Who was Dard Hunter & why does he have so many Friends?

[Alyson Kuhn] I recently attended the Western regional conference of the Friends of Dard Hunter. Hunter (1883–1966) built himself a small paper mill in 1913, with the goal of learning to manufacture paper using 17th-century techniques. He powered his enterprise solely with a water wheel.  In due course, Hunter began to travel the globe, collecting papermaking tools, books and artifacts. He ultimately wrote 20 books, eight of which were hand printed. Some are so gorgeous and elaborate that I must describe them as the first and finest paper promotions.

Dard Hunter with part of his collection, which was housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1939 to 1954.

The Friends of Dard Hunter (FDH) was founded in 1981, 15 years after Hunter’s death, with the original aim of preserving his collection. In 1989, the Dard Hunter Collection found a permanent home at the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum, within the Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Friends’ goal has since evolved in a wonderful way, and the organization is now dedicated to connecting and educating hand papermakers all over the world.

Searching Dard Hunter online brings up hints of his diverse design talents. You find “Dard Hunter font,” “tile,” “frames,” “rose” and “green,” … and “house numbers” and “stencils,” in addition to “papermaking” and “paper museum.” Hunter’s first creative career — papermaking was his second — was inspired by a visit to California.

In 1903 Hunter had stayed at the New Glenwood Hotel (now the Mission Inn) in Riverside, Calif. This introduction to the Mission Style influenced him enormously, and the next year he began working at the Roycrofters artists colony in East Aurora, N.Y.

Left: Hunter’s 1915 tulip window design for the Roycroft Inn, which opened later that year. Hunter also made the windows himself. Right: Hunter’s first use of the square rose motif, 1908, adapted from Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Hunter became famous for his drawings and lettering in the Arts and Crafts style.

Now for a look at a few of Hunter’s books. Those I’ve seen (alas, only online) include detailed technical descriptions; precise dimensions, spelled out in every instance (e.g., “sixteen inches”); and Latin names for all plants (e.g., Levant cotton is identified as Gossypium herbaceum).

Two editions of A Papermaking Pilgrimage to Japan, Korea and China.

The 1936 edition of A Papermaking Pilgrimage to Japan, Korea and China, published by Elmer Adler’s Pynson Printers, was a winner in the 1937 AIGA 50 Books of the Year competition. It resides in the AIGA design archives, complete with 50 paper specimens! In 2006 PBA Galleries sold a copy at live auction.

1936: Papermaking in Southern Siam

Hunter commissioned paper specimens for Papermaking in Southern Siam.

1937: The title page of Chinese Ceremonial Paper, published by Hunter’s Mountain House Press

A multifold tip-in

Bound-in paper samples

Dard Hunter III shows off a paper suit at an FDH program.

Next year, the Friends will hold a joint conference with the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. The conference is open to members only, and if you join the FDH now (or soon!), your membership will be valid for all of 2012.

Top image: At left and center, Dard Hunter and his wife Edith, drawn by fellow Roycrofter Jules Gaspard. On the right, Hunter’s self-portrait watermark. All images and some captions courtesy of the Friends of Dard Hunter.

In subsequent posts, Alyson Kuhn will report on the recent Western regional conference, starting with the making of her first-ever book — a nested accordion structure created by book artists Donna and Peter Thomas, teachers of the workshop.

Read more about Dard Hunter here.

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