About Arion Press

The origins of Arion Press reach back to 1919, when the brothers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn came to San Francisco from Indianapolis. The brothers established the Grabhorn Press, which became one of the foremost fine printing establishments in the United States from the early 1920s to the mid-1960s. The Grabhorns stood out for their exuberant and adventuresome approach, with a prolific output of more than 650 books that varied in scale and style. They were proponents of what the great bookmaker Bruce Rogers called “allusive printing,” in which the selection of type, decoration, and page layout alluded to aspects of the books’ contents.

National recognition came quickly: a gold medal from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (1928); an exhibition at the Huntington Library (1945); a travelling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution in Indianapolis, Washington, D. C., and San Francisco’s de Young Museum (1961-1963). The Grabhorns' edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, published in 1930, is "widely recognized as a monument of twentieth-century fine printing" (Fine Books and Collections Magazine).

When the Grabhorn Press closed in 1965, Robert Grabhorn partnered with Andrew Hoyem. Hoyem had been working with Dave Haselwood at the Auerhahn Press in San Francisco to publish the avant-garde literature of poets identified with the Beat Generation. Together, Grabhorn-Hoyem preserved and utilized the Grabhorn Press's vast and distinctive holdings of type and equipment.

From the beginning, Arion Press has been distinguished by its remarkable ability to transform beautifully written words – from ancient tomes to modern classics, from new material to forgotten texts – into compelling works of art that complement the author’s ‘voice’ and aesthetically capture the essence of the tale. Above all, Arion Press produces books intended to be read and enjoyed. The visual and tactile aspects merely augment, albeit brilliantly, the reader’s experience.
— Carol Grossman, Biblio

In 1974, Andrew Hoyem renamed the company Arion Press and launched a series of limited-edition books, printed by letterpress and bound by hand. Many of them were illustrated by prominent artists; some were accompanied by separate editions of original prints. To this day, the list of Arion publications is characterized by its diversity, with titles that range from ancient literature to modern classics. The Press has also developed new material for publication, and resurrected “lost” texts. The Arion Press edition of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, handset and printed in a folio edition on handmade paper, with 100 wood engravings by Barry Moser, has been hailed as “a modern masterpiece of bookmaking” (University of California Press).

To date, Arion Press has published 115 artist books, pairing classic and contemporary texts from authors such as Virginia Woolf, John Steinbeck, Oscar Wilde, Mary Shelley, Edward Albee, Shirley Jackson, and George Orwell with new work from visual artists including Enrique Chagoya, Richard Diebenkorn, Laurie Simmons, Wayne Thiebaud, Julie Mehretu, William Kentridge and Kara Walker. Arion editions are collected by individuals, museums and libraries, including the British Library, Stanford University, the New York Public Library, Duke University, the Getty Center, and the University of California.

The San Francisco locations of the press have been 1334 Franklin Street (1961-1965); 566 Commercial Street (1965-1985); 460 Bryant Street (1985-2001); and 1802 Hays Street in the Presidio (2001-present).

Apprenticeships

Arion Press, in conjunction with the nonprofit Grabhorn Institute, offers apprenticeships in typecasting, bookbinding and letterpress printing. Please click here to learn about the apprenticeship program and to view open positions.

Tours

Arion Press offers a weekly guided tour of our historic press and type foundry via the nonprofit Grabhorn Institute. To arrange a tour please click here.