From a very early age I was fascinated with language & letters. My earliest attempt to fulfill this was a cast iron Underwood typewriter in 1944 on which I tried to do “printing.” I was further encouraged by a set of rubber printing types & a holder in which a single line of type could be set. It had two ornaments to be used at the beginning or end of the line. This limited my printing to the annoying application of name stamps in my small library of books. It wasn’t until 1949 when I sought refuge in the letterpress print shop at Benjamin Franklin Jr. High School in Long Beach, California, that I began to do “real” printing from metal types.
The old journeyman printer who taught the class quickly showed the beginning students the elements of typesetting, printer’s measurement, etc. & then abandoned us to set whatever we wanted for the remainder of the year while he worked at getting out the school paper on the presses with the older boys. I must have worked my way through about 150 type cases by the end of the year. Printing took on a more serious urgency when I discovered Stanley Morison’s 500 Years of Fine Printing about 1960. It was the first time I realized printing could be beautiful as well as useful. I have never stopped in my desire to make it so. In 1981 my partner Arlington Jackson found a fine, very large cylinder press & we had it installed in a small garage whose roof eventually caved in on the press. Eventually the entire place was transformed into the private press it is today which bears the name of Philoxenia Press. I had read the name in early Russian & Greek Icons representing Abraham showing unconditional hospitality to strangers, & I found it perfectly suited my own sense of being in the world. The Press originally accepted occasional commissions, but I soon discovered it would be more to my creative interests to do my own work, especially since people were reluctant to pay what the effort was worth if at all.
The current intention of the Press is to do a series of finely produced & illustrated Specimens of the printing types held at the Press. A natural history of the Eastern Sierra is also on the agenda with hand painted plates & a boxed set of juvenile rhymes & stories by Edward Lear is also on the agenda. I will probably not live to see all of my ideas brought to fruition, as there are so many, but the doing of each of them is an act of hospitality to the Spirit which inspires me.