A printing legend
Joseph Ishill, one man alone in his home shop, working nights and weekends with his beloved press, turned out some of the finest books published in America. His books [and his pamphlets and other emphmera] are rare because he printed only a few of each and, for the most part gave them away. In short, they have become collector’s items fetching some rather substantial prices.
His story and the tale of his Oriole Press have been told a number of times and his collected works have been the focus of library exhibits. He was a giant in independent publishing, a true practitioner of the black art for whom his work was the end in itself. Money never motivated his efforts, yet his work stands out among American publications for its brilliance, for its tasteful design and for its superb typesetting and printing.
I wanted to do something to remember Joseph Ishill and hit on the idea of creating a broadside in his honor, I Have Remained A Poor Devil. Mr. Ishill has served as an inspiration for me in his independence and in his love of printing and book binding.
Joseph Ishill and Jo Labadie, a pair of inspiring printer-publishers
There is another hero of mine, Joseph Labadie, who also was an independent publisher, though he lived in Detroit while Joseph Ishill lived and worked in the New York City area. If you are as inspired by the genius of Joseph Ishill as I am, you may also want to check out a book of essays and poems by Joseph Labadie that I collected and printed into a limited edition letterpress book titled Jo Labadie And His Little Books. Another book to check out is one written by Carlotta Anderson about her uncle, Jo Labadie. It is titled All-American Anarchist: Joseph A. Labadie and the Labor Movement. You can locate a copy on the internet.
Both Mr. Ishill and Mr. Labadie have been consigned to relative obscurity. Except among a limited circles of fans who are devoted to the contributions these authors and printers made to American culture, they have disappeared into history with little fanfare. But in select corners of the country, including the public library in Baltimore and the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, one can still find stashes of the books and pamphlets and other items these two created. They left us a treasury of hand-crafted work devoted to the causes and ideals that guided their lives. With of an abiding love of their craft, the two were driven into the quiet and secluded reaches of their print shops to broadcast their devotion to the cause of human liberty.
Until later . . .