Rare Book School Course: History of Women Printers

Two weeks ago I took my annual California Rare Book School course up at UC Berkeley. I’m slowly working towards a Professional Certificate in Rare Books and Manuscripts. This year’s course was entitled “Printing at the Margins: The History of Women Printers” and taught by Kathleen Walkup, a Master Printer and Director of the Mills College Book Art Program.

Our small class of six students spent the week enjoying the rare book treasurers at Mills College Special Collections and at the Bancroft Rare Book Room at UC Berkeley. It was a pleasure to spend time among rare book librarians, book sellers, and academics who care about the history of books. The discussions were thought-provoking and the assembled experience in the field allowed me to ask many questions and make connections that will continue beyond the classroom.

I’m still processing the many notes that I took during this class which will be great material for future research projects and posts. Studying what has happened to the history of women in printing was discouraging in many ways. However, contrary to the exclusionary histories of the printing profession, we looked at many examples of the work of women printers from the Nuns at Ripoli in the late 1400s to modern women book artists on the east and west coasts in the 70s. I left feeling inspired and motivated to do further research and to look for ways to support women in the book field.

Until I have time to share photos of the books we examined and review my notes, here is a great video of the professor, Kathleen Walkup, in an interview with PBS showing some of the same books we examined during the course.

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