Bookmaking on the Distaff Side

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Bookmaking on the Distaff Side is one of my favorite books in my women bibliophiles collection. It is a lovely book, produced in 1937 by an association of female printers called the Distaff Side. The book itself is a a compilation of essays and poetry by different printers, containing a multitude of typefaces, papers, and designs. Above, I have created a slideshow of the title pages for each contribution, which will give a sense of their appearance. This book is a delight to leaf through, from the tactile pleasure of the different papers to the eye-catching types, images, and layouts on every page.

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In addition to the design, the content of the volume is also of interest, being one of few books devoted almost exclusively to the history of women in bookmaking. One of the contributors, Edna Beilensen of the Peter Pauper Press, wrote:

“The Distaff Side is a loosely-knit organization of women enlisted from printing-offices, publishing houses, studios and other hiding-places where may be found devotees of the graphic arts. The group was born out of a righteous indignation that sufficient recognition had never been accorded to woman’s place in the history of printing. To amend this deficiency, The Distaff Side published its first book entitled Bookmaking on the Distaff Side, which disclosed the monumental contributions which spinsters, wives, and widows have made to the graphic arts.” (Quoted on the Rochester Institute of Technology website)

The Distaff Side has been described by Professor Kathleen Walkup of Mills College as “a non-hierarchical, truly feminist, collaboration among women printers.” Professor Walkup gave a talk at the American Printing History Association annual meeting in 2003 on “The Book as a Pot-Luck Offering: Edna Beilenson, Jane Grabhorn & the Books of The Distaff Side.” A brief description of the talk can be found in the APHA Newsletter no. 154 (Winter 2003).

Bookmaking on the Distaff Side, published in an edition of 100 copies, was truly a collaborative effort. The title and dedication pages were designed by Bruce Rogers, binding done by Miss M.E. Stewart of J.C. Valentine & Co., binding paper contributed by Miss Delight Rushmore, and numerous other participants mentioned in each contribution. Since the book lacks a table of contents, I have included one below,  including any notes provided about the printing, types, or paper. Most of the pages are unnumbered and some signatures still unopened.

