John Fass' Harbor Press 1925 to 1939
Above: John's proofs of pressmarks for his Harbor Press
John Fass left his job with William Edwin Rudge's printing house in 1925, to open a print shop with Rudge co-worker Roland Wood and Roland's wife Elizabeth. In September of that year their opened their doors for business at 158 East 34th Street in Manhattan.
Money was tight, but they opened for business with one frame of type, a paper cutter, and a 12 x 18 Chandler and Price press. John announced they were prepared to create privately printed books of distinction. He explained that although the had only a limited selection of type, character and elegance in typography did not depend on variety, but depended on the proper use of the best typefaces.
The company's pressmark was a seahorse, in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes the seahorse rode an anchor, suggestive of the dolphin-and-anchor device of Aldus Manutius, the master printer and publisher of the Italian Renaissance. Fass also borrowed Manutius' logo Festina Lente. (Make Haste Slowly.)
1933: Partying with Typophiles and other Publishing Types:
Above: John's clipping from an unidentified periodical
The Great Depression was laying waste to the economy in 1933, but not all was doom and gloom. Milton Glick, a designer for Viking Press, married book designer Evelyn Harter that year. So Arthur Rushmore and family threw a party for them at the Rushmore home in Madison, New Jersey.
Arthur Rushmore was director of book design for Harper and Brothers, and also operated the Golden Hind Press at his home. The party guests were members of the Typophiles club, a group of book designers and graphic artists. They previously had named themselves the Biblio Beef Eaters.
The Rushmores collaborated with John Fass on numerous projects, including Edna St. Vincent Millay's Wine from these Grapes, which John and the Rushmores produced for Harper and Brothers the year after this 1933 party.
John Fass' Harbor Press had been running full steam for eight years, by this time. His business partners were Roland and Elizabeth Wood, who also attended this party.
John Fass and Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
Above: John's pencil sketch and page proofs for the 1933 Roosevelt book
One of the most prestigious publications from John Fass' Harbor Press was his 1933 booklet The Inaugural Address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. John and Roland Wood printed 190 copies, and F. D. R. signed each one.
President Roosevelt admired John's work at the Hammer Press, and was happy to participiate in this publishing project. The text is a stenographic transcript which incorporated many last-minute changes Roosevelt made to this text. John's printed version of this speech "is therefore the first appearance in book form of the First Inaugural as listeners actually heard it delivered" (Halter, p.107).
John had 10 copies of this work bound in red calfskin for President Roosevelt. Plus there were 30 unnumbered copies bound in green cloth, and 150 in paper wraps.
The subsequent issue of The American Printer was poetic in its praise for this booklet, "Of the many pieces produced by printers to restore confidence and inspire buying, we know of none with the quiet dignity, charm, and timeless of this Harbor Press booklet."
Coincidentally, John Fass had meanwhile been designing, printing, and publishing books for his friend Louis How, while an unrelated Louis Howe was President Roosevelt's most important adviser and king-maker.
Above: Harbor Press letterhead
John Fass and Roland Wood moved their Harbor Press to 305 East 45th Street in 1930. This impressive Art Deco building was hot off the press, and had been completed the previous year. The Harbor Press was moving on up, with this move. They previously had been on 32nd Street, and on 34th Street.
Today his building is a half block away from the United Nations, and is in the epicenter of buildings owned by a melting pots of nations.
John Fass Wins 10 AIGA Book Awards:
Above: Montage of John's title pages for his award-winning books
From 1928 to 1938 John Fass received 10 book awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (the AIGA), located in the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park. These were awards for books he designed, printed, and /or published at his Harbor Press. I have full details here.
1931: Paul Bennett Writes about John Fass in "Books and Bookmakers":
Paul Bennett was director of typography for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. His column "Books and Bookmakers" was a feature in the Linotype News.Bennett used this column to present information about the leading designers, printers and publishers of that era including William A. Kittredge (1932) Bruce Rogers (1934), Carl Purington Rollins (1934), Daniel Berkeley Updike of the Merrymount Press (1935), Valenti Angelo (1936), etc. And John Fass in 1931.Bennett was founder of the Typophiles club, of which John Fass was a member. Bennett coordinated the Typophile publications, and was the club's guiding light. Paul Bennett and John Fass would continue to have much contact throughout their careers. In 1951 Bennett compiled the book Books and Printing. Bennett received the Gold Medal award of the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1961.
