A small, private press in Newburgh, New York will mark its 30th anniversary with a special exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York City sponsored by the Vassar College Archives & Special Collection Library.
Founded in 1985 by Luke Ives Pontifell, Thornwillow Press is one of the most recognized private presses operating in the United States today. During its 30 years, Thornwillow has produced a wide variety of limited edition books by significant authors that demonstrate the crafts of letterpress printing, papermaking, illustration, and bookbinding. The attention to craftsmanship and artistry makes Thornwillow books unique in a time of e-books and mass-produced paperbacks. For this reason, in 2010, Vassar became the repository for Thornwillow’s collected works.
The press has published works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Updike, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Thornwillow’s presidential series features books about American presidents written by noted historians. Institutions such as the Library of Congress, the Bibliotheque Nationale, the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Houghton Library at Harvard, many other libraries, and private collectors count Thornwillow books among their holdings.
Pontifell, who spent summer vacations from Harvard printing and hand binding books, talks about his passion in very plain terms. “I have tried to create beautiful and physically enduring books, not transient ones,” he says.
All of Thornwillow’s volumes will be on display in the second floor gallery of the Grolier Club in New York City. The show, which is free and open to the public, will be on view September 24-November 7, 2015.
Ron Patkus, head of special collections for the Vassar College Libraries, has worked closely with Pontifell and Thornwillow for years, and encourages visitors to come to the exhibition. “Many impressive volumes have been produced which cannot be sufficiently appreciated until one sees them in person,” says Patkus. “This exhibition is an opportunity for a wider audience to learn more about the world of fine printing.”
About the Grolier Club
Founded in 1884, the Grolier Club named for Jean Grolier, the French Renaissance collector renowned for sharing his library with friends. The Club is the oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts in the graphic arts. The Club is located at 47 East 60th Street, New York, New York.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.