Merrymount Press

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Merrymount Press
Status Defunct (1949)
Founded 1893
Founder Daniel Berkeley Updike
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location Boston, Massachusetts
Publication types Books, Ephemera

Merrymount Press was a printing press in Boston, Massachusetts, founded by Daniel Berkeley Updike in 1893. He was committed to creating books of superior quality and believed that books could be simply designed, yet beautiful. Upon his death in 1941, the Press was taken over by his partner John Bianchi, but ceased operations in 1949. Updike and his Merrymount Press left a lasting impression on the printing industry, and today Updike is considered one of the most distinguished printers of the twentieth century. Stanley Morison, the typographer responsible for creating the ubiquitous Times New Roman, had this to say of the Merrymount Press after Updike’s passing: “The essential qualities of the work of the Merrymount Press...may be said without exaggeration…to have reached a higher degree of quality and consistency than that of any other printing-house of its size, and period of operation, in America or Europe.”[1]

History[edit]

In 1892, after 12 years at Houghton Mifflin and its Riverside Press, Daniel Berkeley Updike was approached to design a new standard version of the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer. The following year, work began on what would become known as the Altar Book, to be funded by Harold Brown. The commencement of Merrymount Press followed.[2] As Updike described the Press’s establishment: “In no exact sense was the Press ever founded—it only began.”[3]

Updike derived the name Merrymount from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The May-Pole of Merrymount.” The story centers on Thomas Morton’s seventeenth century settlement in present-day Quincy, Massachusetts. Morton’s estate was apparently the site of sports, music, and frivolity—set up in the face of his Puritanical neighbors.[4] According to Updike, “The Press took its name from the fancy that one could work hard and have a good time.”[5]

The style of the Press developed quickly in its early years, at first imitating William Morris’s style and the Arts and Crafts movement. But where Morris’s work was decorative and heavy, Updike’s designs soon became clean and practical. By the end of the 19th century Updike had done away with designs inspired by Morris’s Gothic revival. Instead, Merrymount Press became known for its readable type and minimal decoration. This practicality could also be seen in the kinds of jobs that Updike took on, and which ultimately sustained the business.[6] Bookplates, advertisements, concert programs, catalogs, greeting cards, periodicals, government tracts, diplomas, and more made up the bulk of the work done at Merrymount.[7]

From 1915, Updike ran the Press with John Bianchi, who had been a foreman in the workroom since Merrymount’s early days.[8] Bianchi shared many of Updike’s same values and objectives, and was therefore made partner in 1915.[9] Every single item produced by Merrymount was supervised by either Updike or Bianchi.[10] After Updike’s death in 1941, Bianchi carried on the work of the Press with his son Daniel Berkeley Bianchi (named after Updike), but business dwindled and Merrymount Press ceased operations in 1949.[11]

Over the course of 56 years of operation, the Merrymount Press printed more than 20,000 items.[12] Updike, always modest about his achievements, never attributed the Press’s success to any innate talent or instinct of his own, but to hard work and a desire to learn: “Perhaps the reason that I survived, in spite of mistakes, was that a simple idea had got hold of me—to make work better for its purpose than was commonly thought worth while…”[13]

Typefaces Used by Merrymount Press[edit]

According to Updike’s own bibliography of the Press’s work, the following typefaces comprised the majority of work produced by Merrymount:[14]

  • Lettre Batarde acquired 1901
  • Lettre de Somme acquired 1901
  • Pica English Black acquired 1898
  • Janson + Janson Italic acquired 1903
  • Caslon + Caslon Italic acquired 1896
  • Mountjoye (Bell) + Mountjoye (Bell) Italic acquired 1903
  • Oxford + Oxford Italic acquired 1906
  • Scotch-Face + Scotch-Face Italic acquired 1897
  • French Old Style + French Script acquired 1901
  • Bodoni + Bodoni Italic acquired 1930
  • Poliphilus + Blado acquired 1925
  • Lutetia + Lutetia Italic acquired 1927
  • Montallegro acquired 1904
  • Merrymount acquired 1894

