The Grabhorn Institute
Mission & Goals
- To preserve and perpetuate the use of the last complete working typefoundry and letterpress workshop in the United States, possibly in the world.
- To pass on to future generations the skills of craftspeople trained in typecasting, letterpress printing, bookbinding, and the book arts.
- To educate the public in the history of the printed word, so that the legacy of past technologies will enrich those of the future.
- To inspire the arts community by creating and exhibiting remarkable examples of art, literature, design, and publishing.
- To support an unbroken tradition of artistic publishing, printing, and bookmaking in San Francisco.
- To contribute to the new information economy by making an unrivaled repository of tools and expertise available to students and practitioners of digital design.
The Grabhorn Institute was formed in 2000 in order to preserve and perpetuate the use of one of the last integrated typefoundry, letterpress printing, and bookbinding facilities as a living museum and educational center.
Grabhorn Benefit Dinner with artist Enrique Chagoya and publisher Nion McEvoy
May 17, 2016, is the date of the Grabhorn Institute Annual Spring Benefit Dinner with honored guests artist Enrique Chagoya and publisher Nion McEvoy. In the gallery at Arion Press, with cocktails, tours of the production facility, and a sit down dinner. Tables at $15,000, $10,000, and $5,000. Individual tickets at $1,000 (program listing) and $350. Read more and reserve online, or call 415-668-2548, or email email@example.com.
In December 2007, the non-profit Grabhorn Institute assumed stewardship of the fine printer and publisher Arion Press and the typecasting and typesetting business M & H Type. The three branches are co-occupants of the letterpress printing facility in the Presidio National Park in San Francisco and are open to the public Monday through Friday. The combined operation has a staff of fifteen. Of their total revenues, 32 percent is contributed income from Grabhorn Institute supporters and 68 percent is earned income from publishing, printing and design commissions, type sales, and related services. The 2011/2012 budget for Grabhorn Institute-sponsored public programs in preservation and education was $386,712.
Programs: Exhibitions, Tours, Grabhorn Fellows, Apprenticeships, Events, Lectures
Tours for the public, students, and other
groups are held regularly.
The historic printing facility, located in the national park in the Presidio, is open free to the public Monday through Friday (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) for gallery exhibitions. See Exhibitions.
Public demonstration tours of the letterpress printing shop, bookbindery, and typefoundry are held every Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. or by prior arrangement. Tours last approximately an hour and a half. There is a charge of $10.00 per person, with special rates for groups and evening hours. For reservations call the Grabhorn Institute at (415) 668-2548 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lectures and other events are held
in the Grabhorn/Arion gallery.
Summer program for college book arts students, August 2012.
The Grabhorn Institute paid apprenticeship programs are designed for those interested in long-term employment and not for a temporary or transitional experience. They provide training in the crafts of typography, letterpress printing, bookbinding, and type casting. Apprentices learn while working on book publishing projects, contract jobs, and type production.
Gathering pages in the bindery
PRINTING & BOOKBINDING
Arion Press, fine printers and publishers of deluxe limited edition books, offers training in typography, book design, letterpress printing, and bookbinding that will lead to long-term employment. Commitment is for a minimum two years of employment.
TYPECASTING AND FOUNDRY WORK
M & H Type, the oldest and largest surviving type foundry in the United States, offers training in typography, typecasting, and Monotype composition that will lead to long-term employment. Commitment is for a minimum four years of employment: two years in apprentice status, followed by at least two years in journeyman status.
Read more about apprenticeships.
We wish we could accommodate all the talented and dedicated people who would like to come here to learn book making with us. Currently, we have two apprentices and two journeymen who have completed apprenticeships in the type foundry and two journeymen in the bindery who also completed apprenticeships. These people are also receiving training in the composing room and pressroom from a typographer/printer. We have a master typecaster and a master bookbinder, both part-time, who continue training in their departments. For the present we are not taking on any new apprentices. This situation could change in the future. If you should come to San Francisco, we would be happy to meet you and show you the facility during one of our weekly public tours on Thursday afternoons at 3:00 by reservation. The charge is $10 per person.
Ongoing and special exhibitions are
on view in the gallery, open weekdays.
Go west on Lake Street, turn right (north) on 14th Avenue, and enter the Presidio. To the right of the large hospital is a tall smokestack, which is 1802 Hays Street (in the Presidio). Follow the road up and around to the left. Parking is available in front of our building. For more detailed directions, click here.
Events & Lectures
For a full listing of Grabhorn Institute lectures and other events, please see our Events page. Also see photos of recent events.
Events take place in the gallery and frequently sell out. Please call or email to make a reservation.
William T. Wiley (center) with his wife, Mary Webster, and Andrew Hoyem. Wiley was the honored guest at the Grabhorn Institute 2008 Spring Benefit Dinner.
View a listing of past events.
A tour group in the historic M & H Type
foundry, which dates to 1915.
The Grabhorn Institute supports two apprenticeship programs for Arion Press and M & H Type, which provide training in the crafts of typography, letterpress printing, bookbinding, and type casting. These programs are designed to lead to long-term employment. Apprentices learn while working on publishing projects, contract jobs, and production for the two divisions. Read more.
