A Special Viewing of Morris’s Famed Albion Press

Jethro Lieberman with the Albion press. Photo by Marilynn K. Yee for the New York Times.

Last month, about 35 people came to the special viewing of William Morris’s Albion press at Christie’s in New York. The group included members of the Morris Society, the Grolier Club, and the American Printing History Association. The viewing included a talk by longtime owner of the press, Jethro Lieberman. 

Lieberman inherited the press from his parents, J. Ben and Elizabeth Lieberman. In recounting the press’s presence in his family for over a half century, Lieberman recalled the surprise appearance of a New York Times reporter soon after the press came to their New Rochelle home in 1961. His parents were not at home so the reporter took a picture of the 17-year-old Jethro standing next to the Albion in coat and tie. (This photo was reproduced in the NYT article on the auction last month as well.)

Lieberman also told of occasions on which visitors were invited to set their own name in type and print a personal keepsake. In describing his decision to sell the press, he said he wished it to be put to work, rather than to remain a static icon of William Morris. Indeed his father, a journalist, printer and one of the founders of the American Printing History Association, had refused offers from institutions wanting to purchase the press for display purposes.

The press sold the next day for $233,000 by Bromer Booksellers, of Boston, acting on behalf of an unnamed client “who will put it to good use.” The client, it was later revealed, was the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Steven Galbraith, curator of the collection, assured fans of the press that it would not simply be put on display: 

The Kelmscott/Goudy Press will have an active life at RIT, not simply as a museum artefact, but as a working press accessible to students, scholars and printers… I’m certain that the Kelmscott/Goudy Press will be a great inspiration to students at RIT and to others who visit our library’s pressroom.” 

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