The Gehenna Press: The Work of Fifty Years, 1942–1992

The Gehenna Press: The Work of Fifty Years, 1942–1992
Broadside designed by Leonard Baskin
Printed by the Oxbow Press, 1992

Established in 1942 by Leonard Baskin, sculptor, printmaker, author, illustrator, typographer, the Gehenna Press was an unparalleled successor to a tradition that began with William Morris’s Kelmscott Press a century and a half previous. Baskin named his press for a line in the first Book of Dante’s Paradise Lost, “And black Gehenna call’d, the type of Hell.”

In 1992 a retrospective exhibition of Leonard Baskins’s publishing endeavors organized by Bridwell Library and the Gehenna Press, The Gehenna Press: The Work of Fifty Years, 1942–1992, opened in The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries on a tour that also took it to The Grolier Club in New York, The University of Delaware Library, the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University, The Hunt Memorial Library at Carnegie Mellon, Princeton University Library, The Library of Congress, and the Beineke Library at Yale. The exhibition curated by Lisa Unger Baskin featured sixty-five books with related ephemera. A rich catalog designed by Leonard Baskin, featuring an assessment of the press by Collin Franklin and a bibliography of the press’s output prepared by Leonard’s son Hosea, accompanied the exhibition.

This broadside reproduces a wood engraving cut by Leonard for his Auguries of Innocence by William Blake printed in 1959 at the Gehenna Press for The Print Club of Philadelphia. Below the original engraving is Blake’s line, “The Owl that calls upon the Night / Speaks the Unbeliever’s fright.”

Some two dozen books designed, illustrated, or printed by Leonard Baskin are available in Bridwell Library Special Collections.

Upper Basement Open Study
The Gehenna Press: The Work of Fifty Years, 1942–1992