Thursday, April 9, 2020

From Printmaking to Making Books

     Not everyone knows what it means to retire. After saying goodbye to the 9-to-5 routine, some people find new ways to stay as busy as ever, either by beginning second careers, or pursuing avocations purely for pleasure. One person who didn’t know what it means to slow down after reaching retirement age is the subject of this post: Herschel C. Logan.

Herschel and Anne Logan with their Baby Reliance press.
      Herschel Logan came to our attention through another of Lee Harrer’s generous gifts. The TBAS library includes miniature books published under the Log-Anne Press imprint, a name made by compounding Herschel's surname and the first name of his (second) wife, Anne. These were published between 1966 and 1987, after the Logans retired to Santa Ana, California. Each was printed by hand on a Baby Reliance Washington Press, as seen in the photograph above. Their books are a charming mix of unpretentious titles, many written by Herschel, on subjects ranging from the Gold Rush and Kansas to patriotism and Native American culture. One is a bit of fun titled What I Know About Printing Miniature Books, made up of blank pages with a note that reads: “If you know any more than this, here is your chance to write a book.” The humor is a touch disingenuous, though, since a perusal of the thirty-five Log-Anne Press books in the Harrer collection shows that Herschel and Anne could easily have filled those blank pages with good advice.

A selection of Log-Anne Press miniature books.
     If Herschel Logan was so productive during his Golden Years, one wonders what he achieved during his first 65 years. The story begins in Missouri, where Herschel was born in 1901. His family soon moved to Kansas, where he lived and worked until retirement. As a boy Herschel began to draw, and his first formal schooling in art was by way of a correspondence course. In 1920 he went to Chicago to study for a year at the Chicago Academy of Art, then returned to Wichita, Kansas, to work for the printing firm McCormick Armstrong as a commercial and advertising artist. His love of art led him to pursue more personal avenues of expression, and he found his m├ętier in printmaking as a woodcut artist.

     Herschel produced his first woodcut in 1921. From the beginning, his work revealed a sensitive appreciation for the Kansas landscape. In crisp, carefully composed images, Herschel portrayed scenes like farmhouses nestled in untouched foothills, cows grazing beneath the cool shade of a tree, the play of light and shadow in a field, a woodland hut half-built into the earth, apple trees in brilliant bloom, and a sod shanty on the open prairie. By 1928 he’d produced enough prints to illustrate a book. Other Days: In Pictures and Verse (Burton Publishing, Kansas City), a collection of prose poems by Everett Scrogin, includes twelve of Herschel’s woodcuts and page decorations by C. A. Seward.

"Noonday Rest"
"Apple Blossoms"
        He was making a reputation for himself as the “Prairie Woodcutter” when he joined with other artists to found The Prairie Print Makers. It was organized in Wichita, Kansas, on December 28, 1930, with ten charter members: Charles M. Capps, Leo Courtney, Lloyd C. Foltz, Arthur W. Hall, Norma Bassett Hall, C. A Hotvedt, Edmund Kopietz, Birger Sandzen, C. A. Seward, and Herschel Logan. Between 1931 and 1964, the society issued thirty-four annual “Presentation Prints” to its members. Strangely, none of them were by Herschel.

     Herschel produced 140 or so prints from 1921 to 1938. Many of them were issued in editions of fifty or fewer. While the majority of his prints were wood engravings, Herschel also worked with rubber and linoleum, and produced one lithograph and a few etchings. Though he lived for nearly fifty years more, Herschel never produced another woodcut print after 1938. He is said to have abandoned printmaking following the death of his mentor and fellow Prairie Print Maker, C. A. Seward. Herschel did not abandon art, though. 

     He continued to produce illustrations for books, including The Muzzle Loading Rifle Then and Now (1942) by Walter M. Cline and his own books: Hand Cannon to Automatic: A Pictorial Parade of Hand Arms (1944), Cartridges (1948), Buckskin and Satin: The Life of Texas Jack (1954), and Underhammer Guns (1960). Most of Herschel’s miniatures also feature his illustrations. They are stripped down and spare compared to his wood engravings or the detailed line work of his earlier book illustrations. But their simpler, cartoon-like style suits the small format and lighter subjects of the tiny books.

A woodcut by J. J. Lankes from 1930

Farmhouse by Herschel Logan (circa 1930s)
    The printmaking aspect of Herschel Logan’s career brings to mind the large number of J. J. Lankes woodcut prints in the TBAS collections, most of them gifts from the Lankes scholar Welford D. Taylor and J. B. Lankes, the artist’s son. Anyone familiar with J. J. Lankes’s work could be excused, upon first encountering Logan’s woodcuts, for attributing a Logan print to Lankes. The same subjects predominate in both artists’ work: pastoral and rustic scenes animated by the lives of modest people who live close to the land. Both men responded to the rapid changes they witnessed as they grew up and came of age in the early decades of the twentieth century. The America celebrated in their prints is made up of landscapes gently marked by dirt roads and rough stone walls or crooked fences. In the most populated and developed parts of the country, that idyllic America gave way to a country scarred by endless miles of paved roads to accommodate the ever-growing number of automobiles; skylines became grossly interrupted in every direction by telephone and power lines. Aside from the subject matter, one also notices that some prints by both men are “signed” with similar “L” monograms. The two prints above show examples of these monograms. One wonders if collectors and researchers have ever confused the work of one man for another. And though there is no evidence, one likes to imagine that Lankes and Logan could have known one another. They would have had much to discuss!

     This isn’t the first time that Lee Harrer’s miniature books have been the subject of a TBAS blog. We previously examined our rich holdings of Achille St. Onge’s elegant leather-bound minis, as well as those commissioned by Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus. (In case you missed the earlier post, you will find it at this link.) We’re sure this won’t be the last time, either, since there are many other parts of the Harrer miniature collection that deserve and reward close attention.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The TBAS and Cracker Country Work Together to Produce the New Edition of an Old-Time Newspaper at the Florida State Fair

Studio Associate Joshua Steward stands on the porch of the Chronicle building. He previously worked as a docent for Cracker Country acting as resident printer for school tours.  Now at the Tampa Book Arts Studio, he helps Carl rework and update the Cracker Country Chronicle pages each year.
Joshua Steward in the printshop at Cracker Country shows
young visitors how to print a page.
Thousands of visitors to the Florida State Fair will stop by the vintage printshop in the “Cracker Country” area of the Fairgrounds this year, to watch volunteers demonstrate old-fashioned letterpress printing and to collect a sample of the Cracker Country Chronicle “hot off the press.” The “hot type” for that old-fashioned local newspaper has been set and cast in metal here at the Tampa Book Arts Studio at the University of Tampa.

Known formally as the “Mildred W. and Doyle E. Carlton, Jr. Cracker Country,” the Florida pioneer village at the Florida State Fairgrounds is Tampa's only living history museum. It includes a collection of thirteen historic buildings dating from 1870 to 1912 that were relocated to the grounds from around the state. Today they have been restored and decorated with period furnishings. Staffed by costumed history interpreters, they help portray a sense of daily living for early Florida pioneers.

Of course, a printing press was a key resource for Florida pioneer residents. It helped spread important news, share commercial messages, announce local births and deaths, and build community.
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Robin Willis standing at the turn-of-the-century platen press on which the newspaper is printed each year.
(Photo courtesy of Cracker Country)
This year the Florida State Fair, February 7-18, 2019, will be doubly significant for the Cracker Country Chronicle, since a new front-page story in the Chronicle is a tribute to long-time Cracker Country volunteer Robin Willis, who passed away in August at the age of 92.

