Typophiles, Inc. (New York, N.Y.)

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The Typophiles is a not-for-profit educational association that encourages the appreciation and production of fine typography and bookmaking.

The group developed in the early 1930s when men in the printing trades began to meet over lunch on a regular basis to talk shop. These luncheons grew into regular meetings with lectures. In the early years the group had no elected officers or dues; Paul A. Bennett, of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, acted as organizer. After his death in 1966, the group decided to incorporate. In addition to holding luncheons, the Typophiles contribute to the literature of their field by publishing chap books and monographs on subjects germane to the printing arts.

From the description of Typophiles, Inc. records, 1914-1996. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122465586

Typophiles, Inc. is a not-for-profit educational association that encourages the appreciation and production of fine typography and bookmaking through lectures, meetings, and the production of fine examples of the printing arts. The group began in the early 1930s, when several men in the printing trades decided to meet over lunch on a regular basis to talk shop, share stories and amuse one another with small examples of their work. They met monthly in midtown restaurants and many of the most notable men in the field could be found among them on a fairly regular basis.

In the early years, the men met informally with no elected officers or membership dues. Paul A. Bennett, of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, held the unofficial position of organizer. Women, though a growing force in the printing trades, were forbidden entrance to the group until 1970 with the exception of Beatrice Warde, whose reputation, established under the name Paul Beaujon, gave her credentials beyond dispute and won her a place at the table.

Besides their monthly luncheons the Typophiles developed a reputation for publishing original and interesting materials on subjects germane to the printing arts. This began in 1935 with the impromptu creation of a Festschrift, of sorts, to honor the 70th birthday of famed designer, Frederick W. Goudy. Any member who wished to could create and contribute an insert of a predetermined size to be bound and presented to Goudy as a gift at a party in his honor. A total of seven such projects were produced between 1935 and 1938.

In 1940 Bennett formally announced plans for a yearly subscription series of chap books, as they were to be called, reviving an old printer's term. Each chap book would be developed and carried out by small groups of the members, each contributing his time or materials to the project. The books would be similar in size (4.5x7) and format, printed by one firm, on any topic of interest related to the printing arts. A subscription fee would be charged for each year; the first year's charge was $1. The series now extends to nearly 100 chap books with a regular subscription list which includes many colleges, universities, and public and private libraries across the U.S. and abroad.

A second series of publications, called "The Monographs, New Series," began more recently (1984) under the direction of the then newly appointed president Abe Lerner. Monographs are briefer in length and vary in size, unlike the chap books, but display the same quality of printing and subject interest. Prior to 1984, monographs were planned, executed and distributed haphazardly. At this time they became a benefit of membership, handed out at the Christmas luncheon each year.

In 1966, Paul Bennett died suddenly of heart failure. After several months of discussion, the membership decided to formally incorporate as a non-profit, educational organization in the State of New York (July of 1967). The first group of officers included Martin Meyer of the Lindenmeyr Paper Corporation as president, Fridolf Johnson of American Artist and Henry Schniewind of Spring Mills as vice presidents, S. Wyman Rolph of the Bank of New York as treasurer, and Charles Antin of The Viking Press as secretary.

In December 1968, Eugene M. Ettenberg, advertising typographer and teacher, was elected president. He was succeeded a year later by Dr. Robert L. Leslie, the recently retired partner of The Composing Room Inc. who would prove to be a significant figure in Typophile history. Though 80 at the time of his election, "Doc," as he was fondly referred to (Leslie was a licensed physician as well as avid printer), was a man of energy and enthusiasm. Through his contacts with outstanding graphic artists and designers worldwide (due to his work in promoting and exhibiting graphic arts and artists) Doc Leslie would open the New York-focused group to the typographic world internationally.

One of Doc Leslie's favorite activities was to organize day trips, dubbed "junkets," to printing houses, galleries, or libraries in and around New York City and along the Atlantic coast. Leslie's "Junketeers" traveled as far as Puerto Rico, across Europe and to the Middle East.

