September – November 1995

The Stone Wall Press

In 1956 Kim Merker left San Francisco to come to the University of Iowa as a graduate student in the Writers’ Workshop. This was the same year Harry Duncan moved to Iowa City as Carroll Coleman’s successor in the Typography Laboratory in the School of Journalism. Merker studied printing under Harry Duncan and became the first of the many Iowa printers, who, inspired by Duncan’s example, have set up their own private presses. With help from his mentor, Merker and his partner, Raeburn Miller, founded the Stone Wall Press in 1957. Miller not long afterwards left to pursue an academic career. Merker says of his early career: “I had absolutely no formal training as a designer, but I had the example of Harry’s excellence — The main things I got from him were a sense of craftsmanship, a love for the Washington Press, and a decided liking for the types of Jan van Krimpen.”

Stone Wall Press books were issued in editions of 200 to 300 copies, on fine papers, with hand composition, hand printing, and hand binding, the resulting productions characterized by superb design, classical restraint, and impeccable craftsmanship.

The Windhover Press

In 1966 Merker induced the University of Iowa to set up the Windhover Press to print books “primarily for the preservation and dissemination of those skills that go into the creating of a hand-printed book.” Merker has editorial control over the press’ output and makes virtually all of the decisions regarding text, paper, and design. True to Merker’s policy of issuing only unpublished work, the Windhover Press has produced new translations and poetry by distinguished literary figures.

The Windhover Press is noteworthy as one of the first fine presses to be sponsored by a public university. Students interested in bibliography, publishing, or bookmaking work directly with Merker and receive course credit in addition to practical experience.

The University of Iowa Center for the Book

In 1986 Iowa’s State Board of Regents declared its formal approval for establishing The University of Iowa Center for the Book, an enterprise which owes its conception and development to Merker’s vision and persistence. The Center for the Book has been created to advance knowledge about “the book” and to encourage all of the arts and crafts related to it. Publications issued under the imprint of The University of Iowa Center for the Book include Samuel Beckett’s Company and Amy Clampitt’s Manhattan.

Authors represented in this exhibition include: Homer and Juvenal, Pierre de Ronsard and and Guillevic; classic Americans Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John O’Hara; Ezra Pound, William Carole Williams, and their friend and publisher James Laughlin; native Iowans Mona Van Dyne and Amy Clampitt; faculty members Marvin Bell and Donald Justice; and Theodore Roethke, Mark Strand, Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, Simone Weil, and Samuel Beckett.

This exhibition was prepared by Linda Roth and David Schoonover , with assistance from K.K. Merker, Sidney Berger, Margaret Richardson, and Joel Spector.