Sometimes, as book enthusiasts and collectors you come across a company who, although small, resonate with integrity. One such small outfit was the L-D Allen Press, a husband and wife team who specialized in hand bound and hand-printed books using letterpress techniques. Originally starting in 1939, towards the end of the fine press industry, the Allen’s took their initiative one step further, by using traditional letter press techniques (hand-set type) as well as using hand-made, dampened paper (sometimes called ‘rag paper’ due to the fact that, a century previous it was made from the scraps of the flax and agricultural industry).
This charming outfit produced reprints of many of the classic novels (Balzac, Twain, Dickens, Carmody) as well as small monographs and diaries of early adventurers and pioneers of America. They unfortunately closed their shops in 1984, where their prestigious presses (an 1930’s Acorn, an Albion and a Columbian hand-press) where donated to the University of Utah.
Today their reprints do not command the sort of auction prices that perhaps they deserve, due, one might suspect, to their simplicity and lack of ornamentation, as well as their fairly recent printing age. However, as an addition to the history of letter press printing in America, the L-D Allen Press should indeed feature in any collector’s library as a testament to the spirit and integrity of this astounding movement. Unlike other collectible items, it is probably not advisable to search for ‘the classics’ such as Twain and Dickens, as any volumes compiled of these authors have been done by many different fine presses, and the L-D Allen Press will probably pale in comparison. Instead, I would urge a collector to look to the smaller monographs and diaries of adventurers, pioneers that occasionally appear.
If these sorts of volumes do not suit with your personal fine press collection, consider the unique hand tailored volumes of font, typography history and their guides to using letter-press and hand press that many small press concerns produced as examples and stylistic guides to their work. The L-D Allen Press, with their range of traditionalist techniques from the start of book design right the way through printing and to eventual binding and marketing, will be sure to have some unique sentiments.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Allen Press (1938). A Tragedy. Pen and ink drawings by Michele Forgeois
Allen, Harris Sterns. The Trail of Beauty. Allen Press (1940). Original watercolor by William Gaskin
,. Heraldry of New Helvetia. Allen Press (1945). With Thirty-two Cattle Brands and Ear marks Reproduced from the Original Certificates Issued at Sutter's Fort 1845 to 1848; Book Club of California
Hall, Carroll. Donner Miscellany. Allen Press (1947). 41 Diaries and Documents; Book Club of California
Carmody, Francis (Montaigne). Essays of Montaigne. Allen Press (1948). Illustrated by Mallette Dean
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Across the Plains. Allen Press (1950). Woodcuts by Mallette Dean
Balzac, Honore de. The Hidden Treasures or the Adventures of Maitre Cornelius. Allen Press (1953). Woodcuts by Mallette Dean
Stendhal, Marie-Henri Beyle. Private Journal of Stendhal. Allen Press (1954). Wood engravings by Mallette Dean
,. The Noble Knight Paris and The Fair Vienne. Allen Press (1956). Wood engraved decorations
Dickens, Charles. The Wreck of the Golden Mary. Allen Press (1956). A Saga of the California Gold Rush. 7 woodcuts by Blair Hughes-Stanton
Twain, Mark (Samuel Clemens). San Francisco Correspondent. Allen Press (1957). Selection from His Letters to the Territorial Enterprise: 1865-1866
Terence,. The Brothers. Allen Press (1958). Illustrations after Albrecht Durer
Atherton, Gertrude. The Splendid Idle Forties. Allen Press (1960). Engraving by Mallette Dean; illustrations hand colored by Dorothy Allen
Goll, Yvan. Four Poems of the Occult. Allen Press (1962). Illustrations by Leger, Picasso, Tanguy and Arp
Hughes-Stanton, Blair. A Beast in the Jungle. Allen Press (1963). 16 wood engravings
James, Henry. The Beast in the Jungle. Allen Press (1963). A Psychological Novel. 15 woodcuts by Hughes-Stanton
Caxton, William. The Mirrour of the World. Allen Press (1964). 33 illustrations reproduced from woodcuts
Camus, Albert. The Fall. Allen Press (1966). Six colored woodcuts
,. Dialogues of Creatures. Allen Press (1967). Moralised Being Ancient Fables, Curious to the Philologer, Interesting to the Lover of Natural History and Helpful to the Moralist. 180 naive woodcuts
Allen, Lewis. Printing with the Handpress. Allen Press (1969). Herewith a Definitive Manual to Encourage Fine Printing through Hand-craftsmanship. Illustrated by Victor Seward.
Cervantes, Miguel de. The Dialogue of the Dogs. Allen Press (1969). Ornaments engraved by Mallette Dean
Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Jealousy. Allen Press (1971). Pen and ink drawings by Michele Forgeois
Euripides,. The Bacchae. Allen Press (1972). Dionysus, the God. Three etchings by Michele Forgeois
Conrad, Joseph. Four Fictions. Allen Press (1973). Joseph Conrad: The Lagoon; Gustave Flaubert: The Legend of Saint Julian; Henry James: The Jolly Corner; Luigi Pirandello: The Annuity; Illustrated by Blair Hughes-Stanton.
Wharton, Edith. Quartet. Allen Press (1975). Four Stories. Illustrated by Lewis and Dorothy Allen
Dryden, John. All for Love, Antony-Cleopatra. Allen Press (1976). A Romantic Tragedy, hand painted portrait of Cleopatra
Mann, Thomas. The Transposed Heads. Allen Press (1977). A Legend of India;
Sophocles,. Antigone. Allen Press (1978). Victor Seward illustrations hand colored by Dorothy Allen
Aeschylus,. Agamemnon. Allen Press (1982). Volume I of the Oresteian Trilogy
Aeschylus,. Choephoroi (Libation Bearers) and Eumenides (The Furies). Allen Press (1982). Volume 2 of Oresteian Trilogy
Dickens, Charles. Pictures from Italy. Allen Press (1982). Genoa, Venice, Rome, Naples, Florence
,. Jonah, Judith, Ruth. Allen Press (1984). Three Stories from the Old Testament, illustrated by Michele Foreois
Pushkin, Alexander. Four Stories. Allen Press (1987). Wood engravings by John DePol