Only on Saturday: The Wood Type Prints of Jack Stauffacher
For its third book, Letterform Archive is proud to announce Only on Saturday, a stunning tribute to Jack Stauffacher, a letterpress printer, typographer, and designer whose elegant and innovative type treatments cemented his reputation as one of the best printers of the twentieth century.
Only on Saturday is the only comprehensive look at Stauffacher’s striking typographic experiments, in which he used a box of worn, mismatched wood type to transform letters from legibility workhorses into expressive studies of surface, color, and form.
These prized compositions — some patterned with letters in different sizes, typefaces, and inks; some layered with multiple presses of a single letter; others awash in solvent — morphed from exploratory pieces made during his off hours into formal studies of what was possible between the positive and negative spaces on a page. Toward the end of his life, Stauffacher expressed that these prints were “experimental up to a point”: a series of investigations that, once complete, yielded a deliberate statement of design. Today, they are in the permanent collections of many major museums.
Edited and designed by Chuck Byrne (a years-long contributor to PRINT magazine and Stauffacher’s longtime friend and representative in the art world), Only on Saturday:
- will be the first widely distributed book on AIGA medalist Jack Stauffacher;
- features hundreds of his wood type prints — many of which have never before been shared in book form — all imaged and printed using the highest reproduction standards in a handsome, large-format art book;
- provides an unprecedented look at Stauffacher’s process, presented through in-progress materials recovered from his studio;
- thoroughly documents Stauffacher’s influences, from his early days in the California letterpress scene to his absorption of modernist and Swiss Style teachings;
- includes insights from established names in type like Chuck Bigelow, Matthew Carter, and Jim Faris; representatives of the modern art world such as Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA curator, and Staci Steinberger, LACMA associate curator; and a host of his closest friends and collaborators, including photographer Dennis Letbetter.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Your pledge for Only on Saturday will share Jack Stauffacher’s important artwork and charming story with the world. While we have already invested heavily in the book’s development, your support will cover production costs and enable Letterform Archive to digitize our complete collection of Stauffacher prints, freezing their details — their color, type impression, and paper texture — in high-resolution reproductions that will be enjoyed for generations.
A Choice of Two Editions Only on Saturday is available in two editions: regular, a hardcover design featuring one of Stauffacher’s experimental press sheets and a jacket artfully wrapped with a full-bleed image from his book At Hand . . .
... and deluxe, a hardcover plus a portfolio containing 10 offset facsimile prints and 10 letterpress wood type proofs created with Stauffacher’s actual wood type. The book and portfolio are housed in a slipcase, and all three are covered in Stauffacher’s favorite raw silk.
Created at the Berkeley print shop of esteemed printer and Stauffacher’s friend Peter Koch, the portfolio’s 10 letterpress wood type proofs offer fans the unique chance to own impressions made using his actual wood type — with all of their formal magic and special surface imperfections clearly visible on the page.
The Story Only on Saturday examines five limited-edition portfolios of Stauffacher’s prints, as well as his individual monoprints and series prints. For each major body of work, a selection of images is paired with a first-person essay from one of Stauffacher’s collaborators, who together paint a portrait of a printer-scholar at the top of his craft.
Only on Saturday also features an in-depth essay by Chuck Byrne that traces the printer’s influences and artistic development. Byrne takes us from Stauffacher’s first encounters with California letterpress printers, to his introduction to the modernist principles of Piet Mondrian and László Moholy-Nagy, to his time in Basel with famed Swiss designers Jan Tschichold and Emil Ruder, whose deliberations about typography helped Stauffacher see the page as a space fit for experimental typographic meditations.
The Contributors Kristina Bell · John D. Berry · Chuck Bigelow · Chuck Byrne · Matthew Carter · Stephen Coles · Jim Faris · Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher · Nathan Garland · Dennis Letbetter · Staci Steinberger · Michael Taylor · Pino Trogu
The Design Lovingly laid out by Chuck Byrne as an homage to Stauffacher, Only on Saturday features a spare, elegant design and Jack’s favorite typeface: Kis.
The Photographs Imaged with raking light and a 100-megapixel Phase One camera in Letterform Archive’s photography studio, the original artwork in Only on Saturday is of the highest possible reproduction quality. Each image was soft-proofed against the original artwork to ensure a 100-percent color match.
Many friends and colleagues also contributed portraits of the artist himself, with special thanks to photographer and collaborator Dennis Letbetter for allowing us to include his treasure trove of Stauffacher imagery.
Book Specifications 14 by 10 inches · 208 pages · 30,000 words · 250 images · Printed with UV drying
LETTERFORM ARCHIVE’S STAUFFACHER COLLECTION
As a nonprofit center for design inspiration, education, and community, Letterform Archive holds an extensive collection of original prints by Jack Stauffacher, including many eye-opening pieces that illustrate his process and tell the story of his remarkable work’s genesis. Discovered when Letterform Archive curators assisted with cleaning out Stauffacher’s studio of 50 years at 300 Broadway, this process work helps us understand the methodical yet inspired thinking behind his typographic designs.
Housed in our collection of 50,000+ graphic design and typography samples gathered from across the history of written language, Stauffacher’s work demonstrates a fundamental tenet of Letterform Archive’s philosophy: that such meditative and playful experiments in type deserve to be treated as art.