While Doc Leslie nurtured chap book publications and arranged junkets, from the mid-1970s, vice-president Abe Lerner handled more of the routine responsibilities, such as creating the luncheon schedules, which featured short lectures on appropriate subjects by those in the trade, and overseeing publishing projects (see above). In June of 1985, Leslie formally handed the reins of presidency to Lerner became the first president emeritus of the group.

Michael Hentges and George Laws served as vice presidents for Abe Lerner. When he stepped down at the beginning of 1990, Morris A. Gelfand, former librarian and proprietor of the Stone House Press, succeeded him as president. Theo Rehak currently serves as president over the luncheon meetings, which have been held quarterly since the early 1990s.

Biographical Note

Dr. Robert L. Leslie

Born into poverty on New York's Lower East Side on December 18, 1885, Robert Lincoln Leslie was the oldest of seven children. To help support the family, he worked as a gas lamp lighter at age 10 and then became a messenger for a Russian printer. He eventually became apprenticed to one of America's outstanding 19th century printers, Theodore Low de Vinne, and developed a love of printing.

Leslie attended Townsend Harris High School and City College, completing his Bachelor of Science in 1904. Unable to afford medical school he continued to work in the graphic arts to save money. In 1906 Leslie joined International Typographic Union #6 and accepted a scholarship from the Jewish Charities organization (Kahilla) to attend Johns Hopkins University. Even then he worked as proofreader at the Baltimore Sun on the midnight to 8am shift to support himself and his mother. Leslie graduated in 1912.

After graduation he was hired by the United States Public Health Service. He redesigned all the government publications for the Surgeon General's Office and volunteered for service at Ellis Island, eventually becoming an expert on bubonic plague. In 1920 Leslie became the first industrial physician at McGraw-Hill's printing plant in Manhattan, where he met Sol Canter, a linotype technician and future partner.

While at the McGraw-Hill plant Leslie was among the victims of a chemical explosion, suffering the loss of his left eye. He decided to return to the graphic arts and in 1928 he and Sol Canter opened a linotype company named The Composing Room. Their goal was to produce quality printing for a fair price. In his free time, Leslie promoted the graphic arts in as many ways as possible. His first venture was publishing a short-lived but well received trade magazine entitled PM (in 1939 this name was sold and the title A-D replaced it). The publication was suspended in 1946 due to World War II and never resumed.

In 1936 Leslie, working with Hortense Mendel, turned a spare room of his business into a gallery and began to show the work of up and coming American artists and emigres from Europe who were fleeing the threat of Nazi Germany. This gallery was the first in New York City dedicated to exhibiting the graphic and typographic arts. The exhibits were suspended in 1950, but returned in 1958 in the renamed Gallery 303. In 1965 Gallery 303 became host to the long-running Heritage of the Graphic Arts lecture series, which was so successful over the years that the Bowker publishing house approached Leslie to publish a selection of the lectures. Heritage of the Graphic Arts; A Selection of Lectures Delivered at Gallery 303, New York City Under the Direction of Dr. Robert L. Leslie was issued in May, 1972.

Always interested in engaging and encouraging young people, in the 1950s Dr. Leslie was instrumental in the creation of the High School of Industrial Arts (later renamed the High School of Art and Design) and remained active on the advisory board for many years. Many of the students from this school displayed work in his gallery and credited Leslie's mentoring for their success in the graphic arts.

Though Leslie retired from the Composing Room in 1969, he did not retire from advancing the graphic arts. Later that year he became the third president of the Typophiles. Leslie encouraged colleagues to give talks during the monthly luncheons and to develop exhibits for Gallery 303 or lectures for Heritage of the Graphic Arts. He enjoyed arranging junkets, taking his Typophiles on many day and weekend trips to printing establishments, libraries, and other places of interest to graphic artists, going as far afield as Puerto Rico, Europe, and Israel.

