July 27

A rested and refreshed crew reported back to the San Francisco printing office of John Henry Nash on the morning of this day in 1926. Nash’s customers were informed in a notice sent out some weeks previously that, “Everybody in the shop wanted to go fishing & they all wanted to go at the same time, so I’ve decided to shut up shop until they all get back. The place will be closed from the tenth of July to the twenty-sixth. This is not the usual way of arranging vacations but what else can you do when the folks you work with through the year develop decided notions about the proper time to go fishing? If it seems unbusinesslike to shut up shop for two weeks, I can only say that business is not everything. But having a certain amount of native caution, I do hope that Herbert Fleishhacker will not hold this thing against me if I ever ask him for a big loan.—John Henry Nash, Printer, San Francisco.”

In 8-point italic along the bottom of the notice was printed, “I myself am not going, I’ll be in the library every day from nine till four.”

The footnote perhaps explains the position of Nash as one of the fine printers of his time, one to whom time in a library was more fun than just fishing.

Born near Toronto, Canada in 1871, John Henry Nash left high school to become a printer’s apprentice when he was sixteen years old and remained in Canada until his twenty-third year. At that time he went to Denver for a year before finally establishing himself in San Francisco, where he remained for most of his life. Nash became associated with the bookseller Paul Elder, who had established a small publishing business and needed a printer to take charge of it.

In 1916 he organized his own firm, and since he was a complete individualist, this move was undoubtedly in his own best interest. He was then most fortunate in becoming involved in printing a catalogue of the library of Charles W. Clark, the wealthy son of Senator William Andrew Clark, the Montana copper king. From this point Nash’s career prospered and within a dozen years he was styled the “Aldus of San Francisco,” not at all an apt title, as his best books were all large quartos and folios whereas the Aldine books were smaller in format. Perhaps the title of “San Francisco Bodoni” would have been more appropriate, as Nash was served by Clark as the Italian printer by the Duke of Parma.

Probably the best of the Nash books was the four volume Dante, which took four years to complete and has been called one of the great American books. Nash preferred to dispense with illustration, allowing the pure typography to set the pattern, in the manner of Cobden-Sanderson in England whom he greatly admired. Many of his books have an austerity which makes them rather cold, but they are splendid examples of the printer’s art. Nash was strictly a compositor, the presswork being performed by another printer under Nash’s strict control. His books had none of the warmth which designers such as Bruce Rogers and W.A. Dwiggins managed to instill in their work. Nevertheless Nash must be considered one of the fine printers this country has produced.

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