1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

‘The Art of Kentucky Literature: 45 Years of Larkspur Press’ opens Tuesday at Transylvania

Making letterpress

In a special collaborative exhibition, Transylvania University’s Morlan Gallery and J. Douglas Gay Jr./Frances Carrick Thomas Library present “The Art of Kentucky Literature: 45 Years of Larkspur Press,” a celebration of Larkspur’s 45th anniversary. The show runs Tuesday through Nov. 1.

Located on the main floor of the library, “The Art of Kentucky” explores the significant influence Gray Zeitz’s Larkspur Press has had on printing and literature in Kentucky and beyond. The show is part of the university’s New Frontiers series and is free and open to the public.

“The Transylvania library is excited to host this show, which is a natural pairing,” said Susan Brown, director of the library. “We support text-based curiosity, learning and communication in all its forms. This display showcases the traditional way of slow creation, slow publishing, handwork and tactile interaction with literature and poetry. Every letter and comma is individually set by Gray Zeitz so they can be inked by hand and pressed to fine paper by hand — so that ink can be absorbed into the paper and ideas can be absorbed by readers.”

About the show from curator Gabrielle Fox Butler

Traditional letterpress creations are physically beautiful and created slowly. They are tactile things of substance meant to be handled by the body in addition to being absorbed by the mind.

Zeitz upholds a traditional letterpress standard of excellence while publishing living regional authors at an affordable price. Each book or broadside is a collaboration of multiple artists and can be a multiyear project.

Writers must write and artists must create woodcuts — and as the letterpress artist, Zeitz brings them all together to create a whole. Each side of every page must go through the press after each letter and punctuation mark has been set by hand in an arrangement of metal type that will strike a physical impression on the paper.

Zeitz was inspired to found Larkspur Press in 1974 after working at King Library Press under printer and artist Carolyn Reading Hammer, the wife of Victor Hammer, who was a world-renowned printer and artist-in-residence at Transylvania. Zeitz and Larkspur Press have been important to the advancement of Kentucky literature. He has promoted talented Kentucky writers by publishing them — thus creating a circle of colleagues and friends bound by Larkspur Press.

The Transylvania library is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.


  • LexArts HOP | Friday, Sept. 20, 5-8 p.m., library
  • Craft and Art: The Community of Larkspur Press, a panel discussion with Larkspur Press founder Gray Zeitz; Jim Birchfield, curator of rare books emeritus, University of Kentucky; and Gabrielle Butler, exhibition curator and book artist | Wednesday, Oct. 2, 6 p.m., library
  • Delcamp Visiting Writers’ Series: Readings from authors who have been published by Larkspur Press, featuring Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall | Wednesday, Oct. 9, 7-8 p.m., Carrick Theater

Check out this episode of CBS Sunday Morning featuring Larkspur Press.