By Chuck Byrne
239 pages, hardcover, $80
Published by Letterform Archive
In 1936, sixteen-year-old Jack Stauffacher (1920–2017) started a printshop in his backyard with a small Kelsey hand-press printer and no formal training—just an enduring curiosity and passion for his craft. For 80 years, Greenwood Press was noted for fine printing and book publishing with metal type. Stauffacher became a superb craftsman, recognized for his mastery of printing, typography and design. He received the AIGA Medal in 2004.
Only on Saturday is a showcase for Stauffacher’s prints made from the 19th-century wooden type he collected since the 1960s. On Saturdays, he experimented with “typographic meditations” and considered them playful and secret. Combining and layering letters, he explored the positive and negative space they created and all aspects of their composition. In 1998, the completed images were published in Emigre magazine. “I don’t like to call it art; I like to call it craft,” Stauffacher said. Numerous collectors and museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, have acquired and shown his work.
Editor and designer Chuck Byrne captures the energy of Stauffacher’s prints within the book’s spacious ten-by-fourteen-inch format. By adding small studies and details on individual pieces, he further illuminates the complex printing process. Only on Saturday is also a biography, and a dozen contributors take readers inside their ambitious projects with the master printer. Their essays confirm his character: his love of literature, philosophy, art and conversation especially. While some repetition is inevitable, each adds an insight of Stauffacher as a gentleman and friend. —Ruth Hagopian