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Printing in the Footsteps of Giants

Printing in the Footsteps of Giants

By Philip C. Salmon


Some time ago Fine Books & Collections reported that the Albion handpress on which William Morris printed his Kelmscott Press masterpiece, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer was auctioned. The iron press, manufactured by Hopkinson & Cope in 1891, was sold to the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Philip C. Salmon of Bromer Booksellers was acting as agent.

“To be a part of this celebrated press’s history is a great honor for our firm,” noted Salmon. “This purchase is the logical extension of the sort of synergy between Bromer and the Cary Collection in that each has a strong commitment to preserving and expanding the scope of the book arts.”

In August 2015, Philip C. Salmon went to Rochester, NY, to attend the official ceremony and to print a broadside on this famous handpress. His thoughts about printing in the footsteps of giants:

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Printing in the Footsteps of Giants

Last October, I traveled to Rochester, New York, for the official unveiling of the newly-restored Kelmscott-Goudy Albion printing press at the Rochester Institute of Technology. My presence there was meaningful on a variety of levels, the most apparent was the role I played in securing this historic press for RIT. 

But on a more personal level, I felt as if a circle had been completed in my own career as a bookseller. My involvement in the acquisition of the very press on which William Morris printed the great Kelmscott Chaucer brought me back to 1996, when I was working as a cataloger for a bookseller in New Hampshire and had the good fortune to assist in the preparation of the catalogue of Jack Walsdorf’s third Morris collection. It was from this small beginning that my interest in the world of fine press printing and book arts took shape.

On this mild October evening, Steve Galbraith, curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT, recounted the thrill ride of the auction rooms and the challenges of getting the 3000-pound press to Rochester from New York City. He was followed by associate curator Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, who spoke about the process of restoring the press. After the initial presentation, the audience was invited to the print room in the Cary Pressroom and we were given the opportunity to pull a commemorative broadside featuring woodcuts of Morris and Goudy by Steven Lee-Davis. 

I was able to print a couple of broadsides for myself, and in the process of pulling the bar on the old Albion, I became a momentary part of this great press’s ongoing history.

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Posted on Books@Bromer. The article is presented here by permission of the author. Pictures: Bromer Booksellers

Published since 16 Sep 2015

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