London, 1892. 

Simler, Josias : Vita cldrissimi Philosophi et Medici excellentissimi 
Conrddi Qesneri. Tiguri (Zurich), 1566. W. D. 

COF THEUERDANK & THE EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN 
Bredt, E. W.:Die A/pen und IhreMdler. Leipzig, n. d. (circa 1910). 

53 



Busson, A.: Die Sage von Max aufder Martinswand undlhre Ent- 
stehung. 

Grand-Carteret, ].:La Montague a tr avers les ages. Grenoble, 1903-4. 

Mayr, M. and Baillie-Grohman, W. A. :Das Jagdbuch Kaiser Max 
imilians I. Innsbruck, 1901. 

Holbein Society : Tewrdannckh. London, 1884. 
Steinitzer, A.:Alpinismus in Bilder. Munich (and. edit.), 1924. 
Treitsaurwein, M.:Der Weiss Kunig. Vienna, 1775. 
Thieme-Becker : Kiinstler Lexicon. 

The editions of Theuerdanfc are as follows : the first and second 
appeared in 1517 and 1519; the third in 1537, the letter-press being 
converted into modern type. In the fourth edition, 1553, with text 
alterations by Burchhardt Waldis, there are new engravings in imi 
tation of the old. This was reprinted in 1563, 1569 and 1596, these 
editions containing minor variations. The eighth edition, by Schultes, 
was brought out in 1679 (the writer s copy of this edition once be 
longed to Longfellow), and the ninth edition, 1693, differs but little 
from it. There are about forty known copies of the first edition print 
ed on vellum. The Alpine plates are by the following artists: Beck- 1 5, 
37, 53, 55, 59, 62, 66: Burgkmair-22, 66, 71; Schaiifelin-69 ; Un 
known (B)-20. 

Owing to the death of Maximilian I in 1519, and other vicis 
situdes, the first printing of Weiss Kunig did not take place until 
1775, the original engraved blocks still being preserved in the Vien 
na Hofbibliothek. Plate 71 of Theuerdank. should be compared with 
plate 75 of Weiss Kunig. 

The discussion of "Ancient Crampons" is from American Alpine 
Journal,ii,266. J.M.T. 

54 



CTHE ILLUSTRATIONS 

page 7 

Theuerdank s climbing-irons become wedged in the rocks, and he 

would have perished had not assistance arrived. 

page 10 

Theuerdank, on the Martinswand, spears chamois before the assem 

bled court. 



1 3 

Theuerdank slips when snow clogs his climbing-irons, and would 
have fallen to his death had not God preserved him. 
page. 22 

Three avalanches shoot down from the mountain, but Theuerdank, 
hearing the roar, saves himself by reining in his horse. 
page 25 

Theuerdank is endangered by a gale which lifts him into the air, but 
he is able to catch himself in the rocks. 

page 2 7 

Theuerdank slips on a mossy slope, and his life is saved by a single 

prong of the climbing-irons which holds although much bent. 



Theuerdank, taken up a lofty mountain to cross a snow slope, sends 
over a huntsman, who falls, and Theuerdank continues by another 
route. 



How a chamois, after being shot, would have thrown Theuerdank 
from a precipice had it not caught on a projecting rock. 

These illustrations are from plates 15, 20, 22, 36, 56, 62, 66, and 71 
in the early editions of Thewrdanckji. 



Ruth Telser 

Grew up in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay Area 

in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 

Stanford, 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 and economic and 

business life of the Bay Area. 

Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle 

since 1943. 

As correspondent for national and western graphic 

arts magazines for more than a decade, came to 

know the printing community. 



10 Q/l t