John's Type Specimen Book for the Harbor Press:
In 1927 John relocated the Harbor Press to 142 East 32nd Street, from the shop's original location on 34th Street. Shortly after this move, John designed and printed this type specimen booklet, to showcase the Harbor Press typefaces and ornaments.The typefaces are: ATF's Caslon No. 471, Monotype's Caslon No. 337E, Garamond, Monotype's Garamont, Garamond Bold, Goudy Open, Forum, Lutetia, Bernhard Cursive, Civilite, Cloister Black, Stationers Semi-Script, and Original Oldstyle. Many of these faces were available in various sizes, from 6 to 48 point.
1931: John works with Walter Klinefelter, a Pennsylvania Dutch Bibliophile:
Walter Klinefelter was a bibliophile, historian, and writer from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, in York County. Like John Fass, Klinefelter's Pennsylvania Dutch roots were deeply embedded in rural Pennsylvania. Klinefelter named his press The Apellicon Press.
Klinefelter authored works about Sherlock Holmes and about bibliohoaxes, among other subjects. In 1973 the Pennsylvania German Society published Klinefelter's publication titled The ABC Books of the Pennsylvania Germans. He also wrote the article "Solomon Meyer, Printer and Publisher," for a 1981 Der Reggeboge, the newsletter of the PA German Society, in addition to other works for this society.
In 1931 John Fass printed complete galley proofs of a book by Klinefelter titled Books about Poictesme. This was a book about bibliohoaxes and imaginery books, which was to be published in an edition of 315 copies, according to the colophon.
But for some mysterious reason this first edition was never published. John's proofs never saw a finished format. Instead, Klinefelter published a related editon six years later, in 1937, with Chicago's Black Cat Press.
Today the University of Michigan library at Ann Arbor has John's complete galley proofs and pasted dummy for the unpublished 1931 edition. And the title page proofs, shown above, are in the collection of the Lititz Museum.
A Valentine from John's Harbor Press:
John's List of 41 Titles from the Harbor Press:
Five years after the Harbor Press' 1925 debut, John Fass and Roland Wood had produced 41 books. That year, 1930, John created a list of these titles to promote the work.
The booklet includes seven book designed, printed, and published by this press. Plus there are 36 titles John designed and printed for other publishers and individuals.
The press continued to produce work for prestigious authors and publishers. The following year, 1931, John designed and printed William Faulkner's Idyll in the Desert for Random House.
John Designs and Prints 15 Articles for The Colophon Journal:
In 1929 and the 1930s John Fass designed and printed 15 articles for The Colphon, A Book Collector's Quarterly. This prestigious periodical was published by Elmer Adler, who selected the best American printers to design and print individual articles for each issue.
American and British bibliophiles certainly approved of John's work in this journal. The renowned English publisher Desmond Flower declared, from London, that John's contributions to The Colophon represented the journal's best work.
Flower wrote, "The most outstanding feature is, without doubt, the work of the Harbor Press. ...Each has a magnificent opening page (the McFee best of all), and each is straightforward, legible, and distinguished." The temptation to compose something 'striking' when faced by one of these articles must be very strong, but the Harbor Press have certainly overcome it magnificently." (The Book Collector's Quarterly. London. Number 3. 1931)
A Proverbial Mystery: John's 1930 Book of Proverbs:
Above: Page proofs: The Proverbs of Solomon. 1930
John's 1930 Proverbs page proofs are a mystery to me. This title does not appear in his circa 1930 bibliography of books he printed at the Harbor Press, although that list includes his other 1930 books. And I can't locate any references elsewhere to this book.
So perhaps John published this book after the release of his Harbor Press bibliography. Or maybe this book was never actually published. I hope it shows up somewhere. It is beautifully crafted with Civilite fonts and ornaments.
The title includes lines ruled in red ink, in the manner of medieval manuscripts, and in the manner of John Henry Nash, who was the undisputed American master of printing with brass rule. The previous year, 1929, Nash had produced his masterpiece, Dante's Divine Comedy, ruled in green lines. In a few years John would design, print and publish his own Dante Comedy, translated by Louis How.
Red Aneirin Initials:
John designed and printed this 1926 prayer for the Newell-Emmett advertising company. This firm was one of the most influential advertising companies in the U. S. One of the co-founders of this company was Burton Emmett, a connoisseur of rare books and prints. Emmett served as president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts in the 1920s.
One of John's first Harbor Press projects was for Burton Emmett, one year earlier in 1925. That year, John designed and printed the booklet The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry. That project was for Mary and Burton Emmett, for the Emmetts to give as gifts at Christmas. John printed an edition of 200.
Above: 1928 broadside printed by John Fass at the Harbor Press
John Prints and Publishes Fishing Books in the 1930s:Above: The Angler designed, printed, and published by John Fass at the Harbor Press
Above: A fishing book by Herbert Hoover, printed by John Fass