After serving in the Navy during WWII, Robin worked for various newspapers in the South before settling in Tampa, where he lived and worked for almost sixty years. His services for both typesetting and printing were in demand, and after retiring, he demonstrated printing and hot metal typesetting on a Linotype for fairground visitors to Cracker Country. When the machine Robin had used there was no longer in operating condition, he came to the TBAS to set the Chronicle’s type, bringing his own Linotype mats with him so that the typeface would be the same from year to year.

TBAS volunteer Carl Mario Nudi typesetting at the keyboard of our Intertype linecasting machine.

Since 2015, TBAS volunteer Carl Mario Nudi has done the annual typesetting for Cracker Country Chronicle on our Intertype linecasting machine, producing newly written articles and news items, designing new headlines, and giving the form a general freshening-up each year. The annual newspaper is, all told, a labor of love that celebrates and supports the work of Cracker Country and helps sustain appreciation for the old-time letterpress printers. And in Carl’s case, working on the Chronicle newspaper is especially appropriate, harkening back to his years of doing hot-metal composition work for the Detroit Free Press daily newspaper, and then becoming a reporter for the Bradenton Herald. For this year’s 2019 Florida State Fair the work continues, as the Tampa Book Arts Studio and Cracker Country continue their collaboration, this time with a mutual admiration and appreciation for the many contributions of Robin Willis.

Carl inspects and proofs freshly cast lines of text (left) while Josh tightens the Chronicle form in its chase for proofing.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Poet Laureate Peter Meinke and Artist Jeanne Meinke Share a Taste of Letterpress Printing at the Tampa Book Arts Studio

Florida’s Poet Laureate, Peter Meinke, and his wife, artist Jeanne Clark Meinke, stopped by the Tampa Book Arts Studio recently to celebrate the publication of their most recent book, Tasting Like Gravity. He and Jeanne got the feel of making a solid letterpress impression by hand on one of the vintage Kelsey platen presses.

Tasting Like Gravity was published this fall by the University of Tampa Press in hardback and paperback editions. It features 35 new poems by Peter, including 22 “Rondeaux for the 21st Century,” with drawings and a cover image by Jeanne. It is Peter’s seventeenth book of poetry, and their sixth collaborative publication with the University of Tampa Press.

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Our commemorative bookmark celebrating the new book’s official debut  reproduces a small apple-tree woodcut by J. J. Lankes, with the opening lines of the first poem in the collection, handset in Kennerley Old Style types designed by Frederic Goudy:


falls around me

like apples from a music tree

tasting like gravity . . .

Tasting Like Gravity is now available
for purchase in paperback and hardback editions.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Christopher Morley — A Life in Books

     Lee Harrer has enriched the TBAS Special Collections Library with another generous gift: his collection of Christopher Morley books and ephemera lovingly assembled over several decades. TBAS associate Sean Donnelly recently brought half a dozen empty boxes to Lee’s home and gently packed the collection for its journey from Clearwater to Tampa. As Sean cataloged the collection, he looked over its many gems with Richard Mathews and Joshua Steward, and they decided the books would make a great exhibit. This tribute to Morley and our friend Lee can now be seen on the second floor of the Macdonald-Kelce Library.

     The most striking thing about the books is their visual appeal, thanks to the fact that Lee bought examples that include the scarce jackets. These jackets from the 1910s to the 1940s reflect the artistic styles of the time. The influence of Art Deco is perhaps the most obvious, but even within that idiom there is great variety. The jackets designed for the books of this popular and prolific author provide a microcosmic glimpse of the entire period between 1919 and 1940.

