June 15

On this day in 1903 a young man named Dard Hunter just nineteen years old, awoke in the sleeping car of a railroad train to find himself in the Buffalo, New York station. The son of the publisher of the Gazette in Steubenville, Ohio, Hunter had been introduced to the typesetter’s case at eight years of age. His interest in printing had continued to grow. While attending Ohio State University he came across books from the Kelmscott and Doves presses which so inspired him that he desired nothing else but to travel to Europe to visit the English private presses. This being impossible at the time, he elected instead to go to East Aurora, New York to call upon Elbert Hubbard, proprietor of the Roycrofters, one of the unique figures in
American printing and publishing history.

Hunter spent the summer in East Aurora, making furniture, doing some wood-carving and designing iron and copper objects to be manufactured in the blacksmith’s shop. He enjoyed the easy atmosphere and the friendliness of Hubbard and his wife so much that he decided to remain with the Roycrofters instead of returning to college.

Hunter, with some experience as a printer, became the designer of a number of the Roycroft books and commercial printing. Except for a year spent in Mexico, he remained with Hubbard until 1908. In that year he married and went to Europe with his wife, who was a pianist and wished to study in Vienna. Here Hunter continued his own studies in typography and design. In 1911 he went to England to work, and in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London he viewed some hand molds for making papa, which so interested him that he determined to learn more about the craft of papermaking. This chance discovery eventually led to his career as one of the world’s outstanding authorities on the subject. He became author of numerous books and monographs on papermaking and in addition founded the famous Dard Hunter Museum.

It is interesting to note the comments of this enlightened man on Elbert Hubbard, whom he knew at first hand. In his autobiography, My Life With Paper published in 1958 by Alfred A. Knopf, he wrote:

“Elbert Hubbard would be out of place in the present-day world, although he no doubt had a marked influence upon his own time. Even though the books produced at the Roycroft Shop were bizarre and lacked taste and refinement, they were, nevertheless, a step in the right direction. These books were better made than most of the work done in this country at the time, and people who had never before thought of collecting books began assembling the Roycroft issues. Mr. Hubbard probably had more influence in the development of book-collecting than any other person of his generation.”

Leave a Reply