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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in two series.
Scope and Content
This collection contains materials relating to approximately 150 of the books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed by the Overbrook Press from its founding in 1934 until its last year of activity, 1969. It also includes a small amount of earlier records relating to the Helealt Corporation, the fiscal parent of Overbrook Press. Approximately two-thirds of the collection consists of business correspondence between Altschul, authors, and agents. The collection also contains a great deal of correspondence between Frank Altschul and noted artists and book designers such as Valenti Angelo, W.A. Dwiggins, Jean Hugo, Rudoph Ruzicka, Daniel B. Updike, Thomas M. Cleland, and Elmer Adler. Correspondence on a particular book or pamphlet is sometimes accompanied by proofs, drafts, or an example of the final product. The collection also contains memoranda, manuscripts, and financial records. Particularly noteworthy are the files relating to the publication of Manon Lescaut (1958), Robert Louis Stevenson's Inland Voyage (1938), and Herbert Cahoon's 1963 Overbrook Press Bibliography.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Overbrook Press Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Herbert H. Lehman Papers, 1858-1963 Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University
Frank Altschul Papers, 1884-1986, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 08/--/89.
Papers processed Carolyn Smith 2008.
Finding aid written Carolyn Smith October 2010.
2010-11-10 File created.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
The Overbrook Press was founded in 1934 in Stamford, Connecticut, by Frank Altschul, an investment banker and civic leader with a lifelong interest in book arts and printing. Altschul initially pursued printing as a hobby, experimenting with a small press in his New York apartment. In 1934, he was approached by designer Margaret B. Evans, who had been working for Ashlar Press. Ashlar was closing, and Evans hoped Altschul would continue its work.
Altschul set up the press in converted outbuildings on his Stamford farm and hired Evans as designer and compositor and John MacNamara as pressman. The Overbrook Press went on to print an eclectic variety of books and pamphlets, as well as ephemera such as awards and certificates. Evens placed great emphasis on technical expertise and craftsmanship, and even smaller pieces - political pamphlets such as Towards a More Creative Policy and short books on chess problems - were handled with surprising care.
Altschul set up the press in converted outbuildings on his Stamford farm and hired Evans as designer and compositor and John MacNamara as pressman. The Overbrook Press went on to print an eclectic variety of books and pamphlets, as well as ephemera such as awards and certificates. Evens placed great emphasis on technical expertise and craftsmanship, and even smaller pieces - political pamphlets such as "Toward a More Creative Policy" and short books on chess problems - were handled with unusual care.
Overbrook volumes were also known for fine illustrations. In the 1930s, the Overbrook Press published an edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's travelogue An Inland Voyage, which featured illustrations by French artist Jean Hugo. Hugo was commissioned to follow Stevenson's path through Belgium and France and produce gouaches of scenes along the route. The press worked with many other artists, including Valenti Angelo, Anna Simons, and Bruce Rogers, but is most closely associated with T.M. Cleland, who illustrated a number of Overbrook volumes. His most ambitious project was an edition of Prevost's Manon Lescaut, for which he created elaborate silk-screened illustrations. The volume, which was published in 1958 after six years of work, is considered one of the highest quality private press books of the time.
The Overbrook Press operated for nearly thirty years, closing its doors in 1969.