Grabhorn Institute Background
San Francisco is home to a rare survivor from the era of printing from metal: a complete, traditional bookmaking facility that includes the last fully functioning typefoundry in the nation. It is one of the few places in the world where one can see, under one roof, the entire process by which a book is made: from design, casting of type, printing, illustration, and binding. It is comprised of two entities, the Arion Press, a leader in the contemporary fine-press movement that traces its lineage back to 1920 and the illustrious Grabhorn Press, and M & H Type, begun in 1915 with equipment that came to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, some still in operation.
Andrew Hoyem shows visitors
a selection of artist books.
Together, Arion Press and M & H Type employ skills and equipment from
every era of printing, but especially letterpress printing. Much of the
equipment is of historic value: Monotype typecasting machines, twelve printing
presses, a full book bindery, and a vast collection of typefaces and tools
passed down from such illustrious San Francisco printers as John Henry Nash
and the brothers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn. This equipment is still working
and in use.
Such an assemblage of tools, type, and equipment, if dispersed, could
never be reassembled. Yet dismantling this facility seemed inevitable in
1999, when Arion Press and M & H Type lost the lease on a 10,000 square-foot space on Bryant Street in the South-of-Market area,
a result of the influx of dot-com companies into San Francisco. While the business revenue was sufficient to continue publishing activities in smaller quarters,
it was not sufficient to re-house the entire historic factory and to keep it intact in the decades to come. These preservationist responsibilities required ongoing
Therefore, the nonprofit Grabhorn Institute was formed in 2000 to preserve this historic printing resource and ensure its continued use for the benefit of society.
Its immediate objectives were support for the move to new quarters in the Presidio of San Francisco and configuring the building to allow public access while setting
up an organizational and financial structure for public programs at the facility. Its ultimate objective continues to be the facility's evolution into an educational
and cultural center and a living, working museum.
Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading
in the gallery with his portrait
by R.B. Kitaj
We were extremely fortunate in being chosen as a cultural tenant at the new national park in the Presidio of San Francisco. An architecturally striking 1928 industrial building was renovated for our operation. It is the Presidio's steam plant near the park entrance at Lake Street and 15th Avenue. Our move there began in February 2001 and brought us within a mile of the spot where some of our vintage typecasting equipment was first displayed at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. As a cultural tenant, we are expected to invite public access. In turn, the Presidio's publications and public relations operations promote the cultural and educational activities at our facility.
In November 2000, our historic assemblage of equipment was designated by
the National Trust for Historic Preservation as part of "the nation's
irreplaceable historical and cultural legacy" under its Save America's
Treasures program. We share this honor with such significant Bay Area sites as the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, the stained glass windows in Grace Cathedral, and the Angel Island Immigration Station. This designation has encouraged widespread support for the Grabhorn Institute.
Demonstration of handsewing a book
in the bindery
According to National Trust president Richard Moe, "While preservation
has traditionally focused on historic buildings and sites, the Save
America's Treasures program encompasses culturally diverse documents,
artifacts, and even industrial equipment, such as the recent official project
designation for the Grabhorn Institute's hot-metal typecasting and letterpress
printing operation. Few such operations exist today, and it richly deserves
the visibility that the Save America's Treasures program will bring."
Moe added that it is "especially gratifying to learn that [the Grabhorn
Institute] will now be housed in the historic Presidio."
The Grabhorn Institute received its nonprofit 501(c)(3) designation from
the Internal Revenue Service in November 2000. Its tax identification number
is 94-3363125. It is named in honor of the Grabhorn brothers, Edwin and
Robert, who established their press in San Francisco in 1920 and were the
most prominent fine printers in the country for more than forty years.
Board and Staff
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chairman and Director
Artist and Art Patron, San Francisco
Board Member, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SFMOMA, Grace Cathedral
Diana Ketcham, Ph. D.
Secretary and Director
Writer and Editor, San Francisco
Former Book Editor, Oakland Tribune
William P. Barlow, Jr.
Treasurer and Director
C.P.A., Historian of Printing
Barlow & Hughan, San Francisco
Instructor in Bibliography, University of Virginia
Bowles Farming Company, San Francisco
Agribusiness Executive, Book Collector
Former Board Chair of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
William Buice, III
Attorney, New York City
Past President of the Grolier Club
The Keats-Shelley Society
Educational Publishing Professional, San Francisco
Executive Editor, Applied Sciences, Pearson Education
Art Collector, former Marketing Professional, Palo Alto, California
Former Board Member, San Jose Museum of Art, Wellesley College Art Museum
Architect and Graphic Designer
Founder and Vice-President, Eight Inc., San Francisco
Member of Board of Trustees, Art Center College of Design
Roselyne C. Swig
Art Collector, Art Consultant, San Francisco
Former Director, US Arts in the Embassies Program
Paul L. Wattis III
Construction company executive and art patron
Director, Paul L. Wattis Foundation
Board Member: Berkeley Art Museum, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Executive Director, Grabhorn Institute
Publisher and Fine Printer, Arion Press, San Francisco
Diana Ketcham, editorial and program director
Casey Kolodin, assistant director for programs & sales
Julie Willing, office manager and bookkeeper
Blake Riley, printer
Sarah Songer, bookbinder
Rochelle Youk, apprentice bookbinder
Nathalie Rowland, apprentice bookbinder
Brian Ferrett, typecaster
Chris Godek, typecaster
Ben Davidson, apprenctice typecaster
Visitors in the gallery
The Grabhorn Institute is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2000 for the purpose of preserving and continuing the use of one of the last integrated typefoundry,
letterpress printing, and bookbinding facilities, and operating it as a living museum and educational and cultural center. As a 501(c)(3) organization,
contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.
