The Grabhorn Institute is a nonprofit organization formed in October 2000 for the purpose of preserving and continuing the use of one of the last integrated type foundry, letterpress printing, and bookbinding facilities in the fine press tradition, and operating it as a living museum and educational and cultural center.
It is named in honor of the Grabhorn brothers, Edwin and Robert, who established their press in San Francisco in 1920. The Grabhorn Press was "one of the foremost producers of finely printed books in twentieth-century America."
The Grabhorn Institute was founded by Andrew Hoyem when Arion Press (the successor to the Grabhorn Press) and the type foundry M & H Type faced eviction from their location in San Francisco in 2000, and confronted the logistical and financial problem of moving over 140 tons of metal type plus heavy iron and steel printing presses and typecasting and bookbinding equipment to a suitable new facility. The press and foundry comprised a complete, traditional bookmaking facility including the last large-scale hot metal type foundry in the country.
Support raised by the Grabhorn Institute enabled the press and foundry to relocate to the Presidio of San Francisco as a cultural tenant in April 2001. In recognition of its work to preserve the typecasting and letterpress printing operation, the Grabhorn Institute was designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as part of "the nation's irreplaceable historical and cultural legacy" under its Save America's Treasures program.
The Grabhorn Institute activities include exhibits and lectures related to fine printing and book arts, and an apprenticeship program to preserve the crafts of letterpress printing, bookbinding, and type casting. It also conducts tours of the historic production facility, which includes the M & H Type foundry, begun in 1915 with Monotype typecasting machines that came to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, as well as twelve letterpress printing presses, a full hand book bindery, and a very large collection of rare typefaces passed down from noted San Francisco printers John Henry Nash and the brothers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn.
According to Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "The collaboration among Arion Press, M & H Type, and the Grabhorn Institute is a model for preserving historic manufacturing equipment, keeping alive disappearing crafts, and printing beautiful artifacts - all in one enterprise."
The Grabhorn Institute received a California Heritage Council Award in 2002 for "preservation of the last fully functioning type foundry and integrated letterpress printing facility."
- Benton, M: "Measured markets: Limited edition publishing and the Grabhorn Press, 1920–1930," Publishing Research Quarterly, Volume 11, Number 2, pp. 90-102, June 1995.
- Sawin, M: "Moveable Type", Preservation, July/August 2002, pp. 56-61.