Eugene M. Ettenberg “The Compleat Printer”

Eugene M. EttenbergIn the graphic arts arena of New York City, the man most likely to be nominated for the title of “Compleat Printer” is a busy typographer named Eugene M. Ettenberg, vice-president of the Marbridge Printing Co.

To paraphrase a line from Gilbert, “When typography’s a duty to be done, to be done . . .” apparently the person to do it is this Canadian-born artist-teacher-writer-lecturer-printer; and one of these recent duties was the design of the successful edition of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas published by the Limited Editions Club and the Heritage Club.

Gene Ettenberg’s dad was a compositor, which should have made typography a natural choice upon his son’s graduation at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, but his first thought was to become a stage scene designer. After a period working with the Theatre Guild, however, Mr. Ettenberg took on the job of designing and illustrating booklets for the Kalkhoff Press.

Further experience with an ad agency, a department store, and a mail order house culminated in his management of the Gallery Press, a division of Burr Printing House, in 1945. In this endeavor, which specialized in producing books, catalogs, and literature for art galleries and libraries, Mr. Ettenberg has established a solid reputation as an authority on typographical design.

His willingness to lend a hand with the numerous activities of graphic arts grqups has involved him in a seemingly endless series of projects such as exhibition judge, teacher, lecturer, and member of a thousand committees during the past 20 years. As a teacher, he served 12 years as an instructor in typography at Pratt and as lecturer in applied graphic arts at Columbia University from 1953 to 1960. He has also conducted seminars at Radcliffe and Oklahoma State University; in addition, he lectured at several other colleges.

As a writer, Mr. Ettenberg has produced the extremely useful and informative Type for Books and Advertising, issued in 1947. He has a second book on type nearly ready for publication after three years of preparation. In the periodical press he has been most active, contributing articles to a number of publications here and abroad, and his editorial contributions have included a term as editor-in-chief of the well-known Advertising and Publishing Production Year Book from 1936 to 1941. Presently, he is a contributing editor of American Artist.

Mr. Ettenberg’s design accomplishments have been varied. In the magazine field he has planned the formats of Reader’s Digest and American Mercury, and he has designed devices for Westinghouse and New York Life Insurance Co.

It is the field of book design, however, which claims his deepest loyalty. In this connection, though, he has said, “I’m made to think harder, because a book has a way of turning up long after all commercial pieces have hit the wastebasket. ‛Your sins live after you.’ ”

Several of the Ettenberg book designs have been selected for the AIGA Fifty Books of the Year exhibit. He has produced books for the Metropolitan Museum, Morgan Library, Scribner’s, Colonial Williamsburg, and the New York Graphic Society. Currently, he is engaged in a “monumental” work on Cezanne for the latter publisher, and an important book for the Limited Editions Club.

Apparently, all of this activity merely whets Mr. Ettenberg’s appetite for more, as he has just completed his work for the degree of Master of Arts at Columbia and is about to enter the program leading to a doctorate.

This article first appeared in the October 1962 issue of The Inland Printer/American Lithographer.

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