Book Arts Center
The Wells College Book Arts Center, established in 1993, provides a broad learning opportunity for Wells students and the Aurora community in the arts and crafts of the book.
In contrast to desktop printing by computer, students learn first-hand the traditions and history of the book through letterpress printing and hand bookbinding courses, a History of the Book course, an introduction to calligraphy course, and special topics courses such as Digital Design and the Artist Book, Boxmaking, Inspiration and the Medieval Binding, and the Printed Book. The Center also serves the campus and community with a variety of lectures, workshops, and symposia, and an annual Summer Institute. Begun in 2005, the Institute’s week-long intensive courses in letterpress printing, hand bookbinding, artist’s books, letterings arts and font design are taught by some of the foremost book artists in the U.S. and Europe.
The Book Arts Center’s on-campus staff includes the director, Nancy Gil, the Victor Hammer Fellow, Katie Baldwin, and adjunct faculty. The Victor Hammer Fellowship, established in 1998, is a two-year fellowship that brings a talented, emerging book artist to Wells College for the purpose of sharing his or her expertise and love of books with students.
The Book Arts Center has three distinct facilities: the Wells College Press, the Jane Webster Pearce Class of 1932 Bindery, and the Robert J. Doherty Typographic Laboratory, which is the student pressroom. In Morgan Hall, where the Book Arts Center is housed, a small exhibit space on the ground floor showcases work by the Wells College Press and Wells students, as well as work by renowned book artists.
Victor Hammer, an internationally renowned figure in 20th-century graphic arts, founded the Wells College Press in 1941. His respected position among the leading typographers, printers, and artists of his time is due not only to his publications, drawings, and paintings, but to the type he designed, cut, and cast. During the years Hammer taught at Wells College, students entered the world of publishing under his tutelage. The Long Library Archive has copies of many publications Hammer created in the 1940s, as well as copies of his students’ works. Victor Hammer operated the Wells College Press until his retirement in 1948. The iron hand press he used is still in the pressroom and is a complement to the four Vandercook presses students use to print personal letterhead, postcards, broadsides, and short books in BKRT 120 Letterpress Printing. In 1991 Wells re-established the Wells College Press in order to publish works of artistic and literary merit.
The Bindery came into being in 1991 when Wells alumna Jane Webster Pearce ’32 presented the College with her complete fine art bindery. Ms. Pearce also arranged for funds to support an introductory course in bookbinding, which has been offered to Wells students each semester since 1993.
The Book Arts Center currently houses seven Vandercook presses, two Pilot presses, Victor Hammer’s Washington-style hand press and over 300 cases of type and ornaments. The Center is also the proud home of a large collection of 19th century type and ornaments donated in 2001 by the widow of Robert Greenlee of the Gay 90s Press, has an extensive collection of 19th and early 20th century wood type, and recently received a large collection of cuts, type and equipment from the Oliphant Press in New York City. The Wells College Press publishes books and broadsides by visiting writers. The Book Arts Center prints, among other things, certificates and awards, announcements for campus events, and most important of all, the Wells diploma.