Art + Design

From the Design Desk: Arion Press

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Last week my co-worker, Liz Rico, and I had the good fortune to tour one of San Francisco’s hidden gems, Arion Press. Located in the Presidio, Arion Press employs about ten people as printers, bookbinders, editors, and in other publishing roles. It’s a place unlike any other I’ve been to. A true gem in our own backyard—it makes me so happy that places like this still exist. I think that Liz put it best when she said, “As designers, this place is like our church.”

Part of the team is the highly skilled and long-experienced typesetters of Mackenzie & Harris (M & H Type), the oldest and largest typefoundry still operating in this country. M & H Type supplies lead-alloy type to printers and schools around the country and provides typographic services in computer-generated composition as well. We were given a fascinating tour of the typefoundry by Lew Mitchell (pictured below). Lew is celebrating his 60th Anniversary with M & H Type—truly incredible!

Arion Press publishes two to three limited edition books per year. Editions are strictly limited and are designed and produced mainly by hand. They have just published Book I of a two-volume edition of Don Quixote in the acclaimed new translation by Edith Grossman, with forty-two illustrations by William T. Wiley. Book II will be released in 2010. In the top two pictures above, you can see Lew setting the text for this book.

A complete bookbindery and the historic letterpress equipment of the Grabhorn Press are in use, alongside technology from the twenty-first century.

Beside its publishing program, Arion Press offers custom services for the design and production of fine typography and printing, from small quantities for personal use to large quantities for organizational needs.

Public demonstration tours of the production facilities—including the historic typefoundry, letterpress shop, and bookbindery—are held every Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Reservations are required and there is a small tour fee.

Kristen Hewitt
Associate Design Director

Kristen Hewitt

Design Director at Chronicle Books and an enthusiastic cheerleader for gift and stationery products (and pretty much anything with foil).
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