Notably, Updike was the first in America to acquire the now universal Times New Roman; its first major appearance was the December 1941 issue of Woman’s Home Companion, which was set by Merrymount.[15][16][17] That same year, Updike used Times to print his last publication, Some Aspects of Printing Old and New.[18]

Notable Works[edit]

Over its 56-year history, Merrymount Press produced a significant volume of ephemera, especially for local businesses and organizations. Advertisements, dinner invitations, letterhead, and the like were Merrymount’s bread and butter, keeping the Press in operation. What made Updike New England’s most distinguished printer, however, were the beautiful, finely printed books produced by Merrymount Press. Below is a sampling of what many consider to be the Press’s most noteworthy works.

Altar Book[edit]

Merrymount’s first major work was the Altar Book—begun in 1893 and completed in 1896—financed by Harold Brown. Updike attributed the establishment of Merrymount Press to the commission of the Altar Book saying, “Had I not had this definite work to do I should not have had the courage to leave my current position [at Riverside Press].”[19] The Altar Book was set in the Press’s proprietary Merrymount typeface, which was designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in 1895 and based on William Morris’s Arts and Crafts style—or what Updike later called “Morris’s unduly black types.” After completing the Altar Book, Updike quickly abandoned this heavy style in favor of a cleaner, more practical look and reserved use of the Merrymount typeface for large pages as in the Altar Book.[20]

Vexilla Regis Quotidie[edit]

Title page of Vexilla Regis Quotidie, compiled by Lucy Bradlee Stone and printed in 1893 by Merrymount Press. University of California Libraries.

While the Altar Book was being prepared, Updike worked on other titles. The first of these was Vexilla Regis Quitidie, completed in 1893. The book was a selection of prayers and hymns for every day of the year compiled by Lucy Bradlee Stone. Because Merrymount had not yet acquired much type, the book was actually printed by Riverside Press, although Updike did arrange the book.[21]

The Humanists’ Library[edit]

The Humanists’ Library, edited by Lewis Einstein, was issued in two series and was printed in the Press’s proprietary Montallegro type designed by Herbert Horne. The first series was printed between 1906 and 1908, the second from 1912 to 1914. Each consisted of four titles:[22]

  • Thoughts on Art and Life by Leonardo da Vinci; translated by Maurice Baring; edited by Lewis Einstein (1906)
  • Against War by Erasmus; edited by J.W. Mackail (1907)
  • Petrarch and the Ancient World by Pierre de Nolhac (1907)
  • The Defence of Poesie: A Letter to Q. Elizabeth and A Defence of Leicester by Sir Philip Sidney; edited by G.E. Woodberry (1908)
  • The Correspondence of Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet edited by William Aspenwall Bradley (1912)
  • Records of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries by Albrecht Dürer; edited by Roger Fry (1913)
  • A Platonick Discourse upon Love by Pico della Mirandola; edited by Edmund G. Gardner (1914)
  • A Renaissance Courtesy Book: Galateo of Manners & Behaviours by Giovanni della Casa; introduction by J.E. Spingarn (1914)

Book of Common Prayer[edit]

In 1928, the Episcopal Church decided to issue a revision of its Book of Common Prayer, to be financed by J.P. Morgan, Jr., whose father had funded the previous revision in 1892. Morgan solicited designs from several printing houses, including the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, William Edwin Rudge, and Merrymount Press. Updike provided two designs for the Prayer Book, one in Lutetia typeface and one in Janson; the Dutch Janson was ultimately chosen for what would become known as Merrymount’s finest work. Five hundred copies were issued in November, 1930, and a year later the book was named one of the American Institute of Graphic Arts Fifty Books of the Year.[23]

Edith Wharton[edit]

