Joseph Blumenthal (1897-1990)


Where: Town Street

When: 1949-1996


Blumenthal, known for his work as a printer and book historian, was born in New York City in 1897. He studied at Cornell, but left to join the Navy in 1917. After the war, instead of returning to Cornell, Blumenthal worked in sales. In 1924 Blumenthal took a position with the publishing house B. W. Huebsch, and began educating himself about fine press books and publishing.


By 1926 Blumenthal had undertaken apprenticeships in fine printing and in 1931, while he still worked as a salesman for Marchbanks Press, he opened the Spiral Press. Spiral Press did fine printing for a variety of clients, including Henry Holt & Co., Random House, Robert Frost, The Limited Editions Club, The Museum of Modern Art, President Franklin Roosevelt, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Spiral Press also produced a variety of other printed products, such as bookplates and invitations. During the Depression, Blumenthal closed the Spiral Press for about five years, during which time he experimented with hand presses and created his own typeface, originally named Spiral for his press, but later changed to Emerson. Blumenthal’s press closed again during World War II, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the Army Map Service.


Blumenthal’s friend Russell Potter first brought him to Cornwall, where he purchased land from Hatcher Hughes and built a home on Town Street. Blumenthal closed the Spiral Press in 1971 and turned his attention to writing. Blumenthal’s works, The Art of the Printed Book and The Printed Book in America, are still highly regarded today. Blumenthal died in his Cornwall home in 1996.



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Joseph Blumenthal (1897-1990)