July 17

On this summer day in 1903 in a Park Ridge, Illinois barn there was struck the first proof to come from the Village Press under the watchful eyes of its enthusiastic proprietors, Frederic W. Goudy, Bertha Goudy, and Will Ransom

Whereas most private presses consider type to be but one of the appurtenances of a printing office, this press began because there already existed a type, and an excuse to use it was all that was necessary. Goudy had been commissioned by the firm of Kuppenheimer & Co., of Chicago, to design a type which could be used for advertising. When the drawings were completed and a price obtained from Robert Weibking to engrave the matrices, the firm decided that it was too costly a project for them, so they paid Goudy for his time and returned the drawings.

At this juncture the type designer was approached by Will Ransom, a friendly and engaging young man from Snohomish, Washington, then studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. He wished to work with Goudy in his shop in the Fine Arts Building. As Ransom had already engaged in amateur book printing and was anxious to continue, it was decided that the two men would work together. At about the same time Goudy became entranced with Longfellow’s poem, The Village Blacksmith, utilizing its setting for the name of his press. Goudy later admitted that in the first announcement of the Village Press he had stretched a point about the origin of the type. The announcement read:

“The Village type was designed for the exclusive use of the Press. . . . The design seems based upon an early Italian model, but Mr. Goudy disclaims any conscious intention of imitation, rather having evolved it letter by letter as ideas came, taking some of the best modem private faces—the Golden of Morris, the Montaigne of Bruce Rogers, the Merrymount of B.G. Goodhue, the Doves of Emery Walker, with critical and careful consideration of selecting and adopting those points in each which appealed to him, making changes, and with one idea finally in mind throughout, that of considering each letter as a pen-letter reduced to type with all limitations of material and use as type.”

The first book to come from the Village Press was Printing, An Essay, by William Morris and Emery Walker. It was printed in an edition of 231 copies on Alton Mill paper. This book along with a copy of the third book from the press, The Blessed Damozel, was exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1914. Both volumes were awarded a bronze medal.

Shortly thereafter Ransom sold his share in the Village Press. In 1904 the Press was moved to Hingham, Massachusetts. In 1906 it was established in New York City, where its equipment was destroyed by fire in 1909. In 191 1 it again became active in the Goudy home in Forest Hills, Long Island. Finally it was removed to Deepdene, as Goudy called his home in Marlborough, New York. Melbert B. Cary, the bibliographer of the Village Press, listed 232 items produced by the end of 1937, when the Press became dormant.

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