Printing for Random House
John Fass and William Faulkner:
In the 1920s and 30s the Random House Publishing Company was the Manhattan mothership for some of the era's leading fine-press printers and publishers. The company's founders, Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer, distributed books by premier British and American private presses, including the Grabhorn Press, Nonesuch Press, Golden Cockerel Press, Fountain Press, the press of Crosby Gaige, etc. And the press of John Fass: The Harbor Press.
In 1931 the Random House guys published their first William Faulkner title, Idyll in the Desert, designed and printed by John Fass. The edition was limited to 400, each signed by Faulkner. The book sold out immediately because there was no trade edition.
John Fass Jazzes up Random House's Logo:
Above Right: Random House's logo in 1929, with John's fleuron border
In 1928 Cerf and Klopfer of Random House published the first book with the company's Random House imprint: Candide, with Rockwell Kent illustrations. Kent also designed Random House's publisher's logo, an image of a house, which appeared for the first time in that book.
That same year, 1928, Random House also published The Scarlet Letter, designed and printed by the Grabhorn Press, with illustrations by Valenti Angelo, who would soon become one of John's best friends.
The next year, John Fass designed and printed his first book to be published by Random House: Three Discourses by Mason L. Weems. For that book's title page, John jazzed up Rockwell Kent's Random House logo by adding Bruce Rogers' fleurons to the border. I hope Rockwell Kent approved.
Above: John's galley proof for his logo of the United Typothetae of America, a printers' association.
Plus a seahorse logo for John's Harbor Press
In the 1920s American and British printers had a deep and abiding passion for fleurons or printers' ornaments, thanks to designers like Bruce Rogers and Frederic Warde who mastered the art of typographic design using these type-metal "dingbats."
In the 1920s John Fass never saw a fleuron he didn't like. He fleuron-ified Rockwell Kent's logo for Random House, and he layered on even more fleurons to the logo of the United Typothetae of America, a printers' association.
Apparently the New York members of this printers' association thought all those fleurons were fine, because by 1931 John Fass was designing and printing their journal Craftsmen's News.
John Fass and Aldous Huxley:
British writer Aldous Huxley is most remembered for his futurist Brave New World published in 1932 by Chatto and Windus. Three years earlier John Fass designed and printed Aldous Huxley's Arabia Infelix. The book was published by Chatto and Windus, and distributed by Random House. William H. Cotton did the illustrations.
John printed an edition of 692 copies, and Aldous Huxley signed each one. Hopefully Aldous signed John's printer's copy.
Almost 50 years later this Arabia Infelix title page appeared in the book The Printed Book in America, authored by John's colleague Joseph Blumenthal. Although Arabia Infelix is not the most representative of John's work, Blumenthal included an illustration of this title page in a double-page spread in that book, adjoining an illustration of a page from Rockwell Kent's 1928 Candide, printed by Elmer Alder. John Fass was in good company.