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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

In the Day's Work: D. B. Updike & the Merrymount Press: Exhibit

Fleet Library at RISD, 2nd Floor January 24 - March 20, 2020


In the Day's Work:  D.B. Updike & the Merrymount Press

Daniel Berkeley Updike (born in Providence, February 24, 1860 - died Boston, December 29, 1941).

Updike began the Merrymount Press in Boston in 1893.  Some of his initial works were produced under the influence of William Morris, although his later development was in a much different direction.  Instead of producing books with a purely aesthetic appeal, as Morris, Updike soon became more concerned with the readability and the suitability of design and materials for the text's useful purpose.

Merrymount produced a large variety of printed works during its 56 year run.  They printed a great number of ecclesiastical works, most notably the 1930 masterpiece editions of the Book of Common Prayer.  The press produced a large number trade publications for some of the largest American publishers of the time including Charles Scribner's Sons and Double day, Page Co. Privately - printed books and limited edition book-clubs printings were another stream of revenue as well as publications for book collector clubs such as The Grolier Club in New York City.  The other great body of printed works was for educational institutions and museums.  The Carnegie Foundation, Harvard University, Brown University, The John Carter Brown Library, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art were just some of the steady clients for the Press.

Among the artists who contributed design work for the Press, three in particular, T. M. Cleland, W. A. Dwiggins, and Rudolph Ruzicka, were especially skillful in combing their talents with those of the printer.  Their connections to the Press began early:  Cleland's in 1903, Dwiggins' in 1908, and Ruzicka's in 1912.

After Updike's death, his long-time partner, John Bianchi, kept Merrymount in business until his retirement in 1949.  All together the Press produced 1,037 major works, some 1,000 more considered minor works such as catalogs and reports and over 20,000 ephemeral prints such as bookplates, greeting cards, concert programs, announcements, diplomas and advertisements.



Bob Garzillo

This page was created by Claudia Covert

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