Richard Kegler, The Aries Press of Eden, New York.
About twenty-five miles outside of Buffalo, New York, in the tiny bucolic farm town of Eden, Spencer Kellogg, Jr., a wealthy industrialist by inheritance turned aesthete, operated the Aries Press from 1925-28 with the finest materials and craftspeople of the day. Kellogg owned and used the Kelmscott Albion No. 6551, the same press that printed the Kelmscott Chaucer and which is now in the Cary Collection at RIT, and he commissioned Fredric Goudy to cut an Aries typeface. The press was short lived and did not produce much, but its few productions won recognition from the AIGA, and its orbit included a who's who of twentieth-century book arts: Rockwell Kent, Wanda Gag, and Bruce Rogers, among others.
Richard Kegler's The Aries Press of Eden, New York, gives us the first history and bibliography of the Aries Press. In its material presence it resembles a few of the Aries book publications. It does not look out of place on the shelf next to Aries books like The Ghost Ship (1926) or The Oak by the Waters of Rowan (1927). The cover features a gold stamp of the Aries Press's beautiful printer's mark. Within, the type is by Goudy, fitting given Goudy's connection to Aries. Most importantly, the book reproduces many specimens of Aries work in brilliant, full color. Kegler's extensive research makes it possible to examine reproductions of Aries books, broadsides, and ephemera that are available in no single archive. Given the scarcity of Aries materials, simply having a unified bibliography and the ability to study quality reproductions of the work is incredibly valuable.
We learn from Kegler's history that the Aries Press's work was as beautiful and well-made as print from the best Arts and Crafts Movement shops of the early twentieth century, from William Morris to Roycroft. But this fact is always at odds with the press's near complete obscu rity. Kellogg, heir to a linseed oil fortune reaped at the nexus of the Great Lakes and the Atlantic ports accessed via Buffalo and the Erie Canal, bounced from artistic interest to interest, and the Aries Press was but one stop. Kegler shows how the Aries Press was preceded by the Aries Book Shop in downtown Buffalo. The book store apparently operated at a loss in the hopes of generating a salon culture in its clubhouse. The club would soon have a magazine that announced the end of the book store and the beginning of the private press: "We too have come under the new weavings of the old spell of type and ink and paper.... We've purchased a press, a lovely thing of gliding movements, of clicking rollers, and polished steel" (pp. 17-18). Within a few short years, Kellogg abandoned both the Aries Press and plans for a large artists colony in Eden and moved on to painting.
The story that emerges, then, is that of the craftspeople with whom Kellogg surrounded himself to make his shop work. Kellogg did recognize talent in others, and therefore brought engravers like J. J. Lankes and pressmen like Emil Georg Sahlin to work for him. And as the book proceeds, we move away from Kellogg in chapters that provide the context in which Aries arose, and the people or institutions that Kellogg tapped: These include looks at the Roycroft press, Goudy and founding of Aries type, and a printer named Emil Georg Sahlin.
I hope that this book brings greater scholarly attention to the Aries Press and to its lost Goudy typeface, all of which Kegler documents in fantastic detail. But the figure I truly hope gets more attention, perhaps in Kegler's next book, is Emil Sahlin. Sahlin was the designer, typographer, and pressman behind Kellogg and the Aries Press. Born in Sweden, Emil and his brother, Axel, eventually made their way to East Aurora, New York, where they became the principal typographical artists for Elbert Hubbard at Roycroft. Emil then left Roycroft to work for Kellogg at Aries. It was Sahlin's design and presswork that won AIGA awards for two Aries books. After leaving Aries out of a need to better support himself, Sahlin spent the rest of his life working in commercial print production, joining his brother at the Sahlin Typographical Service producing commercial job printing from 1928 until 1968. Then, from 1968 until his death in 1983, Emil was the resident printer at Paradise Press. This was a letterpress shop / living museum maintained within Printing Prep, a commercial print operation owned by Hal Leader, a student of Emil's. Paradise Press was home to several generations of letterpress printers from Emil to Leader, and even to Kegler and myself.
I mention this genealogy through Sahlin because it orients us differently to the Aries Press. Kellogg's press produced a short burst of fine press work by briefly sustaining great artists as they transitioned out of the early twentieth-century arts colony model and toward commercial printing. Though Kellogg invested heavily in a beautiful flash in the pan, it was Sahlin who put in the work for decades to bridge the art of printing from the Arts and Crafts period to the dawn of desktop computer publishing. As Kegler concludes his book, "Ultimately, Kellogg was a mysterious figure with a variety of artistic interests," and "the extant evidence suggests that his vision to produce the finest press work was possibly only realized with the abilities of Emil Georg Sahlin. It is telling that he completely gave up the Press after Sahlin left" (p. 55). Kegler's The Aries Press of Eden, New York brings needed attention and resources to study one of the finest, ifbriefest, runs ofa private press in the American Arts and Crafts tradition. And those of us who love the crisp impression of ink on handmade paper are invited to look upon the art that emerged from the press when Kellogg and Sahlin worked together.
JONATHAN SENCHYNE is an assistant professor of book history and print culture in the School of Information at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, he also directs the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. His research has been published or is forthcoming in Book History, Technology and Culture, PMLA, Early African American Print Culture, and American Periodicals. He learned to compose and print at Paradise Press using Emil Sahlin's type.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2017|
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