Harvard Press Specimens on Display at Widener

Pottinger Furnishes Calligraphy for Late Book

The following article on Harvard Printers is reprinted from the current Harvard Alumni Bulletin.

The College Library has had on exhibition recently a small case full of books which have three things in common: all appeared during the closing weeks of last year; each of them makes some claim to interest as a specimen of fine printing; and in each case some of those responsible for the printing are closely associated with Harvard. As a group, they prove that Harvard is making a creditable contribution to contemporary typography.

The most significant of these books, because it is issued as a regular trade publication, is "Old English Carols for Christmas." This book is not printed with type, but both text and music are reproduced from the hand lettering of David Pottinger, '06, whose working days are spent at the Harvard University Press. Incidentally, the carols were selected by the wife of a University official, and also both members of the firm that publishes it are connected with Harvard. The importance of this book lies in the fact that its easily recognized charm is due to the combination of what was best in the practice of book-making before printing was invented, with the utilization of the most modern machine methods.

In contrast is a book which represents pure typography in its most finished form. This is "The First American Bible, Printed at Cambridge in 1663", from the Merrymount Press in Boston. It was printed by Daniel Berkeley Updike, A.M. (hon.) '29, who was for several years a lecturer at Harvard; the text was written by G. P. Winship '93, of the Harvard Library; and all the arrangements for its publication were made by G. T. Goodspeed '25. The binding of this volume is copied from the Harvard copy of the original edition of the John Eliot Indian Bible. An even more important, connection with the College is the fact that each copy of the book contains one leaf taken from a fragmentary copy of the original edition, the printing of which was done in the years 1660 to 1663 in the building which housed what was then the Harvard Press.

Another example of the ideals of fine printing from a distinctly commercial press is provided by the "Journal of John James Audubon made during his trip to New Orleans in 1820-1821." This was edited by Howard Corning '90, of the School of Business Administration staff, and was produced at the Plimpton Press in Norwood under the oversight of William Dana Orcutt '92, with the imprimatur of the Club of Odd Volumes, which is largely dominated by its Harvard members.


The John Barnard Associates and the Cygnet Press are avowedly Harvard concerns. The first professes to emulate an eighteenth-century clergyman who "was fond of books and did what he could for Harvard", while the second is managed by two members of the Signet Society who aim to demonstrate that they have learned something from the finely printed books which have been given to the College Library.