Contents of Bookmaking on the Distaff Side

  1. The Committee, “Introduction.”
  2. Frederic W. Goudy, “Bertha M. Goudy: Memories.” Set in Goudy Bertham by Marie Berliner, printed at the Walpole Printing Office on Brenton paper contributed by the Japan Paper Co.
  3. Ruth Shepard Granniss, “Printer Maids, Wives and Widows.” Decorated by Hilda Scott, designed by Helen Gentry, composition by Chas. D. O’Brien and Samuel Strauss, presswork by Frederick Rudge, Joseph Benedetto, and William Hansen, paper from Ted Bliss and Seymour Paper Company, cuts by Arthur Moraldi and Horan Engraving Company.
  4. Marie Carré Phelps, “Bookbinding in the Home.” Designed by Jean B. Barr, printed by George Grady Press on Ivory Archer Plate Finish Paper by courtesy of the Whitehead and Alliger Company and halftone by Power Reproduction Corporation.
  5. Emily E. Connor, “Every man shall bear his own burden … ” Set in Caslon Old Style No. 471, printed at The Marchbanks Press on Duca D’Este paper furnished by T.N. Fairbanks Company.
  6. Evelyn Harter, “An Interview with the Eminent Professor Hugo K.O. Muttonquad.”  Illustrations by Susanne Suba, set in Monotype Bembo and Deepdene by The Haddon Craftsmen, printed by them on Worthy Hadrian Dove Gray, engravings made by Tri-Art Engraving Company.
  7. Biruta Sesnan, “CPW.” Designed and arranged by members of the Club of Printing Women of New York, printed at the Kalkhoff Press, New York, on 80 lb. White Utopian Deckle Edge.
  8. Alphonse Alkan, “Women as Compositors at the Time of the French Revolution: A Translation from the French.” Printed by Margaret Briant Evans, translation by Helen G. Field, printed on the Overbrook Press of Frank Altschul, personal mark re-drawn from a playing-card by W.A. Dwiggins, presswork by John MacNamara.
  9. Anne Lyon Haight, “Are Women the Natural Enemies of Books?” Illustrated by Anne Heyneman, designed by Leontine Gensamer, printed at the Powgen Press.
  10. Jane Grabhorn, “A Typografic Discourse for The Distaff Side of Printing: A Book by Ladies: From Jane Grabhorn’s Typographic Laboratory.” Jumbo Press, San Francisco.
  11. Edna K. Rushmore, “Ann Franklin and Elizabeth Timothy, Colonial Women Printers.” Hand-set by Edna K. Rushmore in Morris Jensonian type, printed on Worthy Charta paper by Arthur W. Rushmore at The Golden Hind press, Madison, New Jersey.
  12. Jessica Thompson, “A Short History of Ladies-in-Printing in Connecticut: Based on Some Very Thorough, Careful, & Exhausting Guesswork.” Hawthorn House, Windham, Connecticut.
  13. Ruth Doublas Keener, “The Punctuation Pets: An Apology to Grammarians.” Note: “First Cast in Boredom, January 1936; Redrawn on Scratch Pad, July 1937; Reproduced by the Meridian Gravure Company. Motion Picture Rights Reserved!”
  14. Edna Beilenson, “Men in Printing.” Designed by Edna Beilenson, printed at the Peter Pauper Press.
  15. Gertrude Stein, “I remember and this was long ago they were talking about automobiles …”
  16. Alison W. Davis, “How One of Them Got That Way.” Set in 10-point Walbaum, printed by the Stratford Press on cream Albion laid plate finish paper from the Whitaker Paper Company, linecut from the Eagle Photo Engraving Company.
  17. Louise Bonino, “A Brief Note on Women Illustrators.”
  18. Madeline Forgue, “Beaten to a Pulp.” Designed by Madeline Forgue, Linotype Granjon, Ludlow Eden Light and Cornet typefaces, printed on Worthy Hand and Arrows paper by the Black Cat Press.
  19. Wanda Gág, “Two Linoleum Blocks.” Printed through the courtesy of Elizabeth Wood at the Harbor Press.
  20. Marguerite Swanton, “Women as Typesetters.”
  21. Dorothy Judd Jackson, “Esther Inglis, Calligrapher, 1571-1624.” Designed by Helen Olson, printed at the Spiral Press, New York, from type set by the Composing Room, Inc.
  22. Barbara Cowles, “The Printer’s Mistress to His Wife.” Set by hand and printed on a hand press by Ellen Bentley, wood engravings by Gretel.
  23. Mary D. Alexander, “A Few Disadvantages of Being a Woman.” Designed and printed by Mary D. Alexander at the University of Chicago Press, paper is Worthy Hand and Arrows presented by Gene Zahringer of the Messinger Paper Company.
  24. Ruth Ordway Emmons, “Proof Reader.” Done with Goudy Text and Mediæval, assistance from The Maverick Press.
  25. Eleanor P. Spencer, “The Printer’s Relict: An Example to Her Sex.” Baltimore: The Amphora Press, 1937. Presswork by E.L. Hildreth & Company.
  26. “A Letter: Annie Thwaite, 1685-1732.” Printed for Anne T. Thwaite at the Printing-Office of the Dinglebury Post-Intelligencer, with reproductions of old wood-blocks in the possession of the Thwaite Estate.
  27. Anne Bradstreet, “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue …” Printed by E.L. Hildreth & Co., Brattleboro, Vermont.
  28. Helen Ferris, “Immemorially, the Children.” Set by hand in 12 point Cloister Oldstyle, printed on Warren’s Olde Style Paper by Sylvia Grablowsky at the Newark Museum Press, Newark, New Jersey.
  29. “Leisure.” Verse from The Poetry Bookshop of London. Designed, woodcut made and hand colored by Lucina Wakefield, printed at The Marchbanks Press on Gilio paper from T.N. Fairbanks Co.
  30. Janet Bogardus, “Some Bibliographical Notes About Women in Printing.” Printed by Parkway Printing Co., New York.


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