Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Gift of Fine Books from Lee J. Harrer Enriches and Deepens Our TBAS Library

A SIGNIFICANT DONATION by bookman Lee J. Harrer from his personal collection of books about books helped launch the Tampa Book Art Studio Library Collections in 2008. This year he helped us celebrate the holiday season by adding some 2,200 additional items to the collection with a gift appraised at more than $117,000.

Highlights of the new materials include important letterpress books from some of the major contemporary fine presses: Henry Morris’s Bird & Bull Press, John and Rosalind Randle’s Whittington Press, and Jan and Crispin Elsted’s Barbarian Press, to name a few.

One component with special resonance for us is a fascinating body of items from the estate of Helen Lee, who was the Director of Type Sales for many years at the MacKenzie-Harris Type Foundry in San Francisco. Unique items include signed woodcut proofs from Barry Moser, letterpress ephemera of many kinds from private press printers, signed trials and proofs from private presses, and even some assorted correspondence.

One of the most unique items in this group is a paper placemat inscribed and presented to Helen Lee for her birthday in 1982. It features an elaborate bird and heart pierced by an arrow, drawn by the artist Valenti Angelo (whose books are a feature of the TBAS collection), and signatures by Oscar Lewis, a leading member of the Book Club of California; Tommie Tommassini, President of the National Printer’s Association; and George Robert Kane, a noted bookseller.

Already in our collection and complementing these new items from the Helen Lee estate is a vintage MacKenzie-Harris Type Foundry catalog donated by Calligrapher Ruth Pettis, who worked with Konglomerati Press for many years. The Konglomerati types and presses now form the heart of the Tampa Book Arts Studio, and some of the types were purchased from Helen at the M&H Foundry.

With the addition of this new gift, the Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collection has grown to more than 7,700 items.  We will be featuring some of the highlights from Lee’s most recent donation on our blog throughout the coming year. Thanks to the generosity of Lee Harrer—and with the substantial additional gifts and collections from J. B. Dobkin, the Les Feller Family, and many generous individuals—the students in our Printing, Publishing, and Book Arts classes will have a chance to see examples of some of the finest printers in the world.

When these new gifts are combined with earlier donations, the value of the Lee J. Harrer Collection of Books about Books exceeds $426,000.  Lee is now at work on a third donation that includes his miniature books and related press ephemera, runs of book-related periodicals, and new limited-edition, fine press items such as the Barbarian Press magnum opus on type ornaments of the Curwen Press, Bordering on the Sublime.

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