Title page of The Book of the Homeless, edited by Edith Wharton and printed in 1916 by Merrymount Press. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Updike’s friendship with Edith Wharton led to a long and successful relationship between Merrymount Press and Wharton’s publisher, Scribner's. When Wharton published her first book in 1899, The Greater Inclination, she insisted that Merrymount be the printer. Merrymount would print many more of Wharton’s books and other titles published by Scribner's. The association was a fruitful one and vital to Merrymount’s success in its early years according to Updike: “Nothing could have helped the Press more, just then, than the Scribner connection, for it showed we were not amateurs but could hold our own with larger printing houses…”[24] In 1915, after visiting the front of World War I, Wharton began collaborating with Updike to plan a collection of original stories, essays, poems, art works, and musical scores, the profits from which would benefit the war effort. The book was published in 1916 alongside a special limited edition run of 175 copies, each signed by Updike.[25]

Limited Editions Club[edit]

Between 1930 and 1942, Merrymount Press published eight books for The Limited Editions Club, a publisher of fine bindings. The Limited Editions Club issued just 1,500 copies per title and was available only to subscribing members. Merrymount also printed The Limited Editions Club’s first prospectus, issued as a hardcover book.[26]

  • 1930: The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine
  • 1932: The Jaunts and Jollities of Mr. John Jorrocks by R.S. Surtees
  • 1933: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • 1934: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • 1936: Walden, or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau
  • 1940: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • 1941: The Flowering of New England by Van Wyck Brooks
  • 1942: The Education of Henry Adams

Artists Employed by Merrymount Press[edit]

Updike was joined by a number of artists over the years who contributed to Merrymount’s distinctive look.

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue[edit]

While employed with the architectural firm Cram & Wentworth, Bertram Goodhue designed the cover, borders, initials, and typeface for Merrymount’s Altar Book—one of Merrymount’s best known publications. He continued to dabble in typography and book design, but history would know him primarily as an architect.[27]

Thomas Maitland Cleland[edit]

T.M. Cleland ran his own press, the Cornhill Press in Boston, until 1902 when he returned to New York, where he had begun his career as a freelance artist at age 15. During his time in Boston, he accepted a number of commissions from Updike, who mentored him in his early years. Among his designs for Merrymount are the cover and title page for The Poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1903, title page for The Life of Benvenuto Cellini in 1906, and many more small projects. After leaving Boston Cleland spent a year, from 1907-1908, as art director for McClure’s Magazine and was later art director for Fortune. He would go on to become known for much of his commercial art. His clients included the American Piano Company, the Cadillac Motor Company, Grolier Club, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[28][29]

William Addison Dwiggins[edit]

In 1906, W.A. Dwiggins began working for Merrymount Press on commission. A graphic artist who had studied under Frederic W. Goudy at the Frank Holme School of Illustration in Chicago, he joined Updike at a time when he was still growing as an artist. As Updike was exacting in his expectations, much of what Dwiggins submitted had to be redone or was rejected outright, but he soon become the preferred artist at Merrymount Press. Most of what Dwiggins contributed was completed between 1907 and 1912, including lettering, ornaments, borders, title pages, binding designs, endpapers, and illustrations. Some of his more notable work can be found in The Humanists’ Library series.[30]

Rudolph Ruzicka[edit]

Rudolph Ruzicka was a Czech artist known for his wood engravings, illustrations, and typefaces. Among the titles designed and printed for The Limited Editions Club by Merrymount Press is The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, which include decorations engraved on copper by Rudolph Ruzicka.[31] Ruzicka provided a number of illustrations for Merrymount Press over the years, including contributing to Edith Wharton’s Book of the Homeless and illustrating a book commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Vassar College. According to Updike himself, Ruzicka’s best-known works were the engravings he did for the Press’s Annual Keepsakes series, beginning in 1912.[32]

Locations of Collections[edit]

Boston Athenæum[edit]

The Boston Athenæum maintains an extensive collection of material designed, printed, and generated by Merrymount Press, including job tickets, specimens of type, artwork, and correspondence.

