Henry Morris at work. Photo taken from his Two Birds With One Stone: My Log and Diary, 1980-1993. (Newton: Bird & Bull Press, 1994). Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.

Through Dec. 13: Rare books and more

Library exhibits showcases 'Henry Morris, Printer'

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11:24 a.m., Aug. 19, 2013--“Henry Morris, Printer: The Life and Times of the Bird & Bull Press,” an exhibition of rare books, manuscripts and printing artifacts, will be on view from Aug. 20 through Dec. 13 in the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Exhibition Gallery on the second floor of the Morris Library. 

The University of Delaware Library is home to the Bird and Bull Press Archives, a vast collection whose contents document the entire history of Henry Morris’ printing career.

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The exhibition was curated by Alexander C. Johnston, senior assistant librarian in the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library.

Morris began printing books in 1958 as an outlet for his interest in paper-making. His first book was a collection of 18th century recipes, printed on his own hand-made paper. His second book, Papyrus, or the Craft of Paper, introduced both the name of his imprint, the Bird & Bull Press, as well as one of the long-standing subjects of his books: the history, craft and art of books and book-making. Ironically, Morris has stated that, at the time, he had no specific intention of creating a private press, nor was he even aware of the existence of the private press movement. 

From these early days, the Bird & Bull Press has emerged as a significant part of the American private press scene. Over the past 55 years, Morris has produced more than 75 fine press books under the Bird & Bull Press imprint, as well as numerous other works printed for other publishers. His books are esteemed both for the aesthetic beauty of their production as well as for the quality of their content. 

Earlier this year, Morris announced his retirement from printing, citing “the increasing difficulty in finding exciting and interesting book projects,” as well as his own advanced age. This exhibition, “Henry Morris, Printer,” celebrates Morris’ long and productive career, and provides an in-depth examination of the production of his private press books.

In keeping with the interests that first prompted Morris to establish the Bird & Bull Press, the majority of Morris’ books have been devoted to the art, craft and history of printing and papermaking. Some books have presented new scholarly works written for the Bird & Bull Press imprint on topics such as papermaking, bookbinding, marbling and the history of printing. Other books have served as practical manuals on bookmaking and papermaking. Still other Bird & Bull Press books have served to reprint significant out-of-print texts on the history and art of book making that had hitherto been unobtainable by most readers. Additionally, Morris has printed a series of bibliographies and personal narratives that provide firsthand insight into the history of his own press. 

The exhibition draws upon the extensive collection of books printed by Morris and the vast collection of manuscript materials found in the Bird & Bull Press Archives at the University of Delaware Library. 

The Bird & Bull Press Archives contain a wealth of materials documenting Morris’ printing career. The archives include the manuscripts, typescripts, production files, printers’ dummies and page proofs used in the production of many of his books, including several books that Morris has self-selected as his personal favorite productions. 

Also included in the Bird & Bull Press Archives are numerous printing artifacts, including metal engravings, wood cuts, paper samples and a paper mold. Additional items from Special Collections provide examples of some of the rare books that Morris reprinted under his Bird & Bull Press imprint. Together, these materials allow one to view the production of Morris’ books in all their stages, from inception to finished form, throughout the entirety of his 55-year career.

“Henry Morris, Printer: The Life and Times of the Bird & Bull Press” may viewed in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery, located on the second floor of the Morris Library, during regular hours of the Special Collections Department: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and until 8 p.m., Tuesdays. An online version of the exhibition is also available. 

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