In 1977 Leslie fulfilled a long-term dream with the assistance of Israeli-based graphic artist, Joyce Schmidt. For years Leslie had been trying to establish a paper making business in Israel through government channels, but to no avail. Schmidt was interested and in 1977 the Uncle Bob Paper Mill was established at the Visual Arts Center in Beer Sheva (in the Negev desert). A unique aspect of this business is the use of a native desert plant, mitan, for the paper pulp, making this a homegrown, exportable product business.

Leslie's generous spirit and creative, productive, lifestyle won him the affection and admiration of many who met him, and earned him a list of awards including: Man of the Year award by the Printing Teachers Guild of NY (1965); the Navigators' Service Industry Award (1967); the AIGA gold medal (1969); William H. and Harry J. Friedman Memorial Award and the National Coalition of Christians and Jews Brotherhood Award (1972); the Frederick W. Goudy Award from Rochester Institute of Technology (1973); the 1st Annual American Printing History Association Award, the New York Printers Wall of Fame and Type Directors Club Medal (1976); the Friend of Jerusalem Award (1985) and the Jerusalem Book Fair Award (1985).

Leslie was married in 1918 to Dr. Sarah K. Greenberg, the first woman in New York City to be licensed by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Known for her compassion and dedication, Dr. Sarah, called "the Angel of Williamsburg," delivered over 6,000 babies in her fifty-year career (1908-1958). She died on December 5, 1971 of heart failure. Though they did not have any children of their own, the Leslie's kept close ties with their large extended family through several generations. They helped to support many of their nieces and nephews and considered their great nieces and nephews as grandchildren. Robert Leslie died on April 1, 1987 at 101 years of age.

Sources: Grannis, Chandler B. The Typophiles, A Historical Note.

Malone, Erin. Doctor Leslie and the Composing Room 1934-1942. An Important Time In The Development of American Graphic Design, 1994 MFA thesis, Rochester Institute of Technology. URL: http://www.drleslie.com/index.shtml

The Typophiles web page, Date Accessed: December 2002 http://www.typophiles.com/index.html

Bruce Rogers Collection. Special Collections, Purdue University Library. Date accessed: 4/16/03. URL: http://www.lib.purdue.edu/

From the guide to the Typophiles, Inc. records, 1908-2004, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Typophiles, Inc. records, 1908-2004 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Typophiles, Inc. (New York, N.Y.). Typophiles, Inc. records, 1914-1996. New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Institute of Graphic Arts. corporateBody
associatedWith American Printing History Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Art Directors Club (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Avrin, Leila. person
associatedWith Baudin, Fernand person
associatedWith Baudin, Fernand. person
associatedWith Bennett, Paul A., 1897-1966. person
associatedWith Bullen, Henry Lewis, 1857-1938. person
associatedWith Chappell, Warren, 1904-1991. person
associatedWith DaBoll, Raymond F. person
associatedWith Dekoven, Daniel person
associatedWith Dekoven, Daniel. person
associatedWith Frederick W. Goudy Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Friedlaender, Henri, 1904-1996. person
associatedWith Gid, Raymond. person
associatedWith Greenberg, Sarah K. 1891. person
associatedWith Gross, Elly person
associatedWith Gross, Elly. person
associatedWith High School of Art and Design (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Jacno, Marcel. person
associatedWith Jacobi, Lotte, 1896-1990. person
associatedWith Jerusalem International Book Fair. corporateBody
associatedWith Junketeers. corporateBody
associatedWith Lealtad, Catharine Deaver person
associatedWith Lealtad, Catharine Deaver. person
associatedWith Leslie, Robert L., 1885- person
associatedWith Mardersteig, Giovanni, 1892-1977. person
associatedWith Schmidt, Joyce, 1942-1991. person
associatedWith Typophiles (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith United Nations Relief and Rehabiliation Administration (UNRRA) corporateBody
associatedWith Warde, Beatrice, 1900-1969. person
associatedWith Wynkyn de Worde Society. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Calligraphies, Korean
Graphic arts
Graphic arts

Corporate Body

Active 1914

Active 1996





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