Back in October, Peter wrote about our Harbor Press ephemera collection.  Today, I’m spotlighting another collection of fine books, these designed by master printer Ronald Gordon, Amherst class of 1965.

While a student at Amherst College, Ronald Gordon studied the craft of printing and bookmaking with artist and print-maker Leonard Baskin and printer Harold McGrath.  Gordon interned at Baskin’s Gehenna Press in Northampton, Mass and as part of his senior honors thesis, Gordon designed and printed Jubilate Agno: Part One under The Apiary Press, Smith College’s student publication imprint.


Gordon designed the first two issues of Amherst student publication Paideia and Sam Ellenport ’65 served as Assistant Editor of the publication.  Ellenport went on to become a master bookbinder and founder of Harcourt Bindery.

Shortly after graduating from Amherst College, Gordon established Oliphant Press as a private press in New York City.  Oliphant’s first imprint in 1966 was Encounter by fellow Amherst alum Michael Blick (’65).

Maurice Sendak illustration from  Fortunia ; a tale by Mme. D’Aulnoy
Maurice Sendak illustration from Fortunia; a tale by Mme. D’Aulnoy

Initially publishing mostly limited run chapbooks of poetry, the press later expanded to become a commercial printer. The Oliphant Press printed first editions of works by such writers as Samuel Beckett, Ray Bradbury and John Updike, with illustrations by artists such as Leonard Baskin, Edward Gorey, and Maurice Sendak.  (Personal note: Those last three are my dream team of artists.)

Some highlights from our collection of Gordon’s work:

New Year Blues / Allen Ginsberg. 1972

Beginning in 1974, Gordon co-published several books with Frank Hallman, including Fitz-James O’Brien’s What Was It? with illustrations by Leonard Baskin, and Fortunia by Mme. D’Aulnoy with illustrations by Maurice Sendak.

1979. Ray Bradbury: Beyond 1984
Beyond 1984 / Ray Bradbury. 1979

Ronald Gordon continues to provide high-quality design and print work outside of the Oliphant imprint.  One such undertaking was Gordon’s work designing half of the titles of fine press limited edition books produced by William Targ under the famous Targ Editions imprint.  His work with the Targ Editions includes Three illuminations in the life of an American author by John Updike and Ray Bradbury’s Beyond 1984.

A nearly comprehensive collection of the Oliphant Press’s publications is held in the Amherst College Library and the Archives & Special Collections holds the Ronald Gordon (AC 1965) Oliphant Press Materials Collection.

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