Book Arts

The Book Arts collection at Colby was established in 1939 with a generous gift of volumes from the personal library of Edward F Stevens, retired librarian of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Stevens, class of 1889, also assisted in developing the collection through his friendships and associations with book designers such as Bruce Rogers.

The Book Arts collection was established to exemplify the highest standards of art and craftsmanship in bookmaking. In a college setting, a book arts collection can transform students’ conceptions of books beyond apparent utilitarian value.

The history of our Book Arts collection is provided in a June 1943 article in the Colby Library Quarterly. Featured below are collections within the Book Arts holdings. All items are described in the Colby Libraries web catalog with notes or prestamps as indicated.


In October 1954, Charles R Capon of Hancock, New Hampshire offered his extensive Graphic Arts Collection to Special Collections. Capon was associated with Colby through his collaborations with Curator Carl Weber and the college’s chosen printer, the Anthoensen Press of Portland. He was a noted master of book design and lettering.

The collection is remarkable for its extent and variety. It is described by Librarian James Humphry III in an August 1955 article in the Colby Library Quarterly. Web catalog note field: “Gift of Charles R Capon.”

Kelmscott Chaucer detail

Detail from the “Works of Geoffrey Chaucer” printed by the Kelmscott Press in 1896. Noted illustrator Edward Burnes-Jones collaborated with William Morris on the project. (Artstor/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)


William Morris in England is the preeminent figure in the revolt against 19th century bookmaking practices, which produced inferior-quality books using cheap materials and increased mechanization. The Kelmscott Press established by Morris reflected the aesthetics of bookmaking in early and medieval times. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer printed in 1896 is considered the Press’ masterpiece. Biographical information about Morris is located on the web site of the William Morris Society.

The March 1944 issue of the Colby Library Quarterly discusses William Morris and the making of the Kelmscott Press collection at Colby. The collection was reported as complete in May 1950, when the last of the Kelmscott’s 53 titles were acquired. Web catalog prestamp: KELMSCOTT.


The Merrymount Press of Boston, Massachusetts was established and operated by book designer D B (Daniel Berkeley) Updike in 1893. The Press produced books through 1941, the year of Updike’s death, and was strongly influenced by William Morris and the Kelmscott Press.

Associate Librarian Elizabeth Libbey provides an overview of the Press in the February 1953 issue of the Colby Library Quarterly. Web catalog prestamp: MERRY-MOUNT.


Thomas Bird Mosher of Portland, Maine established his fine press operations in that city, where relatively few were aware of his publishing accomplishments compared with book collectors around the world.

Mosher’s life and work is discussed in a February 1958 article in the Colby Library Quarterly by English Professor Alfred Chapman. The Colby Library Associates played a central role in completing the collection of Mosher Press titles in Special Collections. Web catalog prestamp: MOSHER.


Typographer and type designer Bruce Rogers (1870-1957) worked with a variety of publishers to produce books of supreme quality and classical aesthetics. His first design work was with the Riverside Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He designed the revered Oxford Lectern Bible, published in 1935. Rogers is also noted as a designer of fine bookplates. Web catalog prestamp: BRUCE ROGERS.


The Vale Press, located in London, was a successor to the Kelmscott Press. It was established in 1896, the year of William Morris’ death, by one of his disciples, Charles Ricketts. “Vale Press” was the title for the publishing firm of Hacon & Ricketts. The printing was completed under Ricketts’ supervision at the Ballantyne Press. Press production occurred over eight years, 1896-1904, and Colby owns copies of all titles.

Librarian James Humphry III provided a list of Vale Press titles in his November 1951 article for the Colby Library Quarterly. Web catalog prestamp: VALE.

Additional works consulted:

Rush, N Orwin. “The Book Arts in the College Library.” Print 3.4 (1945). Print.

Rush, N Orwin, John M Shaw and Howard Storrs. Special Collections: What They Mean to Librarians, Professors and Collectors. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University, 1972. Print.