Frequently Asked Questions
Above: John Fass perched above the Hammer Creek near Lititz, PA, circa 1951
1. Who was John Fass?
Answer: John Stroble Fass was a graphic designer and a printer of fine press books. Fass designed books for the leading American publishers of limited edition books.
Collectors of private press books also remember John Fass for the handcrafted books he printed on a tabletop printing press in his one-room apartment at the Bronx YMCA. John named this press the Hammer Creek Press, for the stream which flows near his hometown of Lititz, PA.
Fass' books and his photography celebrate his life in New York City, where he lived most of his career. His work also documents his passion for the rural landscapes of his native Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. (Wikipedia)
2. Who are you, and why did you create this website?
Answer: I am an antiquarian bookseller in John Fass' former hometown of Lititz, Pennsylvania. I am of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry (Pennsylvania German), as was John Fass, although my ancestry is Amish, while his was Moravian and Mennonite.
It is fun for me to tell John Fass' story, because many of these photographs and papers in his archives have never been exhibited or published. I never met John Fass, but to me he seems like a kindred spirit.
3. John Fass never married. Was he gay?
Answer: John's papers and photographs do not document his sexual orientation. His archives provide no direct answers to this question, so the subject remains a mystery to me.
In a letter to John DePol, Fass joked that he never married because no one ever asked him to marry. Perhaps John Fass was born 100 years too soon to be married.
4. Why did John live at the Bronx YMCA?
Answer: Many YMCAs rented out one-room apartments during the first half of the 20th century. John worked in Manhattan much of his career, which was a short train ride away from his Bronx YMCA.
John also owned his parents' former home in his hometown of Lititz. John's sister Esther lived in that house with her husband Clarence Wert. John maintained two rooms in that Lititz house for his frequent return visits to his hometown. So the YMCA was a practical place for his home in the city.
5. What is the financial value of a John Fass book?
Answer: Prices vary greatly for book designed, printed, and / or published by John Fass. At the high end, his 1929 Feathered Game from a Sporting Journal is offered online by an antiquarian bookseller for $10,000. John printed this book for the Derrydale Press in a deluxe edition of 50 copies on large paper.
Meanwhile, Christie's recently sold John's 1933 The Inaugural Address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed by Roosevelt, for $5,625.00. (Roosevelt signed each copy of this work.)
Elsewhere in cyberspace, the 1931 Idyll in the Desert by William Faulkner (designed and printed by John's Harbor Press for Random House) is offered for $3,850 with John's handwritten note on the colophon page: "This 'printer's copy' was mine. It was designed by me, John S. Fass."
John's Hammer Creek Press books usually sell for less than $500.00, depending on scarcity and condition. The most rare Hammer Creek books never appear on the antiquarian book market.
There are also low-priced trade editions of some of his titles, which are available from booksellers at the price of affordable used books.
6. Are these photographs and papers in a private collection or in a musuem?
Answer: All the photographs and John Fass items in Part One of this website are in my personal collection. This section is titled "Photography by John Fass." These photographs and related items were sold in the 1970s at the estate auction of John's sister Esther Wert.
The papers and books in Part Two of this website are in the collection of the Lititz Museum, in John's hometown of Lititz, Pennsylvania. This section is titled "John's Printing and Publishing."
7. Why is John Fass of interest to historians and collectors?
Answer: John Fass' handcrafted books are magnificent examples of 20th century fine-press printing and book arts. His work represents the craft of letterpress printing during an American revival of handpress printing by artisans and bibliophiles.
John's photography offers unique commentary on the photographic movements of the 20th century, including Pictorialism, Precisionism, and Abstract Expressionism. In addition, his photos are a pictorial diary of an important Pennsylvania Dutch artist in Manhattan and Lancaster County in the mid 20th century.
My contact information:
Lee J. Stoltzfus
27 Lititz Run Road
Lititz, PA 17543
My other website, about the printing and publishing history of Lancaster County, PA: