Established in 1997 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, by me, Cathleen A. Baker, The Legacy Press is now located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The first books issued under this imprint were printed by hand and fulfilled the degree requirements for the MFA in Book Arts at the University of Alabama; see Out of Print Titles.
My thesis project was Endgrain Designs & Repetitions, co-authored with John DePol (1913–2004), the celebrated American wood engraver. The friendship that arose from that project was cherished by us both, and I continue to keep John’s remarkable work available to book-arts practitioners and collectors. While printing Endgrain Designs on my Vandercook No. 4 in the hot summer of 2000, I often wondered what it would be like to publish books that did not take so much time at the press and that could be offered at much more affordable prices. Consequently, I decided that The Legacy Press would specialize in well-designed, offset-, and later digitally, printed books. In 2005 after finishing my PhD at UA, I moved to Ann Arbor in my home state and was Senior/Exhibitor Conservator for The University of Michigan Library. In March 2016, I retired from the University as Conservation Librarian Emerita.
The first offset-printed book that The Legacy Press published was Dorothy Field’s wonderful illustrated essay, Paper and Threshold: The Paradox of Spiritual Connection in Asian Cultures (2007, out of print). It was printed in full color in China in order to keep the costs down. I was very pleased with the results, and the book won a 2008 Independent Publisher Book Award Bronze Medal.
More than a decade ago, while discussing a book project with my friend and fellow Ann Arborite, book conservator and bookbinding historian, Julia Miller, she expressed a desire to have her book printed in Michigan in order to support local businesses during the recession of 2008/09. To my surprise, I discovered that Ann Arbor has a long history as a “printing” town, and there were a number of respected book manufacturers located within a few miles of my home office; now far fewer, unfortunately. Since the publication of Elaine Koretsky’s Killing Green: An Account of Hand Papermaking in China (2009), all of The Legacy Press books have been printed and bound locally. While this increases the cost/price of books somewhat, I feel it was the right decision, and the added bonus is that I can talk to printing professionals face-to-face.
The year 2010 was a landmark one. Julia Miller’s Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings was issued a few months after my book was published: From the Hand to the Machine. Nineteenth-Century American Paper and Mediums: Technologies, Materials, and Conservation — a combination I like to describe as the "inside and outside" of books. The latter work is based on knowledge accumulated over my fifty+ years as a conservator and book-arts practitioner. Since their publication, both of these books have secured several national awards. In 2023, after several reprintings and 2 editions, the 3rd edition of Books Will Speak Plain was issued.
Other award-winning books include Aimee Lee’s Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking (2012). A Song of Praise for Shifu by Susan Byrd is a much decorated title (2013). Among other honors, it was named the Best Micro-Press Book 2014 by the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. The Legacy Press no longer sells this title, and it can be purchased directly from the author by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheila Waters' poignant book Waters Rising: Letters from Florence was published in 2016, exactly 50 years after the devastating flood in Florence from which emerged the origins of library and archives conservation education. Waters Rising received the 2017 Society of American Archivists Preservation Publication Award. Sheila died in mid-March 2022, just a few days after celebrating her 93rd birthday. We exchanged emails on her birthday and made plans for me to visit that June. I am devastated that she is no longer with us. Sheila was a remarkable woman, and I am blessed to have known and worked with her.
The Paper & Mediums Study Collection, compiled by myself, is a limited-edition boxed compilation of 63 paper samples and examples of printing and drawing mediums. Despite the high price, it sold out and has received very good reviews.
Vol. 1 in the series, Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding, edited by Julia Miller, was published in early 2013, Vol. 2 in 2015, Vol. 3 in 2016 (out of print), Vol. 4 in 2017 (out of print), Vol. 5 in 2019, and Vol. 6 in 2020 (out of print), Vol. 7 in 2022, and Vol. 8 in 2023. The last in the series, Vol. 9, will be published in late 2024/early 25.
Vol. 1 in the series Papermaker 's Tears: Essays on the Art and Craft of Paper, edited by Tatiana Ginsberg, was published in 2019 (out of print), and Vol. 2, the last in the series, was published in 2023.
In October 2016, the monumental book (nearly 700 pages), Yours Respectfully, William Berwick: Paper Conservation in the United States and Western Europe, 1800–1935 by Christine A. Smith was published; pieces of the silk crepeline that Berwick used to repair George Washington's Last Will and Testament are also available by emailing: email@example.com.
A slight deviation from the books that The Legacy Press usually publishes are the following exhibition catalogs: Pablo Alvarez, The Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the Renaissance, for the exhibition at the University of Michigan, February–April 2017; Building the Book from the Ancient World to the Present Day by Barbara Heritage and Ruth-Ellen St. Onge, for the exhibition held at the Grolier Club in the last quarter of 2022. This second catalog was published by The Legacy Press, but it is distributed by the University of Virginia Press, and not through Oak Knoll.
In 2017, the 2nd edition of Peter and Donna Thomas' wonderful book, They Made the Paper at Tuckenhay Mill: Interviews with Retired Hand Papermakers was published. That book features reminiscences of the daily activities of 8 men and women who worked in the mill and includes a surprising amount of very interesting information about hand papermaking as practiced in England from between the World Wars to 1970 when the mill closed. Julia Miller's second book, Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical Bindings, was published in February 2018, and it has received very good reviews.
A second book about the history of an English papermill, the renowned Hayle Mill in Maidstone, Kent, entitled The Green Family of Papermakers and Hayle Mill by Maureen P. Green, was published in April 2018. Six months later, two extraordinary books were published in October 2018: Timothy Barrett's European Hand Papermaking: Traditions, Tools, and Techniques, and Pablo Alvarez' book about Alonso Paredes' printing manual (ca. 1680). The first edition of Tim's book went out of print in 8 months, and the 2nd edition – softcover – was reprinted again in 2019 and 2021.
As we all know, in early 2020, the world began to experience a pandemic, COVID-19, and life as we knew it changed. Because I worked from home, I had been relatively unaffected by this terrible situation and continued preparing books for publication. Thankfully my printer, Sheridan Books, Inc., continued operating, and so Suave Mechanicals, Vol. 6 was published in June 2020. Unfortunately, sales dropped off precipitously during March, April, and May. As a result, The Legacy Press lost a lot of income needed to continue publishing. Thankfully, beginning in June 2020, sales gradually increased. As a result of diminishing sales and other considerations, I decided to publish some books with softcovers, some printed digitally (as opposed to offset), thus allowing me to avoid paying out large amounts of money for printing. The quality of the digitally printed books remains high and books can be offered at a competitive retail prices, though printing/binding costs remain high no matter how books are produced. In November 2020, one softcover book was published, Jim Horton's Commercial Wood Engraving in the 20th Century. In January 2021, Making Impressions: Women in Printing and Publishing appeared in softcover, and in February, both Peter and Donna Thomas: Bibliography, 1974–2020 and Julia Miller's book, Tradition and Individuality: Bindings in the University of Michigan Greek Manuscript Collection, in hardcover, were published. Closely following these was Russell Maret's intriguing and delightfully designed book, Visionaries & Fanatics and Other Essays on Type Design, Technology, & the Private Press, published in both hard- and softcover, and in August, the long-awaited Coptic Bookbindings in the Pierpont Morgan Library by Theodore C. Petersen, and edited by Frank Trujillo, was finally published after 70 years of appearing only in typescript form! The year 2021 was a very productive one with 2 more books coming out before the New Year: Gary Frost's A Crafted Typology of the Codex (now in its 2nd printing) and Richard Saunders' Reams in the Desert.
In July 2022, the best-selling title, Paper and Colour: Dyes and Dyeing around the World, edited by Radha Pandey, was published, and the first printing sold out in a month; a third printing is planned for early 2024. In late October 2022, I finally contracted Covid and suffered symptoms of a bad cold and nausea. After 3 weeks, I was back to something like normal without any lasting ill-effects. This did slow progress down, however, and as a result, several titles were late getting to the printer. But from March 2023 to the end of that year, The Legacy Press published 6 new titles – On the Edge: Endbands in the Bookbinding Traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean by Georgios Boudalis; The Way of Washi Tales by Kyoko Ibe and Elise Thoron; 'Morris Marbles': Oxford's Paper Marbler, Edward Webster Morris (1842–1919) by Alan Isaac; Papermaker’s Tears, Vol. 2; Cambridge Bookbindings, 1450–1770 by David Pearson; and Suave Mechanicals, Vol. 8. Also published in 2023 was the 3rd edition of Julia Miller's bestselling Books Will Speak Plain.
In addition to editing and designing The Legacy Press books, I am busy conducting research into the first manufacture of wove paper in the West. This paper appeared in John Baskerville's Virgil (Birmingham, 1757). I am convinced that James Whatman, Sr. made this wove paper not on a woven-wire cover, as has been surmised by generations of paper historians, but instead on a piece of cloth secured over a single-face laid mould. I have successfully conducted numerous papermaking experiments using this technique with the help of Tim Barrett at the University of Iowa Center for the Book and Tim Moore, mouldmaker. To solidify my knowledge and familiarity with the "Virgil wove" and the book, I have visited public and private collections across this country and in Ireland, the U.K., and Germany on trips made in 2018 and 2019, trips funded by the Bibliographical Society of America's Katharine Pantzer Senior Fellowship and by a very generous anonymous donor. To date (January 2024), I have examined 208 copies, including a copy at Keio University in Tokyo.
In late July 2018, I presented the Rare Book School's Sol M. & Mary Ann O'Brian Malkin Lecture in Bibliography: "New Research into John Baskerville's Virgil (1757): Its Wove Paper and Typographical Variants." And at its October 2018 meeting, the Guild of Book Workers honored me with its Lifetime Achievement Award. I was supposed to teach a new RBS course G-75 Paper as Bibliographical Evidence in summer 2020, but it was postponed twice due to the pandemic. Finally I presented the course in June 2022 and 2023, and it will be repeated in June 2024.
Another consequence of contracting Covid in late 2022 was the realization that my acting as The Legacy Press' warehouse manager, packer, and shipper, was cutting deeply into the time I should be spending doing other, more interesting things. And so in mid-December 2022, I hired a local distributor to store and ship TLP books. Unfortunately, that did not work out to my satisfaction, and in early May, I signed a contract with Oak Knoll Books to become the full-service distributor of The Legacy Press books. The extra time that I have allows me to devote more attention to publishing books and to get back to my researching the wove paper in Baskerville's Virgil.
Even before the pandemic, I had made a decision that The Legacy Press would cease publishing new titles in 2025, when I will be 80 years old. Rest assured, however, that The Legacy Press books will remain available until they sell out, and popular books will be reprinted, and for a few titles, new editions of them will be published. Right now I have several new titles that I will publish in the intervening years, and therefore I am not accepting any new book proposals. As mentioned above, Volume 9 of Suave Mechanicals will be the last in that series, and Papermaker's Tears ended with the publication of Vol. 2 in 2023. I want to acknowledge the incredible work of these series editors, Julia Miller and Tatiana Ginsberg, respectively. Julia has guided so many authors into print, providing them with unfailing support and generously giving her vast knowledge about the history of bookbinding, and she will continue to do that through Vol. 9.
I want to thank all my past, present (and future) authors and editors who are responsible for the quality of the content of The Legacy Press books since 2007 when Dorothy Field's book, Paper and Threshold, became the first book I published "commercially." And to the many customers of The Legacy Press books who ensured the publication of quality books through their purchases, I give my heartfelt thanks.
You may make a tax-deductible donation to “The Legacy Press / Baskerville’s Virgil” project by contacting the Fractured Atlas organization. If you have any questions, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Legacy Press
Cathleen A. Baker, Proprietor
1513 Long Meadow Trl
Ann Arbor, MI 48108