     Christopher Morley (1890-1957) was a “man of letters” in the classic sense. Over the course of a forty-year career he wrote everything: essays, poetry, novels, short stories, journalism, plays, and biography. His popularity made him a public figure and he used that fame to share his love of literature. He did so as a columnist for the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger and the New York Evening Post; as contributing editor of the Saturday Review of Literature; as one of the founders of The Baker Street Irregulars, the most famous club devoted to Sherlock Holmes; and as editor of two editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

     Beginning with The Eighth Sin, published in 1912 while he was studying at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, he embarked on a prolific career, often publishing more than one book a year. By the time a series of strokes slowed him down in the early 1950s, he had more than 100 books to his credit. Most of them were published by “the trade,” that is to say major publishing houses like Doubleday and Lippincott. Those books are the basis for the part of this exhibit entitled “Between the Wars: Book Jacket Design, 1919-1940.” Eighteen books were chosen to show the range of handsome work done by American publishers during the period. They are in the window display. A complementary selection of books representing Morley's private press publications is on display in an adjacent standing case.

* * *

~ The Display ~

The last title shown in the window display (bottom shelf, far right), Kitty Foyle, was
Morley’s greatest literary success, selling over one million copies. It was also adapted
into an Oscar-winning film that starred Ginger Rogers.

(A portion of the pamphlet accompanying the exhibit is shown below. Included is a catalog of
titles selected for the two parts of the exhibit: jacket designs, and private press publications.)

* * *

Morley’s Private Press Publications 

     Aside from his “trade” publications, Morley is also well-represented as the author of many books published by the private presses of his day. The interwar period was a Golden Age for the American private press movement. Despite the Depression, book lovers found the money to support these independent ventures. Their books are distinguished by the high quality of their printing, their small limited editions, and their distinguished designs. 

     One of Morley’s private press books, In Modern Dress (1929), was an early publication of the Peter Pauper Press. Their books are close to the hearts of the Tampa Book Arts Studio’s staff because one of the best Peter Pauper Press collections to be found anywhere is right here in our TBAS library. The collection was made by J. B. Dobkin and then donated to the Book Arts Studio. The standard reference book on the Peter Pauper Press—The Peter Pauper Press of Peter and Edna Beilenson, 1928-1978—was based in large part on this collection.

     One other title found in the case lies a little outside the scope of the exhibit, but no bibliophile would forgive us for excluding Morley’s paean to bookstores and those who love them: The Haunted Bookshop (Doubleday, Page - 1919). This is a sequel of sorts to Parnassus on Wheels (1917), which introduced the bookstore’s owner, Roger Mifflin.

Friday, May 4, 2018

In Memoriam: J. B. Dobkin

J. B. Dobkin—Librarian, Bookman, Man of Letters—1922-2018.

Friends and associates of the Tampa Book Arts Studio share a profound sense of loss with the passing of J. B. Dobkin, Chief Librarian for the Tampa Book Arts Studio’s Special Collections Library and a major donor of books and early printed leaves to our research collections.

Known to friends and colleagues as “Jay,” Joseph B. Dobkin made significant contributions to major research libraries, printing history, local history, and genealogical research collections during his 96 years of life and learning. 

Jay was born in New York City in 1922, but his family moved to Daytona Beach in 1925, where his father bought a small apartment building on the ocean and opened a business on Beach Street there called Fashion Frocks. A few years later, his father purchased a large clothing business in Charlotte, N.C., and he expanded into fashion wholesale as well as retail operations, maintaining business interests in both North Carolina and Florida. Jay grew up in the two locations, though he attended schools mostly in Florida. He graduated from Fletcher High School in Jacksonville Beach, completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Florida, and joined the Naval Air Corps in 1942. After the war, he left the service and worked with his father's businesses for a time, but soon started his own consumer finance company in Charlotte, expanding it into thirty loan offices in North and South Carolina. 

His father died when Jay was 40, prompting him to reexamine his own career choices. He knew the business world was really not for him. He loved reading and the world of books. He sold his businesses and returned to graduate school to earn a degree in Library Science. Building on his strong knowledge of history, literature, and art, he found he was able to work with special collections and rare books in ways that highlighted their strengths, extended their depth through acquisitions, and made them accessible to scholars. His professional library career included an impressive range of leadership positions, with appointments as Assistant Director in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Toronto, Canada; Director of Special Collections at the University of Florida, Gainesville; Director of Libraries at Arizona State University, Tempe; and Special Collections Librarian at the University of South Florida, Tampa, where he served from 1974 until he retired in 1988.

