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Small Press Collection

Identifier: MSS-335-BC

Scope and Content

The items in this collection are extremely varied, and exhibit the wry humor of their printers and exemplify the social side of printing. The earliest item in the collection is from 1901, printed by the Tomoy? Press. There are many items from the 1930s through the 1950s, but the bulk of the collection dates from the 1960s and 1970s.

The subject matter of the printed products is broad, and includes type samples, poetry, woodcuts or linoleum block prints, recipes, cards, and announcements and invitations (birth, marriage, Bar Mitzvah, etc.). There are also business cards, bookmarks, wine and other labels, and announcements, engraved napkins, and calendars. These items reflect the "keepsakes" made by members of the various printing societies as well as the commercial side of printing. Minutes of these clubs (often written in a humorous fashion) and rosters naming the members abound in the collection. Announcements of lectures to printing societies, libraries, and book clubs reveal the involvement of famous authors in these activities, albeit indirectly. Chapbooks containing original and reprinted stories are common among the items housed here, as are humorous proverbs and sarcastic motivational posters. While many of the printed pieces reflect the original wit of their authors, others are more serious. Numerous printed religious passages and eulogies appear in the collection as well. Also, the more professional side of these presses is evident through numerous lists of publications and catalogues of the various presses

Given that most of these small presses represented in the collection are located in California (and, specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area), lore of that region is a common topic for printed items. A lengthy series printed by various presses for the Book Club of California, titled "Coast and Valley Towns of Early California," provides portraits of various individual California cities. Other items in the collection include numerous chapbooks and printed pieces about printing, its history, and small presses, in general. Numerous magazine articles about these presses as well as correspondence to Roger Levenson are also included in the collection.

The small press collection is organized alphabetically by press, whenever possible, and by the name of the printer in other cases, though there is a great deal of overlap in printers and presses, given their collaboration with one another through the various printers' clubs. Printing societies such as the Roxburghe Club, the Zamorano Club, the Moxon Chappel, the Rounce and Coffin Club, and the Book Club of California also have entries. Some items are unidentified by press or printer, and these are filed as miscellaneous items. Most presses are from CA, but others from across the country are also represented, as are a few international small presses.

The vast majority of the documents in this collection are in English, though a few are in other languages, such as Spanish, Dutch, German, Japanese, and even Pig Latin.


  • 1901-1975
  • Majority of material found in 1960-1975

Language of Materials

English Spanish Dutch German Japanese

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.


Roger Levenson, "the Father of the Small Press movement" on the West Coast collected approximately 4,300 items printed on hobby presses around the country. These presses were generally run by individuals for pleasure and their products reflect that individuality. Levenson's collection (housed here) is supplemented by items collected by Jack D. Rittenhouse. The individuals who ran these presses organized into "Chappels," or printing societies, which met regularly and distributed printed "keepsakes" to one another. Among the societies of printing aficionados represented in this collection, are the Roxburghe Club of San Francisco, the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles, the Rounce and Coffin Club of Los Angeles, and the Moxon Chappel, of Palo Alto, California.

The Roxburghe Club was founded by Carl I. Wheat, Gustav Epstein, and Samuel T. Farquhar in San Francisco in 1928. According to an item printed for this club by one of its members, the goal of the club was "to further a common interest in typography and the art of the book." All of the members of the group were required to print things for their fellow members, who were all "connoisseurs of things typographic" and bibliophiles. The Zamorano Club had a similar goal, and sometimes met jointly with the Roxburghe Club. The Moxon Chappel, also according to an item in the collection, printed for the club's members, was established in 1957 by a few private printers of the Stanford University area. Convened by Dr. J. Ben Lieberman, they met informally, with their spouses, to discuss their common interests in printing. They took their name from Joseph Moxon, author of Mechanick Exercises, the first book published in England (in 1683) regarding the printing craft. Like the other clubs, their goals included sharing mutual interest and enjoyment in printing, exchanging techniques, ideas, and materials, and to "encourage cooperative effort in the production of non-commercial projects in the graphic arts."

All of these societies of hobby printers share certain cultural elements common to their sort of club. Each called its president or chairperson the "Master of the Press" or "Father of the Press," often referred to as "Dear Father." The "Printer's Devil" was in charge of printing the minutes of the chappel, and was the treasurer/secretary. The Keeper of the Solaces was the chairperson of the keepsake committee, charged with making sure all "companions" (members) provided printed keepsakes to their fellow members. In the event that they failed to do so, they were fined, as represented by the giving of "solaces." Solaces could also be given for other reasons, such as failure to pay attention in a meeting, tardiness, or absence. In contrast, "tokens" were awarded for good work and positive acts. Spouses or companions are referred to by the title "sex-officios." It appears that most members of these societies were men, but this was not exclusively the case.


13 boxes (11 cu. ft.) + 1 oversize folder


This collection is comprised of nearly 5,000 items printed on small presses throughout the United States. The nature of these printed pieces is extremely varied, but most items were non-commercial pieces printed for the enjoyment of their printers.

Related Material

Rydal Press Collection Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico
Finding Aid of the Small Press Collection, 1901-1975 (bulk 1960-1975)
Processed by K. Stocker
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 335 BC::Small Press Collection)//EN" "nmu1mss335bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131