Scripps College Press makes typography into art

By Lucy Altman-Newell '17Staff Writer

Did you know that students at the Scripps College Press create and publish their own artist’s books? This semester, the students in Art 135: “Typography and the Book Arts” are producing the fifty-second title to be published by Scripps College Press, Paper as an Agent of Social Change: “Paper and Ideas.” The Scripps College Press, located in the language art studios of the Millard Sheets Art Center, is unique in that it uses old-fashioned, steel printing presses, and is one of the only college presses run and operated by undergraduates.

Founded in 1941, Scripps College Press was run by Dorothy Drake and commissioned by Frederic W. Goudy, the renowned type designer who created the “Scripps College Old Style” font and whose name graces the title of Scripps College Press’s semesterly speaker series, the “Goudy Lectures” This semester’s Goudy Lecture is entitled “Making Paper Means Something,” and was presented on September 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the Scripps College Humanities Auditorium by John Risseeuw, an artist who makes paper by hand. In 1986, Kitty Maryatt became Director of the Press, and was charged with making it more of a presence on campus. She did this by creating the Typography and Book Arts class—open to students of all five of the Claremont Colleges—and by taking the opportunity to create a creative work to disseminate to the larger community. The Scripps College Press currently sells to fifty-six standing-order patrons, five book-sellers, and a limited number of the interested public (only about one hundred copies are printed for each title).

Books printed by the Scripps College Press may now be found internationally, exhibited in such places as the Victoria Albert Museum in London. Said Maryatt, a Scripps alumna and professor, “In most big cities throughout the country, you can almost always find at least one copy of a book printed by our press.” In addition, each student in the class receives a copy.

But what exactly are these books, and how are they produced? An artist’s book is a type of art in which a book is used to convey or explore an idea utilizing every aspect of the book. Tactile sensation, text, images, and even the process of reading itself are all synthesized and utilized in order to create a unique reading experience.

As artist’s books, every aspect—type, placement, balance of image and text, etc.—must bring forward the message of the book.  For example, Deep Rooted, a book about trees and “treeness” produced by Scripps College Press, utilized “walnut ink” and a bark cover to further the idea of treeness. Similarly, this semester’s project, “Paper as an Agent of Social Change,” is composed of paper that the students created by hand. Everything about these books—from conception to production—is purposeful and effective.

Conception begins when Professor Maryatt choses a topic—vague, concrete, or anything in between. Once she has “catapult[ed] the class” in this way, the students spend a good deal of time researching the selected topic. Next, they begin with images, or, more commonly, with the text of the book. Each student is responsible for a section, and each strives to collaborate so as to create a cohesive whole which sounds as if one mind put the artist’s book together. Responsibilities include hand-drawing illustrations, creating text, and doing “print runs.”

The Typography and Book Arts Class generally spends the first four to five weeks in developing the concept for the artist’s book. The next six weeks are spent in production, and the following three weeks focus on binding the books. Finally, the books are bound up and sent out to the fifty-six standing-order patrons, the five booksellers, and Denison Library.

If you are interested in learning more about Scripps College Press, or would like to order your very own Scripps College Press artist’s book, visit them online at or like the Facebook page “Scripps College Press.”