Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bedevilled and Bedazzled

Peter Pauper Press has produced more than 650 editions of prose, poetry, and pocket-sized cookbooks over the course of 85 years. The press originally began in 1928, when Peter Beilenson set up a small print shop in his father's basement in Larchmont, New York. By the age of 22 Beilenson had already studied with printer William Edwin Rudge and book and type designer Frederic Goudy. He later wrote a biography of Goudy, which was published by Peter Pauper Press for the Typophiles chapbook series in 1965. Peter's wife Edna Beilenson became his business partner early on and they continued to publish 10 to 12 fine press books a year until his death in 1962 at the age of 56. Edna Beilenson ably managed the business until the late 1970s. After her death in 1981, the third generation of the Beilenson family stepped up to manage the business, which continues in operation today. 
     For many decades, the Peter Pauper books have been some of the most affordable among fine press publishers. The books were sold at "prices even a pauper could afford," according to Beilenson's son Nick. Even today, used copies of more recent issues can often be found for $3 or $4 each. Earlier oversized editions with slip covers, demand higher prices, depending upon the subject matter, illustrator and condition of course. The one and two-color letterpress editions have often included beautiful illustrations by some of the 20th century's most notable artitsts including, Lynd Ward, Fritz Eichenberg, Richard Floethe, and one of my favorite's, Joseph Low (1911-2007), who illustrated this edition of The Devil's Dictionary, first published in 1958. 

Another PPP book in a Halloween theme, is the Comic Epitaph From the Very Best Old Graveyards, first published in 1957. The cheery illustrations are done by Henry R. Martin who was a prolific illustrator and cartoonist for the New Yorker, Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and many other Peter Pauper books. 

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