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Joseph Blumenthal papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: CSC-0039

Scope and Contents

The Joseph Blumenthal Papers spans the period from 1922 through 1991 and primarily contains correspondence, personal papers, photographs, and research and writing files that document the life and work of an American printer, printing historian, and type designer. There are no business or financial records present for the Spiral Press. The papers are organized into three series: Correspondence; Personal Papers; and Writings and Exhibitions.

Series I, Correspondence (1805-22) contains incoming letters from friends and colleagues writing on both personal and professional topics, including letters regarding his Emerson typeface. The second of the two folders holds letters that the Blumenthals received in 1990, the last year of their lives. Series III contains additional correspondence regarding the publications and exhibitions, including fan mail. Among the writers was the poet Harold Corbin, who enclosed six of his poems.

Series II, Personal Papers (1921-1990) holds the Blumenthals’ passports and visas, documents related to their two marriages, photographs of the couple alone and together, and other personal effects, including two small volumes created as personal tributes, and letters outlining their end-of-life planning. The earliest photograph is of Joseph Blumenthal dating from 1922, and the latest are color snapshots of the couple taken in April 1990. Included are images taken of the Blumenthals at their homes in Westchester County, New York, and in West Cornwall, Connecticut, as well as during their travels in Germany in the 1930s. Also present are formal portraits of Joseph Blumenthal taken by Arnold Newman and Robert Nacht, and individual portraits of the couple made about 1930 by Hermine Turner, the daughter and studio successor of noted portraitist Gertrude Käsebier.

Series III, Writings and Exhibitions (1953-1990) contains a variety of manuscripts, typescripts, clipped reviews, correspondence, and research files related to Joseph Blumenthal’s career as a printer and printing historian. Projects documented here range from a lecture delivered at the Frick Museum to publications and exhibitions with printed catalogues. Also here are a set of profiles Blumenthal wrote on the libraries in his region, the northwest corner of Connecticut, for his local newspaper. The most complete set of files exists for his final project, a biography of the book designer Bruce Rogers, and contains his research files including photocopies of letters written by Rogers to Henry Bullen, Crosby Gaige, Porter Garnett, George Macy, Carl Rollins, among others, as well as Blumenthal’s correspondence with W. Thomas Taylor regarding production and distribution of the volume.


  • Creation: 1921-1991


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Blumenthal was born in New York, on October 4, 1897, the son of Samuel and Rose Hart Blumenthal. After attending Cornell University, he founded his Spiral Press in New York in 1926. Blumenthal specialized in producing limited editions of fine printing for publishers including museums and libraries, as well as for clients ranging from the poet Robert Frost to the commercial publisher Random House. He closed the press in 1971 and concentrated on writing and preparing exhibitions about the history of books and printing, working with the Pierpont Morgan Library, Dartmouth College Library, and other institutions. The Morgan Library celebrated Blumenthal in its exhibition The Spiral Press through Four Decades (1966), and for the library he organized Art of the Printed Book, 1455-1955: Masterpieces of Typography through Five Centuries in 1973. Blumenthal wrote a memoir, Typographic Years: a Printer's Journey through a Half-century, 1925-1975, which was published in 1982. His final two books were Robert Frost and his Printers (1985) and Bruce Rogers: a Life in Letters, 1870-1957 (1989), both published by W. Thomas Taylor.

Joseph Blumenthal and Ann White Blackshear were married in New York City on April 25, 1929. Ann Blumenthal had been a copywriter prior to their marriage and was active in charitable work, particularly those related to Quaker causes. Over the years, the Blumenthals had homes in the city, in Valhalla, New York, and in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Divorced in 1951, the couple remarried again in Peekskill, New York, on April 25, 1952, and died together in their home in West Cornwall on July 11, 1990.


2.67 Linear Feet

8 Box(es)





The Joseph Blumenthal Papers contain personal and professional correspondence, research files, photographs, and personal papers documenting the life and career of the American printer, printing historian, and type designer Joseph Blumenthal, and his wife Ann White Blumenthal. While the material does cover some aspects of Blumenthal’s professional activities, there are no business or financial records present for the Spiral Press.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Joseph Blumenthal Papers were the gift of the estate of Joseph and Ann Blumenthal, 1991.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Sandra Markham.

Joseph Blumenthal papers
Cary Graphic Arts Collection
Rachel Sheehan
January 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection Repository

Rochester NY 14623 US
(585) 475-2408