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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Cowell Press and Its Legacy: 1973-2004


his oral history, conducted and edited by book arts scholar and UCSC alumnus Gregory Graalfs, focuses on the history and impact of the Cowell Press at UCSC's Cowell College. It features interviews with fine printers Jack Stauffacher and George Kane, who taught at the Press, as well as with former students Aaron Johnson, Peggy Gotthold, Felicia Rice, and Tom Killion, who have gone on to have illustrious careers in the book arts. The Cowell Press shaped the careers and creative lives of many UCSC students in its thirty-year history.

Far more than a letterpress print shop where students could make pretty books, the Press was a laboratory to explore the history of tangible words — whether printed, cut in stone, or calligraphed — and to address the interrelationship of word and image. In addition, the influence of twentieth-century literature and visual art on typography was considered, as well as how typography was concerned with design principles that can be applied to film, architecture, and information design. The study of bookmaking — of how thoughts and knowledge are communicated through the vital medium of a book — fit well within the parameters of the unique and experimental quality of the UC Santa Cruz campus envisioned by founders Clark Kerr and Dean McHenry.

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