Building 1802 in the Presidio is marked on the map below in yellow. Click on the map for a larger view or click here for a map of the entire Presidio (note: this map does not reflect current construction).
Directions: We are located just inside the Presidio entrance on 14th Avenue off of Lake Street, on the Richmond/Sea Cliff southern side of the Presidio. Once inside the entrance, proceed to the stop sign in front of the Public Health hospital. To the right of the hospital is a tall smokestack, which is Arion Press, building 1802. Turn right at the stop sign onto Wedemeyer and follow the road up and around to the left, where it becomes Hays Street. Parking is available in front of our building and around the small public park on Brown Street and Belles Street (see map).
From downtown: Go west on California Street to Fifteenth Avenue, turn right and continue across Lake Street, enter the Presidio, and proceed as above.
From the north: From Highway 101: After the Golden Gate Bridge take the Nineteenth Avenue/Park Presidio Boulevard exit; at the first intersection after the tunnel turn right onto Lake Street, right onto Fifteenth Avenue, enter the Presidio, and proceed as above.
From the south: Take Nineteenth Avenue north to California Street. Turn right onto California, left onto Funston Avenue, left onto Lake Street, cross over Nineteenth Avenue, turn right onto Fifteenth Avenue, and proceed as above.
From the east or west: Take any of the following bus lines and get off at the Park-Presidio stop: 1-California, 2-Clement, or 38-Geary. Walk to Fourteenth Avenue, walk north through the walking entrance into the Presidio at Fourteenth Avenue and Lake Street, and proceed as above.
From the north or south: Take the 28-Nineteenth Avenue bus line and get off at the California Street stop. Walk to Fourteenth Avenue, walk north through the walking entrance into the Presidio at Fourteenth Avenue and Lake Street, and proceed as above.
For questions, suggestions, or to discuss making a contribution to the Grabhorn
Institute, please contact Andrew Hoyem or Diana Ketcham at:
1802 Hays Street, The Presidio
San Francisco, CA 94129
Web site: www.arionpress.com
Search Arion Press
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the Grabhorn Institute
An irreplaceable legacy
The Grabhorn Institute is designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as part of "the nation's irreplaceable historical and cultural legacy" under its Save America's Treasures program, in recognition of the Institute's work to preserve the typecasting and letterpress printing operation of Arion Press and M & H Type.
California Heritage Council
The Grabhorn Institute has been recognized with a California Heritage Council Award in 2002 for "preservation of the last fully functioning type foundry and integrated letterpress printing facility."
William Stout speaking on books designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Preserving historic equipment and keeping alive disappearing crafts
"The collaboration among Arion Press, M & H Type, and the Grabhorn Institute is a model for preserving historic manufacturing equipment, keeping alive disappearing crafts, and printing beautiful artifacts — all in one enterprise." –Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
A model of adaptive use
"I am writing in support of the Arion Press/Grabhorn Institute, a rare historic printing operation in San Francisco. In the last decade, Arion Press has been perfectly relocated in the laundry facility of the former Presidio Hospital overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Their use of the space is a model of adaptive use that is consistent with the Presidio Trust's aims for the former US Army base. In my view as a preservationist, the Arion Press at the Presidio is a great fit." –John H. Stubbs, Vice President Field Projects, World Monuments Fund
“There is now no other business like it anywhere in the world. You are, so far as I know, truly unique in the literal and only sense of the word.” –Richard Lawrence, Oxford, England
Journeyman Kenny Howard and apprentice Brian Ferrett in the composing room
Presidio's Future: More Culture
"The Presidio Trust plan emphasizes 'diverse and meaningful visitor experiences.' The best example is Arion Press, a publisher with roots in San Francisco stretching back to 1920. Its editions of such classics as Moby-Dick and contemporary works that pair poets and artists are considered to be among the most exquisitely printed books in the world." –John King, San Francisco Chronicle
School group listening to a speaker
in the gallery
“In the UK, none of the main typefoundries are producing any more. This situation is mirrored across Europe. Consequently, M & H is of international importance to the art and craft of letterpress.” –Justin Knopp, Director of the Anchor Press Museum, Essex, England.
“Arion Press books are the gold standard for fine presses today.” –Peter Kraus, Ursus Books, New York.
Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney reading in the gallery, May 2006
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Andrew Hoyem conducting a school tour
Virtual Panoramic Tour
Browse panoramic images of the pressroom, typefoundry, book bindery, and gallery. View now.
See a video tour of M & H Type and Arion Press from CBS Sunday Morning. View now.