Whitney Hale


College: Libraries

Exhibit Explores Hammer's 'Pleasure of Printing'

Published: Feb 11, 2014


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 11, 2014) University of Kentucky Special Collections presents an exhibit focused on the life and work of Carolyn Reading Hammer, former curator of rare books. The opening ceremony for "The Pleasure of Printing: Carolyn Reading Hammer and Her Circles of Influence," running Feb. 13 through March 28, in the Margaret I. King Building, will feature a panel discussion led by alumna and Kentucky book artist Susan E. King with friends of Hammer beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13. The exhibition and discussion are free and open to the public.


As a Columbia University graduate student in the early 1930s, Hammer was inspired with a lifelong passion for hand-press printing. Observations during many visits to New York Public Libraries’ exhibits of modern fine press printing led her to question, "Where are the women printers?" and to respond, "I want to be one."


Upon hearing of her new librarian’s interest in fine printing, UK Libraries' own Margaret I. King encouraged Hammer to print a book in 1940. Together with her longtime friend, Amelia King Buckley, she bought a tabletop press and metal type and began producing work as the Bur Press. They started by printing a letterpress Kentucky calendar for the year 1942, illustrated with photos from members of the Lexington Camera Club, to raise money for future publications.


The first book printed by Bur Press was "The Education of a Gentleman, Jefferson Davis at Transylvania, 1821-1824" by Margaret Newman, published in 1943. Hammer later formed and participated in several other presses and was at the center for many years of the fine printing scene in Lexington.


Hammer’s friendship with and marriage to the Viennese artist and typographer Victor Hammer widened her circle to include European artists and intellectuals. Their home became a salon as she made important connections between friends like Rena and John Jacob Niles and Thomas Merton. She provided a creative environment for her husband and promoted his work.


In 1956, Hammer founded the King Library Press at UK Libraries, where she mentored scores of assistants and apprentices, some of whom have gone on to pursue avocations or careers as accomplished artists and printers. Her legacy continues through the ongoing work of the King Library Press and the still vibrant community of printers, which she fostered for more than 50 fifty years. Hammer retired from UK in the mid-1970s and died in 2001.


"The Pleasure of Printing" showcases Hammer’s printed work from the 1940s to the 1990s through her many imprints. The exhibit places her in the context of intellectual life in Lexington in the middle part of the 20th century. She was active in the local community as well as the international community of hand-press printing and, at a time when there were few women in the field, she was recognized widely for her work.


"The Pleasure of Printing" will be available for viewing by the public 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, in the Great Hall at the King Building. The opening program on Feb. 13 will feature remarks by Susan E. King, printer and book artist, and a panel of people who knew Hammer and printed with her over the years. King and

Special Collection Arts Librarian Gail Kennedy are curators of this exhibition.


In addition to King Library Press, UK Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. The mission of Special Collections is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.



MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716whitney.hale@uky.edu

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