The Noble Craftsmen We Promote:

The Arts and Crafts Movement in the American Midwest


The Book Arts

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The Book Arts

The American Arts and Crafts interest in book design was inspired by the creativity and innovation of the British artist William Morris. At a time when cheap machine production dominated, Morris wanted to show people the beauty of handcrafted items. He began a revival in fine printing at his Kelmscott Press in 1891, located at Hammersmith, a community of artisans outside London. Morris also experimented in at least twenty other crafts ranging from designing wallpaper and household items to illuminating handwritten volumes.

Morris influenced many American printers. In the east, such famous presses as Thomas Bird Mosher in Maine, Will H. Bradley's Wayside Press in Massachusetts and D.B. Updike's Merrymount Press in Boston began printing fine press volumes based upon the Morris ideals and set standards for others to emulate. Like Morris, they sought to make the book a thing of beauty worthy of the thoughts contained within it. They wanted to produce the book as an object of art.

One of Morris's central objectives in fine book printing was the desire to achieve the "whole" book. He and the American Arts and Crafts book artists who followed him were attentive to every aspect of the printing, from type design to cover art to bindings. Susan Otis Thompson in American Book Design and William Morris lists the general characteristics of books in the American Arts and Crafts style. Paper was often handmade and included watermarks. If machine made, it was laid or made with chain lines. The paper was very white, and the edges often appeared to be torn (or "deckled"). Ink was dark black, and stood in stark contrast to the white paper. Occasionally a second color, especially red, was used for accent on titles pages, shoulder notes, or large initial letters. Bindings were either simple paper boards with cloth backstrips, or were elaborate vellum with silk ties or stamped leather. Old styles of type such as Caslon were used, and Gothic type was used for display purposes. Text lines were closely placed without leading, and decorated initials with adjacent text lines in capital letters often began each section. The books were sometimes illustrated with artistic woodcuts in black and white. While Arts and Crafts books ran the full range of sizes, large folios or quartos were common, and press runs were usually small and limited.

The Midwest proved to be a fertile ground for Arts and Crafts printing for both the small private presses and the literary publishers. Midwesterners influential in Arts and Crafts book design included: Bruce Rogers of Indiana; Charles Clinch Bubb and the Clerk's Press of Fremont, Ohio; George G. Booth and the Cranbrook Press in Detroit; and type designer Frederick Goudy, who along with Will H. Ransom established the Village Press in Park Ridge, Illinois.

Chicago was a center for Arts and Crafts book arts, including commercial publishers and private presses. Among the "literary publishers" were Stone and Kimball (1893-1897), Herbert S. Stone & Co. (1896-1906), and Way and Williams (1895). Stone and Kimball published the periodical The Chap-Book, and Herbert Stone later became an editor of House Beautiful. R.R. Donnelley Company owned the Lakeside Press, the most influential commercial printer used by the literary publishers. These publishers were successful in part because Chicago was deeply involved in a "literary renaissance" at this time, and book clubs and literary societies stimulated interest in books among the populous.

The Chicago area was also home to private presses that were influenced by Morris's Kelmscott. The Auvergne Press (Winslow and Williams) printed William C. Gannett's The House Beautiful by hand in 1896. The book is not only beautiful as an art object, but like so many books of the movement, it was full of the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the simple life. The Blue Sky Press was a successful press producing handmade limited editions, and Ralph Fletcher Seymour created the Alderbrink typeface popular with Arts and Crafts printers. Finally, Chicago was central to the lives of both Will H. Bradley, book designer, who did commission work for Stone and Kimball; and Frederic W. Goudy, typographer, who helped form the Village Press.

The most prolific and commercially successful of the private presses of the Arts and Crafts Movement was The Roycroft Press, founded in 1893 in East Aurora, New York. Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) spread the "gospel" of beautiful books to the masses through the effective use of mail order. His flamboyant personality and charismatic salesmanship enabled him to market his publications of the Little Journeys, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, and The Fra throughout the United States. His audience reached a peak in 1899 when the Roycroft press published A Message to Garcia, an exhortation to blind loyalty and the work ethic. Forty million copies were printed, and the New York Central Railroad put a copy in the pocket behind each seat on its trains. Hubbard also established the workshops at Roycroft that produced furniture, leatherwork, pottery, and metalwork based on Kelmscott. Also important to the success of Roycroft was Elbert Hubbard's second wife, Alice, who was a force as an author and manager.