He also served for many years as Executive Secretary of the Florida Historical Society, has been both President and Vice President of the Florida Bibliophile Society, Chairman of the Pinellas County Public Library Cooperative Board, and President of the Largo Library Foundation. He was also a founding board member of Konglomerati Florida Foundation for Literature and the Book Arts, a pioneering book arts studio in Pinellas County that was funded as one of only five regional literary centers in the country by the National Endowment of the Arts. (Konglomerati’s letterpress equipment and printing collections are now part of the Tampa Book Arts Studio.)

A folio leaf from “The Golden Legend” 
printed and published in 1488 by
the German printer Anton Koberger, one
of more than 500 early printed leaves
donated by Jay Dobkin.

After retirement, Jay volunteered at the Largo Library and built the genealogy collection there into one of the largest in Florida. He also served as a volunteer archivist at Heritage Village in Pinellas County and worked tirelessly to organize and add to its collections. At the same time, he served as Chief Librarian of the Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collections at the University of Tampa. He advised and guided us in building our special collections, and he sought out, acquired, and donated more than five hundred rare printed leaves, from fifteen-century incunabula to examples of the work of nearly every major sixteenth-century printer in Europe. He also presented the Studio with his Peter Pauper Press collection of books and ephemera, and he continued to add materials to complete it, making that collection at the University of Tampa one of the best in the world. The collection formed the basis for his 2013 reference book with Sean Donnelly, The Peter Pauper Press of Peter and Edna Beilenson, 1928-1979: A Bibliography and History. He also published numerous articles on juvenile literature—particularly boys’ series books—in collecting magazines and bibliographic publications. He co-authored or edited Spain in the New World: An Exhibition of Books, Maps, and Manuscripts (Arizona State, 1972); American Boys’ Series Books, 1900-1980 (University of South Florida Library Associates, 1987); and a popular booklet that was widely distributed and highly valued among amateur book collectors, A Non-professional’s Guide to Book Values (1976).

Jay always enjoyed sharing stories and anecdotes involving his most famous relative, his great-uncle Sholem Aleichem, whose fiction formed the basis for the popular musical Fiddler on the Roof. Aleichem’s will contained detailed instructions to family and friends with regard to burial arrangements and how to observe his yahrtzeit. He told his friends and family to gather, “select one of my stories, one of the very merry ones, and recite it in whatever language is most intelligible to you. . . . Let my name be recalled with laughter,” he said, “or not at all.”

This was Jay's own attitude. He always closed his emails, “BE HAPPY!”

Jay passed away peacefully at his Largo home on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. He will be deeply missed. 

This framed tribute from the Florida Bibliophile Society was presented to Jay in 1987 upon his retirement as Director of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Florida.  It recognizes his “support and encouragement to students of the book, wherever he found them,” his achievement in raising his collections “to national prominence,” and his “legacy of pride and a standard of excellence,” all principles he sustained in helping to build the Tampa Book Arts Studio collections.

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Photograph of J. B. Dobkin courtesy of Carl Mario Nudi

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Tiny and Tremendous Milestone

The Tampa Book Arts Studio’s Library Collections took another big step forward this week as J. B. Dobkin added a milestone item to the group of letterpress miniature books in our Book Arts Studio Special Collections. Jay has just donated a tiny but significant miniature almanac that completes our holdings of the thumb-sized Hazeltine’s Pocket Book Almanac through 1905. 

The new addition is Hazeltine’s Pocket Book Almanac for 1881, and it completes our collection of the quaint miniatures, starting with the first publication of the tiny almanac in 1879 through all the annual editions up to its continuation as Piso’s Pocket-Book Almanac in the early twentieth century up to 1905, the arbitrary date we tentatively set as the cut-off for our initial Victorian miniature collection. 

