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By His Own Labor

Red Hydra Press: "Dard Hunter (1883-1966) is best known as the paper historian whose writings form the cornerstone of our knowledge about world handmade paper history, technology, and materials. In order to gather firsthand knowledge about the making of paper, he traveled the world collecting tools, equipment, raw materials and paper samples. Through his Mountain House Press, he published his knowledge of world papermaking though a number of important limited edition handmade volumes, which have formed the foundation of today's renaissance in hand papermaking and related crafts. The Dard Hunter Collection forms the foundation of the Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.

While Hunter wrote his autobiography, later followed by a biography of his father by Dard Hunter II, BY HIS OWN LABOR represents the first extensive critical biography. The book carefully chronicles his life and work, and evaluates his legacy.

This Red Hydra publication is based on the 10,000 non-book items in Hunter’s previously unexamined archives. Cathleen Baker, a paper conservator and teacher, lived for three years in the northeast tower of Hunter’s Mountain House while cataloguing and researching these materials.

In addition to his scholarly achievements, Hunter was also a consummate craftsman and designer whose lifelong philosophy was to make things by hand, striving for the highest craft standards attainable. While early in his life at the Roycroft he worked in media such as stained glass and metals, he later devoted most of his life's work to the book arts - papermaking, type founding, and hand printing.

While Hunter wrote his autobiography, later followed by a biography of his father by Dard Hunter II, BY HIS OWN LABOR represents the first extensive critical biography. The book carefully chronicles his life and work, and evaluates his legacy.

In 1983, the late Patricia Scott, art history professor at Ohio University, recognized the need for a critical biography of Dard Hunter, and she began the project. Before she could complete the manuscript, Professor Scott passed away after a lengthy illness, and the project to complete the manuscript was passed to Cathleen Baker. Baker, like Scott, had been deeply interested in Hunter and his work, and had extensive knowledge of paper conservation. She was Associate Professor in the Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State College, when she decided in 1990 to finish the Scott biography. Unknown to Scott and Baker at the time, was the existence of a significant archive composed of over 10,000 letters, books, photographs, and other materials found in Dard Hunter's home, Mountain House, Chillicothe, Ohio. While Baker was on a sabbatical leave in 1991 to finish the biography, the archive was discovered by Dard Hunter III. With this new information suddenly available, Baker, encouraged by young Dard, moved to Chillicothe to evaluate and organize the archive. What Baker and young Dard came to realize was that this archive would substantially change the direction and scope of the biography, and the project began anew.

At the invitation of Dard III, Baker moved to Mountain House in 1993, having decided to leave her academic position and pursue the biography and an unknown future. Given full access to this wealth of information, and pursuing the biography vigorously from many fronts, Baker made substantial progress from her second-story room in Mountain House overlooking the valley and town. By 1996 she had completed the first draft of the manuscript. Having decided earlier to accept the invitation by Steve Miller, proprietor of Red Hydra Press to publish the biography in a limited edition, Baker moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the press' home.

For the next year she worked editing the manuscript and preparing for its publication. In 1997, Baker decided to embark on learning firsthand the craft and art of making books by hand, and enrolled in the MFA in the Book Arts Program at The University of Alabama. She is a recipient of the prestigious Jacob K. Javits Fellowship and continues her study in the hand crafting of books, while participating in the production of BY HIS OWN LABOR. Her goals are to publish a series of limited edition monographs on significant individuals in the book arts under her Legacy Press imprint.

BY HIS OWN LABOR has been made by hand. In this day of the mass production of limited edition books, our book is printed from metal types by hand - two pages at a time on a Vandercook 4 flat bed printing press in a fashion of which Dard Hunter would have approved. It is composed of 23 signatures (folded gatherings) of 16 pages each, in an edition of 155. The 12-point Dante Monotype has been cast by Michael Bixler. R. Stanley Nelson of the Smithsonian Institution cut the punches for Hunter's special "DH" monogram in both 10- and 12-point sizes, and hand cast them for inclusion in the text. The luxurious handmade paper, dampened for printing, was created especially for this project by the Twinrocker Mill in Brookston, Indiana. Dard Hunter III made the endsheets by hand at Mountain House, using his grandfather's mould and deckle. The book is half-bound in stunning dark green leather with vellum tips by Gray Parrot, and our printed pattern side papers. 124 black-and-white and color illustrations of the work of Dard Hunter are reproduced in a cloth bound accompanying volume, printed by Meriden-Stinehour in Vermont to the highest quality specifications - and both the biography and its illustrations are housed in an elegant clamshell box.

How does this book differ from past books about Dard Hunter? In 1981 and 1983, Dard Hunter II published the two-volume work THE LIFE WORK OF DARD HUNTER (LWDH) under his Mountain House Press imprint. This was a limited edition book illustrating especially the design work of Hunter Sr. and the papers made by him at Marlborough, NY and by his mill workers at Lime Rock, CT. In LWDH, DH2 also sought to correct some of the errors in his father's autobiographies. In 1998, the Bird & Bull Press published a resetting of LWDH, retitled DARD HUNTER & SON. It contains a new introduction about DH2 by Dard Hunter III, as well as the notes DH2 used to produce LWDH, and footnotes about the Hunters by Henry Morris.


BY HIS OWN LABOR is the new, definitive, and authorized biography of Dard Hunter Sr., which primarily relies on the newly discovered archive in Mountain House. Unlike its predecessors, it is a critical and complete study of Hunter's life and work and is supported by extensive endnotes.

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