Elmer Adler and his Pynson Printers:
Above: 1930 invitation to Elmer Adler's exhibition at Pynson Printers in Manhattan
Elmer Adler's Pynson Printers, on West 43rd Street, was one of the great American printing houses of the 1920s and 1930s. Elmer's goal was to create spectacular books using traditional craftsmanship, regardless of cost. He was happy to declare that Pynson Printers charged more than any other print shop and never made a profit.
Elmer created limited edition books for Alfred A. Knopf, Random House, and others. He hosted a weekly "tea" to exhibit the works from his press, and invited the leading publishers, artists, writers, and designers.
John Fass received numerous personalized invitations to these Pynson Press exhibitions, including the ones on this page. Earlier this same year, 1930, Elmer exhibited the Modernist photography of Ralph Steiner at the Pynson Press gallery. Steiner was a leading Precisionist photographer, and was a pioneer of Precisionism in American art, along with Charles Demuth.
1929: John Fass is Invited to a Landmark Dinner at the Yale Club:
In 1929 Elmer Adler hosted a dinner at Manhattan's Yale Club for the most influential fine-press printers and publishers on the East Coast. His goal was to create an informal club of those making "some contribution to the making of better books" because there were "few enough." John Fass was one of the chosen few.
This dinner was the first meeting of that group, which was named the Crows. The seating list was a roll call of top-shelf bibliophiles and typographic elite. The dinner was stag, men only, even though they should have invited Bertha Goudy.
Elmer Adler sent a print shop illustration by T. M. Cleland to John Fass in 1929, as a promotional keepsake. Thomas Maitland Cleland was a prominent commercial artist and illustrator, and was art director for the Cadillac Motor Car Company, Fortune magazine, McClure's Magazine, and others.
This illustration was from the 1939 book The Decorative Work of T. M. Cleland, published by Elmer Adler. The deluxe edition was published in an edition of 55 copies with a lithograph portrait of Cleland by Rockwell Kent, signed by Kent, and with a color print signed by Cleland. That title probably was in John Fass' library, even if only in the trade edition.
Above: 1931: Another invitation to "tea" with Elmer Adler at the Pynson Printers print shop and gallery
Lucian Bernhard designed this invitation for Elmer Alder's print shop salon and gallery. Lucian was a graphic artist and interior decorator who emigrated from Germany to New York eight years earlier. In 1928 Lucian opened the Contempora Studio with Rockwell Kent and Bruno Paul. Lucain was the father of photographer Ruth Bernhard.
Previously, in Germany, Bernhard helped create the design style known as Plakatstil (Poster Style), which used flat color in minimalist design. John's invitation is a Plakatstil goldfish.