The unusual Hazeltine miniatures measure just 1 3/8 by 2 inches and are of interest for a variety of reasons: noteworthy as letterpress printing, miniature books,  early advertising art, and pure Americana.


The first edition of the almanac appeared in 1879 from the E. T. Hazeltine Company in Warren, Pennsylvania. It resulted from a partnership of Ezra T. Hazeltine, who was something of a marketing genius, with Dr. Micaja C. Talbott—also a Warren, Pa., resident—who had developed a formula for a patent medicine for consumption and other maladies. The two men decided to go into business together with a third partner, a wealthy Warren businessman, Myron Waters, who would provide financial backing, forming Hazeltine & Company, with Ezra as president. It seems to have been Hazeltine who came up with the name for Dr. Talbott’s formula: “Piso’s Cure for Consumption.”

The Pocket-Book Almanacs were promotional items for the Piso’s products, given away in drugstores to promote, in particular, “Piso’s Cure for Consumption” and “Piso’s Remedy for Catarrh,” patent medicines distributed by druggists. The formula was patented and protected, but seems to have contained alcohol, cannabis, and chloroform, among other ingredients. Ezra Hazeltine’s marketing, perhaps combined with a formulation that surely could make one feel good, resulted in increasing sales.  And the promotions, not only through the almanac, but with trade cards, postcards, and advertising—including at least one by famed illustrator Norman Rockwell—were effective, and often charming.

Hazeltine’s miniature almanac continued after 1895 as the Piso Pocket Almanac, published by the Piso Company of Warren, Pennsylvania.  Every almanac included a monthly calendar, with dates for eclipses and seasonal changes, together with testimonials from readers who were cured of coughs, asthma, bronchitis and hemorrhaging of the lungs by the Piso products.

It seems to have stopped publication after the First World War in 1919. With the first twenty-two volumes of the almanac in our collections now complete, we hope to extend our collection forward to add the last fourteen individual pieces with the help of generous donors to complete the lifetime array of the fascinating little American almanac.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tampa Book Arts Studio Shares Some Fresh Impressions

The oldest and largest antiquarian book fair in the Southeast—and one of the largest in the country—the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair completed its thirty-sixth year over the weekend of April 21-23, 2017, at the Historic Coliseum in St. Petersburg. This year, the Tampa Book Arts Studio joined the celebration of collectable printing and bookmaking, and visitors were able to share a taste of twenty-first-century letterpress activities by printing a keepsake bookmark at the Tampa Book Arts Studio booth.

Carl Mario Nudi, Letterpress Coordinator at the Tampa Book Arts Studio, discusses the printing action of our little Kelsey tabletop press with Allen Singleton and Amber Shehan of the popular rare book online website Allen holds the bookmark he just printed. (Photo by T. Allan Smith, Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.)

Along with the press demonstration, we also displayed an exhibit related to our holdings of the only surviving matrices for a rare and unique typeface—Companion Old Style—designed by famed American type designer Frederic Goudy in the late 1920s as an exclusive typeface for the Woman’s Home Companion.

Today Companion Old Style brings a unique and historic touch to the pages of Tampa Review, the literary journal published twice each year by the University of Tampa Press. Tampa Review is the oldest literary journal in Florida, now celebrating 53 years of publication. It is also the only hardback literary journal in the nation, and subscriptions are still only $25 for two issues.

* * *

Also on display in the TBAS booth was a small tabletop “proof press” that was recently restored at the TBAS by Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi and Studio Associate Joshua Steward. It is a small flat-bed cylinder press manufactered by the mid-century Doehler Die-Casting Company, and was probably used for making signs and sales notices, as well as print work by hobby printers.

Jonathan Tomhave of Everglades Books in Naples, Florida, prints a bookmark on the Kelsey press. Visible in the background is the TBAS Doehler tabletop cylinder press. Photo by T. Allan Smith, Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.