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Black Rock Press

Black Rock Press presses

Since it was founded by Kenneth J. Carpenter more than 30 years ago, the Black Rock Press at the University of Nevada, Reno has been dedicated to the practice and teaching of the arts and crafts associated with the creation of finely printed books. The press has a national reputation for its outstanding work and has become a living museum of traditional printing technology, housing a variety of cabinets filled with metal type and a number of historically significant printing presses. Its centerpiece, a gilded 1837 super-royal Columbian iron handpress, is one of the finest examples of a 19th century iron handpress to be found anywhere in the country.

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Through its instructional programs, the press introduces students to the graphic arts techniques and intellectual disciplines involved with the creation of books and related materials. They are encouraged to develop an appreciation of the book as a special kind of object that form can help reveal its content. In the History and Practice of Printing course, students learn typographic design and letterpress printing, as well as the historical aspects of printing and book production. Introduction to the Book Arts deals with printmaking techniques, bookbinding and paper decoration.

Beyond the classroom, the Black Rock Press works closely with University departments in art, history, English and journalism, providing orientations, in-depth tours and lectures on various aspects of the book arts. The press' goal is to make its resources available to the University community and beyond, as a center for interdisciplinary activities in the book arts.


Through the press' program of publishing books, broadsides and portfolios, it seeks to create literary and artistic works of high merit in well-designed and crafted limited and medium-size editions. Most of the work is done at the press itself, using both traditional and contemporary craft methods.

The press received wide acclaim for Carpenter's first Black Rock Press book, "Springing of the Blade," poems by William Everson. This was followed by what is considered to his masterpiece, "Straight from the Medicine." Carpenter's legacy has continued over the years and has most recently been exemplified by John Balkwill's outstanding design and production of "Finding the Space," poems by Gary Snyder.

Along with limited edition books, the press also has produces books of contemporary writing for its Rainshadow Editions series, by both emerging and established writers. It also produces letterpress printed broadsides that present work by noted American writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Hayden Carruth, Gretel Ehrlich and Paul Zarzyski. A stunning portfolio of photographs of the Black Rock Desert celebrated the press' 30th anniversary in 1994.

To properly fulfill its role as a book arts press in an institution of higher learning, the Black Rock Press seeks to promote an awareness of the significance of books and the printed work to the history and future of culture. In an era of rapid changes in communications technology, the Black Rock Press hopes to provide an historical perspective on the importance of the printed word to the unfolding process of human knowledge and understanding.

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