• Steven Heller

Leonard Baskin’s Typographic Gem

In 1942 Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) founded the Gehenna Press at Yale. Brandeis University’s page (read more) on Baskin and the press states “The name derives from a line in Milton’s Paradise Lost: ‘And black Gehenna call’d, the type of Hell.’ Baskin’s first printed book, On a Pyre of Withered Roses, was a selection of his own poems. Due to the war and five years of dedicated artistic study, much of it in Europe, Baskin’s second book, A Little Book of Natural History, was published nine years after the first.”

“The Press’ books in the early 1950s have an almost naive charm. Either printed on different second-hand printing presses or commercially printed, they show Baskin developing his wood engraving and bookmaking skills. By 1959 Baskin felt that he had begun to “invent typographic structures of originality and sensitivity.”

These pages from a 1967 catalog are gems of typographic composition. Everything was done by hand. Not easy folks. Moreover, he printed on both sides of the sheet — a foolhardy adventure that makes for the gem of a small piece of printing.

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