San Francisco is a wonderful place to visit for any reason, but the extraordinary
collections of both book and lettering arts in the public library downtown is sure to provide many rewarding hours for the lover of letters. That the two collections are so interrelated doubles the incentive to visit.
The Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering was started nearly 50 years ago. Harrison began the collection by giving the library the calligraphy work he had commissioned and collected. It continues to grow with the addition of other collections and with the acquisition of important pieces under the direction of the astute curator (and expert calligrapher) Susie Taylor. There is an informative article about the collection online, A Scribe's Treasure: Calligraphy in the San Francisco Public Library,
written by John Prestianni, from which these examples were taken.
San Francisco has a long publishing history that extends back to Brett Hart, Mark
Twain and Jack London, so it's not entirely surprising that an extensive library like the Robert Grabhorn Collection on the history of printing and development of the book is not only located here but includes almost every typeface, printer and publisher of note from the past five hundred years. The collection also encompasses the related arts of printing, papermaking and bookbinding, their history and techniques. There is a history and synopsis of the collection
by Alastair Johnston on their site.
And there is easy access to the collections: you don't need to be a scholar or have a special status to view them. All you need to know about location, hours, and other visiting guidelines
is online. Definitely worth seeing on your next trip to this wonderful city.Illustrations: Das Blumen by Hermann Zapf, A Clump of Bushes by Marie Angel.