ABOUT JACK STAUFFACHER
Born in 1920 in San Mateo, California, Jack Stauffacher was a printer, typographer, and fine-book publisher whose delicate yet bold sensibility landed his work in library rare book collections and later in museums, which sought out his typographic prints.
A printer of exceptional skill who began his apprenticeship as a teenager, Stauffacher created books for his Greenwood Press off and on for eight decades. He also traveled to Italy on a Fulbright scholarship to learn from European master printers, taught typography at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) and the San Francisco Art Institute, and served as typographic director at Stanford University Press. Undeterred by new technologies, Stauffacher also advised Adobe as they undertook reviving classic typefaces for digital use in the 1980s.
But it was his later wood type prints that shifted his career into the realm of fine art, and that make up the subject of this book. Stauffacher created these prints — which he called “typographic meditations” — from 1966 until his death in 2017 at the age of 96. As recognition of his contributions to typography and design, he was awarded an AIGA medal in 2004.
Today, Stauffacher’s work is in the permanent collections of major museums such as SFMOMA, LACMA, and the Denver Museum of Art. In addition, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley holds a large collection of the papers, books, and portfolios of Stauffacher’s Greenwood Press, while Stanford University’s Special Collections and University Archives also has a substantial collection of his materials.
In addition to his legendary craftsmanship, Stauffacher is remembered today as a spirited character who founded a lively community of philosophers, printers, and artists, and made an indelible stamp on the intellectual landscape of San Francisco.
Below is a clip of some of Stauffacher’s long-time San Francisco friends and collaborators reminiscing about him.
PRAISE FOR JACK STAUFFACHER
“The last of San Francisco’s traditional bohemians of the 1930s, Stauffacher became known as an articulate participant in the local literary and artistic avant-garde, as well as an inspiring mentor for young people and newcomers to the Bay Area. . . . [He was] the dean of San Francisco printers.” San Francisco Chronicle
“As typographers, designers, and printers, we translate words into written communication. Jack had done that all his life, making words visible. Then, after he had designed pretty much everything worth designing for a purpose, he started doing the opposite: he picked random wood letters from a case he had stumbled upon and made images with them. We aren’t supposed to read those letters as words but to go back to where they came from: pictures of those things. A large red B can be a sail, a blue A on its side is the sea, and the little black letters are birds or stones or ripples. . . . When I asked Jack about the prints, he said that those letters had become such intimate friends over time that he could behold them just as beautiful objects; they didn’t have to work for a living anymore.” Erik Spiekermann
“Jack was a very special person: easy to meet, hard to fathom, fun to be with, stimulating to listen to, effortless to learn from, and difficult to forget. . . . His cheerful and gentlemanly demeanor masked a determination to think and work at the highest level. His modern old-fashionedness found its way into everything he did and provided me with yet another model of how to live a fulfilling life in design.” Chris Pullman, Design Observer
“Jack Stauffacher . . . spent his long career in an intimate relationship with typographic form, content, and the craft of assembling letters — one at a time — to create beautiful and meaningful communications that will be relevant five-hundred years from now.” Terry Irwin
Chuck Byrne (author and designer) is a writer and designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His graphic design work has appeared in Communication Arts, Idea, ID, and Graphis magazines, and he served as a contributing editor and writer for PRINT magazine for more than a decade. He has also been on the graphic design faculty of San Jose State University, California College of the Arts, and the University of Cincinnati.
Byrne met Jack Stauffacher in 1989 and quickly became a regular at the printer’s celebrated Friday lunches, at which friends with wide-ranging backgrounds in the arts would come together to share ideas. In 1998, Byrne penned an influential cover story for Emigre magazine on Stauffacher’s work, introducing him to a new generation of design and typography enthusiasts, and he has long served as an ambassador and unofficial spokesperson for his work in the design community at large.
Rob Saunders (publisher) is a designer, teacher, and management consultant with a lifelong interest in the letter arts. Saunders taught at the Boston Museum School, then published graphic design and children’s books through the Alphabet Press, Picture Book Studio, and Rabbit Ears Books imprints. After 40 years of collecting graphic design and lettering, he founded Letterform Archive to make the collection available to students, designers, and admirers of the letter arts.
Lucie Parker (associate publisher) has 15 years’ experience crafting best-selling and award-winning books for the trade and gift markets. She specializes in producing design-driven titles, often in collaboration with museums and magazines.
With expert support from the Letterform Archive publishing team, Chris Westcott and Molly O’Neil Stewart.
Please find our press release, images from the book, and more about Only on Saturday here.
- Files provided to the printer: December 31, 2019
- Book goes on press: January 31, 2020
- Book arrives in warehouse: May 1, 2020
- Book delivered to backers: June 1, 2020
Risks and challenges
This book has been thoughtfully researched and written, expertly designed, and superbly imaged. It is in the late stages of layout, editing, and color correction. Chuck Byrne has designed dozens of books in his career, and his expertise — combined with the extensive publishing experience of the team at Letterform Archive and the successful delivery of our first two books, “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” and “Morla : Design” — ensures the success of this project. We see very little risk for backers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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