Mortimer Rare Book Room History

Dorothy King’s publications

Printing & Graphic Arts

Leonard Baskin came to Smith in 1953 to teach graphic arts—primarily typography and engraving—thus enriching a ten-year tradition of book arts here. He also operated the Gehenna Press, his fine private press which he began in 1942 as an undergraduate at Yale University. Smith, quite naturally, has always had an extensive collection of Gehenna Press books and ephemera. Dorothy King’s interest in the Press resulted in an extended illustrated essay in Printing & Graphic Arts (PaGA), a book arts journal published by one of the preeminent letterpress printers in the northeast, Stinehour Press.

Dorothy King. “Notes on the Gehenna Press” in PaGA. Lunenburg, Vermont: The Stinehour Press. June 1959. [Click on image to enlarge]

King also compiled a checklist of the 15th-century books (incunabula) in the Rare Book Room, which numbered thirty-seven in 1964. The checklist—designed by Leonard Baskin and printed at the Gehenna Press, featuring his distinctive shaped typography—was issued for the annual New England Renaissance Conference at Smith (attended by Ruth Mortimer). An updated version of the incunabula checklist was designed and printed for Elliot Offner’s Rosemary Press in 1975. According to Dorothy King’s obituary in the Smith Alumnae Quarterly, this was her “last contribution to Smith … to be published as a [Smith College] Centennial project by the Friends of the Smith College Library. Her meticulous research for the list had been completed before she left for her vacation, never to return.” One of Ruth Mortimer’s first tasks as curator was to see to the printing of the checklist. Smith currently owns approximately seventy incunabula. Mark Morford, professor emeritus at the University Virginia and the Salloch Fellow in the Mortimer Rare Book Room, is nearing completion in 2013 of an extensive descriptive catalogue of these early printed works.

checklist 1964
Check List of the Incunabula in the William Allan Neilson Library Smith College. Northampton, 1964.
[Click on image to enlarge]
Checklist 1975
Check List of the Incunabula in theWilliam Allan Neilson Library. Northampton: Friends of the Smith College Library, 1975.
[Click on image to enlarge]