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Special Collections & University Archives

Making Books in the Woods: The Yolla Bolly Press

The Stanford University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, held the exhibition Making Books in the Woods: The Yolla Bolly Press from July 15 through October 13, 2002. Based near the northern California town of Covelo, California, adjacent to the Yolla Bolly wilderness, the press specializes in the publication of fine press editions of modern literature including fiction, essays, and poetry. The exhibition was a retrospective of the Press's work, and featured many items from the Stanford University Libraries' Yolla Bolly Press archive. Works on view included close to thirty books, design sketches, printing blocks for illustrations, press sheets, and related ephemera. Making Books in the Woods: The Yolla Bolly Press took place at Stanford University's Cecil H. Green Library, Peterson Gallery, second floor of the Bing Wing. The exhibition was free and open to the public.

Established by James and Carolyn Robertson in 1974, The Yolla Bolly Press began by publishing trade books for publishers in New York, San Francisco and Boston, most notably, in collaboration with Sierra Club Books. In 1983 the Robertsons turned their attention to designing, printing, and publishing fine press limited editions.

The design of each Yolla Bolly Press book is intimately tied to the nuances of the text, and is completed with great attention to craft. Limited edition books are printed letterpress from handset or machine-set metal type on high quality papers from small, primarily European, mills, and typically, bound by hand.

The Press commissions original artwork as well as fresh commentaries by contemporary authors to accompany classic texts, offering an "interpretation of the original text in a contemporary context." The Press was featured on CBS Sunday Morning in 1995, and in the May/June 2000 issue of Print magazine.

Examples of recent publications featured in the exhibition included The Man Who Died by D. H. Lawrence, with commentary by John Fowles, and woodblock prints by Leonard Baskin; The Bread of Days, featuring poems by Mexican poets, translated by Samuel Beckett, with commentaries by Octavio Paz and Eliot Weinberger, and etchings by Bay Area painter and printmaker Enrique Chagoya; Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen with woodblock illustrations by Karin Wikstrom; and Paris, France by Gertrude Stein and Two Kitchens in Provence by MFK Fisher, both with whimsical brush-and-ink drawings by Ward Schumaker.

In 1985, The Yolla Bolly Press established an apprentice program, offering live/work opportunities to people interested in learning the skills of the trade. More than 30 apprentices have trained at the Press, and the exhibition also featured projects completed by several apprentices during their time in Covelo.

LOCATION: Peterson Gallery, Green Library
Bing Wing, Second Floor
Stanford University, Stanford, CA