Another important Midwestern book artist was Dard Hunter of Chillicothe, Ohio. Hunter's name is synonymous with the Arts and Crafts movement, and he has been called "an American phenomenon" because his artistry and craftsmanship were evident in every aspect of the movement.

Hunter was born in Steubenville in 1883. His father was in the newspaper business, and the family moved to Chillicothe in 1900. As a true Renaissance man, he was interested in paper, pottery, woodcarving, and furniture making. While attending Ohio State University, he learned about Elbert Hubbard by reading the magazine The Philistine. He went for a visit to Roycroft in 1904, and stayed until 1910. During that time he was responsible for many of the fine designs in the book arts and the other crafts that were part of the Roycroft tradition.

In1919, Hunter and his family moved back to Chillicothe and into Mountain House, which became his studio for books published by Mountain House Press on the subject of handmade paper, watermarks, and the art of the book. He was passionate about the book arts, especially handmade papermaking. He was determined to make books completely by hand. He is regarded as the creator of the "one man book," a product that required him to make the paper and the metal type and then print the book on a hand press. From 1923 to 1950, Mountain House Press produced eight such limited edition books. In all, Hunter wrote eighteen books on papermaking and the book arts. Before his death in 1966, he established the Dard Hunter Paper Museum now housed at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Dard Hunter Studios, at Mountain House Press in Chillicothe, is active in preserving the original prints and Dard Hunter designs.

Itis difficult to overestimate Hunter's impact on the Arts and Crafts movement. As a truly elegant and perceptive designer/artist and as a scholar, he contributed to every aspect of the ideal of beauty in everyday objects.

Selected Item Descriptions

William Channing Gannett. The House a setting designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and printed by hand by William Winslow and Frank Lloyd Wright. River Forest, IL: Auvergne Press, 1896-97. From the 1963 facsimile edition published by W. R. Hasbrouck, Park Forest, IL.

Asa member of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright designed this volume which not only displayed the beauty of Arts and Crafts book arts but also espoused the ideals of the movement in its text.

Alice Hubbard. The Myth in Marriage. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1912.

Robert Browning. So Here Then is the Last Ride. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1900. No. 167 of 940 copies. Signed by Elbert Hubbard. (On loan from the collection of Allan B. Kirsner.)

Joseph Ingatius Constantine Clarke. Manhanttan: An Ode; Henry Hudson: An Essay by Elbert Hubbard. East Aurrora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1910.

Elbert Hubbard. The Man of Sorrows: A Little Journey to the Home of Jesus of Nazareth. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1904.

Elbert Hubbard. The Mintage; Being Ten Stories & One More. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1910.

Elbert Hubbard. The Motto Book: Being a Catalogue of Epigrams by Fra Elbertus [pseud.]; assisted at times by Solomon, Ruskin, Shakespeare, Joaquin Miller, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Ali Baby, and Felix Cyenius. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1909.

Roycroft Press books and magazines were influential in spreading the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement to a mass audience. The books, especially those with Dard Hunter designs, are excellent examples of the attention paid to the importance of the beauty of the book.

Dard Hunter II. The Life Work of Dard Hunter: A Progressive Illustrated Assemblage of his Work as Artist, Craftsman, Author, Papermaker, and Printer. Chillicothe, OH: Mountain House Press, 1981-83.

These two volumes exemplified the achievements of Dard Hunter in the Arts and Crafts Movement. The volumes are printed on handmade paper with the hand-cut and cast type made by Dard Hunter II for the exclusive use of the Mountain House Press.

Dard Hunter II, Dard Hunter III. Dard Hunter & Son. Newton, PA: Bird & Bull Press, 1998.

Three generations of Hunters have demonstrated how the "whole book" was pivotal to the Arts and Crafts ideal of individual craftsmanship. This book includes a facsimile of the production log which details the thirteen years of effort that went into the production of The Life Work of Dard Hunter.

Dard Hunter. Papermaking through Eighteen Centuries. New York: W.E. Rudge, 1930.

Spear-headed by Dard Hunter, Arts and Crafts book artists returned to making handmade paper for their works. Hunter reacted to making paper on a continuous roll by machine, which he referred to as a "long, ponderous, steaming dragon-like machine emitting from its great jaws the streams of paper that are thought necessary to our very existence."

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An Exhibit at the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, Carlson Library, The University of Toledo.

March 26th-June 30th, 1999.

Last Updated: 6/27/22