Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The Best of The Willow Press
If my father Gary Hantke, proprietor of the Willow Press, were alive he’d be 91 today. He would have had 21 more years to print, a gift he would have enjoyed. As it was, he printed actively for about 40 years, from the 1950s to the end of the 1980s.
Dad loved his print shop! He spent much of his free time on weekends there. Often he couldn’t sleep in the morning, so he went downstairs to print. As a result he was a prolific printer – though much of his printing consisted of smaller pieces he could complete in the early morning hours. But projects large and small show the same careful craftsmanship.
Following is a selection of printed pieces by The Willow Press. As I look at Dad’s printing today, I appreciate the design, the impression, the use of white space. Here are some of the best of the best.
Type ‘N’ Stuff was a journal my father put out in the 1950s. I like the colors he used on this cover, and the Parsons type in the title.
My father frequently contributed pages to cooperative booklets such as Treasure Gems and It’s a Small World. This piece for It’s a Small World showcased some of his collection of initial letters.
Dad’s favorite type designer was Frederic Goudy. This quote was one he liked, and he hung it on his print shop wall.
Below are two holiday booklets produced by the Willow Press (see also “Hantke Family Christmas Cards”, December 2010).
There’s a personal story behind “A Council of Free Nations”. Before printing it my father wrote to Herbert Hoover to request permission to quote the speech. In the letter Dad told an anecdote about his mother ― she'd told him cocoa that helped to keep relatives in Germany alive between the World Wars came from Herbert Hoover. Hoover replied personally to Dad’s letter and gave permission to reprint the speech. He added that the cocoa came from the American people and he was only the instrument.
Dad’s largest printing effort was a book, “Lincoln the Railsplitter”, published in 1961. It was entirely handset, one letter and space at a time, a true labor of love. Though reasonably priced at $4.00, the 500 copies of the book sold sluggishly. Perhaps as a result, Dad decided to devote his time to less time-consuming printing projects. He still entertained the idea of a miniature book with fellow printer Ward Schori, who had produced several, but it never happened.
Of the many pieces my father printed, The Fool’s Prayer is one of my favorites. I appreciate the cover with its pattern of clowns, and the imaginative usage of Worrell Uncial inside. Simple and beautifully printed, it’s a piece that speaks for itself.
So Happy Birthday, Dad! I still miss you. How I wish you could have had those extra years! But my husband and I are so grateful for the love of printing you handed down to us.