experience of a Grabhorn book;the feel, color, and texture of
the paper, often hand-made; the remarkable array of illustration
styles and techniques by an equally remarkable array of artists;
the heavy, HEAVY letterpress impression that was their trademark;
the unmatched typographic sense and style; and the combination
of all of these, the finished productis an on-line impossibility.
But certain characteristics, such as the remarkable beauty and
inventiveness of the books, can be appreciated on line. Gregg
Anderson, a long-time employee of the Press, described them like
this: "Every book that Ed [Grabhorn] has worked over has a friendly
feel-and the friendly look of a good homemade apple pie. Their
beauty is never cold and austere; his books smile."
imaginative design of the books was a result of the collaboration
of Ed Grabhorn, the owner and operator of the Press, and his
brother, Bob, whose composition skills and speed were legendary.
And if honors are any measure of success, the Grabhorns were
at the topfrom the beginning of A.I.G.A.'s "Fifty Best
Books" competition in 1922 until 1955, the year the Grabhorn's
stopped competing, their books were represented every year except
one. But what is even more amazing is that the brothers, in the
whole long history of the press, never created or followed a
layout, or planned a book in the usual senseno cost analysis
or character counts were ever done. Sherwood Grover, another
long-time associate of the Press, once quipped, "The only characters
that were counted came in the front door!" Bob set them and Ed
printed them. Amazing.
of the more interesting Grabhorn endeavors was their Rare Americana
Series, begun in 1932 and dedicated "to the preservation of the
exciting, unusual and romantic episodes of our national life
which are to be found only in volumes...held as precious possessions
by a few of our great libraries and still fewer individuals." Each
of the twenty books produced for the series is unique in design
and format. Only 500 to 550 copies of each title were printed,
and now the reprints themselves have become quite rare. Here
are some images from the Grabhorns' remarkable art.