Artifex: Leonard Baskin and the Gehenna Press


The early years of Gehenna Press

Baskin & Hughes

An Architect of the Page

“Of the making of books…”




Honoring James Baldwin

The Oresteia



An Architect of the Page

Leonard Baskin’s approach to book design was in many ways itself an ode to figures in the history of the book. He called himself an “architect of the page,” and used typographic bricks and mortar to build his two-dimensional structures. Once Baskin reached a mature phase as a book designer in the 1960s, the Gehenna Press favored classic typefaces, particularly those designed and cut by Nicholas Jenson in Venice in the late fifteenth century, and revived in the early twentieth-century. The beauty of these balanced, time-honored letterforms appealed to Baskin’s sense of the history of book making as much as to his aesthetic preferences. Indeed, he crafted his own handwriting, evident in the many signatures and notations on display in this exhibition, as a modern adaptation of Italian Renaissance chancery hand. Baskin later began to appreciate more modern typefaces, including Spectrum (designed by Jan Van Krimpen) and Civilité (designed by Herman Zapf), both of which revived Renaissance letterforms.

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The Centaur