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Carl Hertzog: Father of Texas Fine Press Printing

May 27, 2013

Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog (1970) [Encino Z232 .H54 I57 1970] UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog (1970) [Encino Z232 .H54 I57 1970] UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

Fine press is a flexible concept, but generally refers to printing and book production done with particular attention to typographical aesthetics. As printer William R. Holman explains, “the appeal to our intuitive feeling for beauty can be subtle. In a book design it usually discloses itself by a harmony with the author’s purpose, not through cleverness or eccentricity”[1]. This encompasses choices in paper, typeface, letter spacing and margins, binding, and decoration.

Carl Hertzog is often credited with first bringing fine bookmaking to Texas, both through his own work, and later as the head of Texas Western Press, which he founded at the College of Mines and Metallurgy (later Texas Western College and ultimately The University of Texas at El Paso).

Hertzog was born in Lyons, France in 1902 to American parents. After a brief sojourn in New Mexico, in an unsuccessful attempt to cure his father’s tuberculosis, the family returned to Ohio. After his mother’s remarriage to an English teacher, Hertzog largely grew up in Pittsburgh. He received a small printing press from his stepfather when he was ten years old, and by the time Hertzog graduated from high school, he qualified as a journeyman typesetter.

Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog (1972). [Z232 H54 I68 1972] UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog (1972). [Z232 H54 I68 1972] UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

In 1923, Hertzog accepted a position with the McMath Company of El Paso, Texas, where he advanced rapidly before leaving in 1926 to become advertising manager for the El Paso Sash and Door Company. Hertzog returned to printing when he opened his own shop in 1934, and rekindled his interest in fine printing after meeting Tom Lea in 1937. In 1948, Hertzog accepted a position as part-time English instructor at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy and in 1952, Texas Western Press was launched with the publication of The Spanish Heritage of the Southwest by Francis Fugate. [2]

In a letter to Houston Harte, Hertzog wrote “I am still working on Michelangelo’s principle ‘Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle.’ This is economically unsound in this age of fast, thoughtless, sloppy work, but is necessary if civilization is to go on.” In the same letter, Hertzog offered an example of how these “trifles” of design influence the reader:

Often a page will end with a period—a full line which is not the end of the paragraph. The reader could think this is the end of the thought. But there is more. To encourage the reader to turn the page, I will force that last line over to the next page, leaving the end of the page with an incomplete sentence rather than a period. Perhaps this confuses you, but what I am trying to say is that a typographer can do more than just make the type fit and look good, if he has the time, energy, and inclination to consider the text and its thought as well as the type itself. [3]

In 1970, the Institute of Texan Cultures hosted an exhibition of Hertzog’s work. Several of the titles featured in this 1970 exhibition are held in UTSA Special Collections and five are described and illustrated below. Descriptions are based on information provided in Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog (1970) and Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog (1972).

Peleliu Landing (1945) by Tom Lea narrates Lea’s experience as a WWII soldier in the Pacific. This book is one example of the long-running collaboration between Hertzog and Tom Lea. It is highlighted by Holman as showing exemplary technical achievement in terms of letter spacing, leading between lines, evenness of inking, and the like. The text was printed letterpress in Centaur type, with the title and initial letters in photographic enlargements of the same. Illustrations based on Lea’s drawings were printed in a second press run by photo-offset.

The Unpublished Letters of Adolphe F. Bandelier (1942) relates Swiss anthropologist Bandelier’s experiences in Apache Country during the late 19th century. The book is described by Holman thus: “Optically letter-spaced small capitals are used as headings for the letters, and carefully positioned sienna red initial letters lend color to each page.”

This small book was apparently one of Hertzog’s most troublesome productions – first, the type had to be re-set when it was discovered that commas from the wrong font had been used, and then the first press run had to be re-done due to uneven inking. The book contains a facsimile letter aged with a mix of tobacco juice and water.

Calendar of Twelve Travelers through the Pass of the North (1946) by Tom Lea. Eight years in the making, this book is perhaps one of Hertzog’s most impressive efforts in “large folio format, natural linen binding, hand-set type, full-page two-color illustrations, colored initial letters and…deckle edging on the Georgian Laid text paper.” Calendar of Twelve Travelers includes portraits and brief accounts of twelve travelers to the Pass of the North, the area where El Paso now stands.

The Journey of Fray Marcos de Niza (1949), translated and edited by Cleve Hallenbeck offers an example of how Hertzog considered subject matter when designing his books. The Journey of Fray Marcos de Niza tells the story of an exploration in search of legendary cities to the north of Mexico in the 16th century. After initially considering the 18th c. typeface-style Baskerville, but ultimately decided that Centaur Roman and Arrighi Italic, “more nearly represent[ed] the characteristics of the period and place.” The text was printed on paper with a laid finish to mimic the feel of 16th c. handmade paper and bound in brown cloth similar to that of Franciscan habits.

The King Ranch by Tom Lea (1957) is another collaboration between Hertzog and Lea. In this case, they worked synchronously to design the chapter titles. Hertzog described their process in a 1958 letter to Frank Dobie, “I set  type and he drew around it, then we went into a huddle and I moved the letters while he twisted the drawing. These chapter beginnings are terrific – not because Tom is great, nor because I am good, but because we could work two separate crafts together, each one helping the other.” In addition to the chapter headings, cattle brands printed from brass rule bent into shape were used to decorate the margins of text printed in Hadriano Open.


Works Cited

[1] Holman, William R. “A Hertzog Dozen.” In Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog (San Antonio: Institute of Texas Cultures, University of Texas, 1970): 1.

[2] Printer at the Pass: The Work of Carl Hertzog. (San Antonio: Institute of Texas Cultures, University of Texas, 1972): vi-vii.

[3] sic.: viii-ix.

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