The Tradition of Letterpress Printing at Yale
Arts of the Book Collection
----The College Presses
The twelve residential colleges that make up Yale College have, in the past, each had their own printing facilities. The printing offices were started over a period of 40 years between 1937 and 1967. More details about the early history can be found in the online version of Random Notes on the Origins of the College Presses.  In 1939 Sterling Memorial Library held an exhibit showcasing the work of this new craft on campus. A brochure entitled "An Exhibition Of Undergraduate Printing" accompanied the show. It contains a short article by R.D. French about this history of college printing. The first paragraph speaks to the origin of this activity on campus:
"Although the printing offices of Branford, Timothy Dwight, and Jonathan Edwards Colleges have been in operation but three years, the idea that lies behind them is at least as old as the Colleges themselves. At an early stage in the consideration of plans for the employment of self-supporting students, under what is now called the Bursary System, and well ahead of the opening of any of the Colleges, the training of a number of men in the craft of printing was suggested, and it was a natural further proposal that men so trained might be set to work in printing offices within their own Colleges. The place which a college press might take in the life of this community was then only dimly foreseen, since that life itself was still but a vision of the future; and in these early discussions, the emphasis fell rather upon the advantages of offering employment of an interesting sort to men who might with to study a craft that could take its place in their lives as a permanent hobby."

The presses flourished in the hands of the students who used the facilities to produce advertising ephemera for campus activities and as a means to self-publish. In the days before desktop publishing and the PC, letterpress was the method of choice for accessible and esthetically pleasing printed materials. As computer production became easier and better, student interest in the presses did wain to some degree. However, recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the art of letterpress

The below images are selected examples from the archive of student printing housed in the Arts of the Book Collection.
click to enlarge:
Timothy Dwight
Jonathan Edwards











© 2001 Yale University Library
Last modified: 16 November 2001 11:59:25 AM.
 by Jae Williams and D.L.Nolting