Huntington Library[edit]

The Huntington Library holds the business papers of the Merrymount Press and the papers of Daniel Berkeley Updike, including correspondence with authors and publishers, and bills and estimates for clients.

Providence Public Library[edit]

The Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection on the History of Printing at the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island contains Updike’s personal collection of books on printing, as well as ephemera from the Merrymount Press, including a set of punches and two sets of matrices for Merrymount’s proprietary types, Montallegro and Merrymount. Updike’s personal correspondence, as well as books produced by Merrymount Press, also comprise the collection.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hutner, Martin. The Merrymount Press: An Exhibition of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Press. Cambridge: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, 1993.
  • Kristensen, John. “The Merrymount Janson Type and Matricies,” Printing History 21:33-45.
  • Shaw, Paul. “Dwiggins & Updike,” Parenthesis 27:11-12.
  • Updike, Daniel Berkeley. Notes on the Merrymount Press & Its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934.
  • Updike, Daniel Berkeley. Printing Types: Their History, Forms, & Use. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1937.
  • Updike, Daniel Berkeley. The Well-Made Book: Essays & Lectures, ed. William S. Peterson. West New York: Mark Beatty, 2002.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 273–280. 
  2. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 9–10. 
  3. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 56. 
  4. ^ Peterson, William S. (2002). The Well-Made Book: Essays & Lectures. West New York: Mark Beatty, Publisher. p. ix-xi. 
  5. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 56. 
  6. ^ Peterson, William S. (2002). The Well-Made Book: Essays & Lectures. West New York: Mark Beatty, Publisher. p. xi-xvi. 
  7. ^ Hutner, Martin (1993). The Merrymount Press: An Exhibition of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Press. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. x. 
  8. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 15–16. 
  9. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 37. 
  10. ^ Hutner, Martin (1993). The Merrymount Press: An Exhibition of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Press. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. x. 
  11. ^ Kristensen, John (2017). "The Merrymount Janson Type and Matricies". Printing History. 21: 36–42. 
  12. ^ Hutner, Martin (1993). The Merrymount Press: An Exhibition of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Press. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. x. 
  13. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 12. 
  14. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 273–280. 
  15. ^ Mann, Meredith. "Where Did Times New Roman Come From?". New York Public Library. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  16. ^ Lawson, Alexander (1990). Anatomy of a Typeface. Boston: David R. Godine. pp. 274–276. 
  17. ^ Morison, Stanley (1947). Updike: American Printer and His Merrymount Press. New York: The American Institute of Graphic Arts. p. 62. 
  18. ^ Morison, Stanley (1947). Updike: American Printer and His Merrymount Press. New York: The American Institute of Graphic Arts. p. 62. 
  19. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 10–11. 
  20. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1937). Printing Types: Their History, Forms, & Use. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 217. 
  21. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 13. 
  22. ^ Shaw, Paul. "The Definitive Dwiggins no. 28—The Humanists' Library". Paul Shaw Letter Design. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  23. ^ Kristensen, John (2017). "The Merrymount Janson Type and Matricies". Printing History. 21: 36–40. 
  24. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 19. 
  25. ^ Hodson, Sara S. "Edith Wharton's Book of the Homeless". Verso. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  26. ^ Bibliography of the Fine Books Published by The Limited Editions Club 1929-1985. New York: The Limited Editions Club. 1985. 
  27. ^ Romy, Wyllie (2007). Bertram Goodhue: His Life and Residential Architecture. New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 36–37. 
  28. ^ Sanborn, Herbert J. (1963). "The Cleland Papers". Quarterly Journal of Current Acquisitions. 20 (3): 163–173. 
  29. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 106, 122. 
  30. ^ Shaw, Paul (2014). "Dwiggins & Updike". Parenthesis. 27: 11–12. 
  31. ^ Kristensen, John (2017). "The Merrymount Janson Type and Matricies". Printing History. 21: 38. 
  32. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1934). Notes on the Merrymount Press & its Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 37.