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Archive of the Gehenna Press


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The Gehenna Press archive mainly comprises the proofs and printing material of the Press's publications from 1981-2005, including some etching plates and woodblocks, and an Albion printing press made in 1877. The archive also includes Gehenna Press administrative papers and correspondence; papers and correspondence relating to exhibitions of the Press's books; a small sequence of the personal correspondence and papers of Leonard and and his wife Lisa Baskin; and photographs.

Glossary of terms used in the catalogue:

  1. Annotated: As 'corrected' does not necessarily imply annotation, 'annotated' is the term used to indicate that a proofreader has marked the page with textual corrections or suggestions.
  2. Colophon: (OED) The inscription or device, sometimes pictorial or emblematic, formerly placed at the end of a book or manuscript, and containing the title, the scribe's or printer's name, date and place of printing.
  3. Cut-out: Proofs with lines or individual words from the text cut out, often to indicate the correct shaping of the text block for the printer, or because particular words were needed for a paste-up.
  4. Dummy: A prototype version of a book indicating the final layout/order of pages, often including paste-up text and/or images.
  5. Layout proof: A proof with measurements and/or guidelines included, to indicate to the printer where on the page the text or image should be placed.
  6. Make-ready: Proofs taken in order to calibrate the printing press.
  7. Making copy: Leonard Baskin's collection of texts and art from the creation of a book, often specially boxed.
  8. Mock-up: A very rough design for the book, or for particular pages, often just including placeholder text indicating the order of texts and images.
  9. Overprint: A proof comprising multiple imprints of an image, or text.
  10. Page proof: A close-to-final version of the work, mainly with text and art combined on the page, and in colour (where used).
  11. Paste-up: Text or art pasted onto another leaf, often used to indicate the correct placement or order of the text/art in the final version.


  • Creation: Mainly 1973-2005


273 shelfmarks (30.03 Linear metres)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Italian
  • French

Conditions Governing Access

Some administrative and personal papers and correspondence are subject to closure periods.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright remains invested with the creators and their heirs. Permission must be sought from the copyright owners for any non-academic or commercial use of copies of the archive.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Gehenna Press c. 1, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Gehenna Press a. 1-57, b. 1-90, c. 1-65, d. 1-48, e. 1-9, digital 1; MSS. Photogr. c. 494-5, e. 57

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6418


The archive of the Gehenna Press, an American private press founded by the artist Leonard Baskin (1922-2000), which published from 1942-2005.

Biographical / Historical

Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) founded the Gehenna Press in 1942 while a student at Yale. The first Gehenna Press book was On a Pyre of Withered Roses (1942), and the press then went into hiatus, until 1951's A Little Book of Natural History. Until 1953, books were printed in Worcester, Massachusetts and then, from 1956, the Press established an office in Northampton, Massachusetts at the Metcalf Printing Press. Between 1958 and 1976, Baskin employed Harold McGrath (d. 2000) as pressman, with the responsiblity for typesetting and printing. From 1957, Sidney Kaplan, a friend of Baskin's, became, as Baskin put it in the 1992 Fifty Years exhibition catalogue of the Press's works, 'the editor of the press' (p. 37). Additional 'syndics', or editorial supporters of the press, are celebrated in the 1999 Gehenna publication Syndics of the Gehenna Press.

In 1974, the Baskin family moved to Lurley Manor in Devon in England, expecting that the move would be permanent, and that the Press was effectively defunct. After several years of publishing dormancy, however, the Press was re-established at Lurley, a process which began with the purchase of presses in 1978. Bruce Chandler came from the US to assist in setting up the pressroom, and in printing the first books produced at Lurley. D. Robert Wakefield, a sculptor, who had, from 1974, assisted Leonard Baskin in his sculpture studio became the Gehenna Press's pressman and etching printer.

In Devon, the Baskins lived only twenty miles away from Baskin's friend and collaborator, the poet Ted Hughes, whose poetry featured in the first Gehenna Press book published from Lurley, Primer of Birds (1981) and in the subsequent books Mokomaki (1985), Capriccio (1990), Howls & Whispers (1998) and the posthumously printed Oresteia (2001). Other poet collaborators include James Baldwin, Anthony Hecht and Ruth Fainlight.

When, in 1984, the Baskins returned to the US to live in Leeds in Massachusetts they continuted to employ D.R. Wakefield to print etchings for the books and commissioned Ken Shure as a sales agent for its publications. During this time, from 1983's Unknown Dutch Artists until Fancies, Bizarries & Ornamented Grotesques in 1989, the Press published under the imprint Eremite Press (with the exception of 1988's Icones Librorum Artifices) to avoid the risk of a title/ownership dispute, dating from the early 1980s when the Press sold publishing rights to a Belgian, Jacques de la Cave.

The last book printed by Leonard Baskin himself was Blake and the Youthful Ancients (1956). Amongst other subsequent contributers, the letterpress printing was accomplished by Arthur (Art) Larson at Horton Tank Graphics, Daniel Kelleher at Wild Carrot Letterpress, Carol Blinn at Warwick Press and the Baskins' son Hosea Baskin, who printed Jewish Artists (1993) in Leeds. Arthur Larson also printed woodcuts, and Michael Kuch, etchings. The Oxbow Press (Roberta Bannister and Gail Alt), a photo-lithographic/offset printer, printed many of Gehenna's prospectuses and a few books as well, including The Gehenna Press: The Work of Fifty Years exhibition catalogue. Leonard Baskin continued to define the sensibility and typography and frequently the binding design of the books, as well as commissioning writers and illustrating the majority of the Press's works.


The administrative and personal papers and printed ephemera are in chronological order. The exhibitions papers are arranged by exhibition/venue. The bookfiles are in order of publication, and internally arranged by type (where present: boxed making copy, manuscripts, proofs, then printing material) and then as far as possible in chronological order within those sequences, or in their original order.

Custodial History

The papers were acquired by the Library in 2009 from Lisa Unger Baskin, Leonard Baskin's widow.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Partly gifted (via Lisa Unger Baskin) by Americans For Oxford, inc, October 2009 and partly purchased from the Baskin Family Trust, October 2009

Related Materials

See also a Leonard Baskin gouache painting of William Blake, MS. Eng. a. 2035, and a colour photographic portrait of Leonard Baskin with his wife Lisa Unger Baskin by Noel Chanan, MS. Photogr. a. 38, as well as Gehenna Press correspondence and ephemera from the Philip Isaacson collection at MSS. 12719/1-2.

Separated Materials

The archive includes an 1877 Albion printing press which is now held by the Bodleian Library's Bibliography Room.

A printed paper bag from an Amhurst, Massachusetts-based photocopying business, 'Collective Copies' (originally containing some photocopies in the archive) has been transferred to the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera.


  • Baskin, Hosea & Baskin, Leonard, The Gehenna Press, The Work of Fifty Years 1942-1992, 1992 [Exhibition catalogue].
Catalogue of the Gehenna Press, mainly 1973-2005
Finding aid prepared by Charlotte McKillop-Mash
2011, EAD version 2018
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom