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Women Printers, Binders, and Book Designers

Esther Faithfull Fleet
Detail, Plate XVI, Te Deum Laudamus, illuminated by Esther Faithfull Fleet and chromolithographed by M. & N. Hanhart. (London: Emily Faithfull, Printer & Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty; Victoria Press, 1868)
Robert Metzdorf Collection of Victorian Bookbindings

Women Printers Featured in Exhibition at the Princeton University Library.           [Now online]

Exhibition Dates: October 20, 2002 through April 13, 2003.

A new exhibition at the Princeton University Library celebrates the achievements of women in printing and book design. Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders, and Book Designers opened October 20, 2002 in the Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts on the second floor of Firestone Library, and will continue through April 13, 2003.

Women have been involved in printing from its inception and several early early printed books are on view in this exhibition, including a rare imprint by the nuns of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence, site of the first documented evidence of women employed as printers. Important early works of American literature, laws, and religion were also printed by women. Included in the show are a two-volume edition of the Revolutionary War poetry of Philip Freneau, printed by Lydia R. Bailey in Philadelphia in 1809; the Charter establishing the Colony of Rhode Island, printed by Ann Smith Franklin (sister of Benjamin) in 1745; and the first Bible to be translated in America, printed by Jane Aitken in Philadelphia in 1808.

Nineteenth-century women in commercial printing were often relegated to folding printed sheets or sewing bindings. Typesetting jobs for women were few, due to the male-only unions that ruled the business. An exception was the Victoria Press, founded by Emily Faithfull in London specifically to teach women the printing trades. Faithfull eventually won the patronage of Queen Victoria, and in 1862 was named Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty. Susan B. Anthony employed a woman typesetter, Augusta Lewis Troup, on her newspaper The Revolution, and Troup later became the first woman to hold a national elective union office: corresponding secretary of the International Typographical Union. Material by and about all these women is featured in the exhibition.

Also on view are handsome limited editions printed at private presses founded by early twentieth-century women such as Elizabeth Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Bertha Goudy, and Jane Grabhorn, and splendid examples of Arts and Crafts-era fine bindings by Sarah Prideaux and Sarah Wyman Whitman. A special added feature of this exhibition is the work of talented illustrators such as Elizabeth Shippen Green and Clare Leighton; type designers Elizabeth Friedlander and Gudrun Zapf von Hesse; and more recent artists' books printed by Shirley Jones and Kara Walker.

Rebecca Davidson, Curator of Graphic Arts and of the exhibition, will give gallery tours on Sunday, January 5, and Sunday, March 2, 2003; both tours will begin at 3:00 p.m. If you would like to arrange a special tour, or have any questions, please call 609-258-3197, or write davidson@princeton.edu.

The Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts is open to the public without charge Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.

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