Publications and presswork

Robinson Press

About the Press

What is the Robinson Press? Upon the founding of the Kelly Writers House as a writer-centered community in 1995, the writers and teachers who formed the House's hub assumed from the start that a printing press would be involved. It was only the physical limitations of our small Victorian cottage that initially prevented letterpress projects. But the idea has always been compelling: to teach young writers the uses of cutting-edge digital technology and at the same time reinforce the traditional materiality and physicality of hand-set printing.

When, in the spring of 2005, the University of Pennsylvania began discussing how it would celebrate the Ben Franklin tercentenary, the Van Pelt Library, the Department of Fine Arts as part of Penn Design, and the Kelly Writers House together dreamed up the project of what became The Common Press. Three printing presses, ink, and moveable type were purchased, and the project began in earnest.

The Kelly Writers House's imprint of the Common Press began as the 15th Room Press, involving Writers House affiliated writers and students and named to help us imagine an extra room beyond our 14-room cottage. Over the two years, and in that new space, our community learned to design projects, hand-set moveable type, ink and clean the presses, and hand-print broadsides. In 2010, thanks to the generosity of Penn alumna Nina Robinson Vitow, our imprint on the press was endowed and renamed the Herman and Jeanne Robinson Letterpress, or the "Robinson Press." With Nina's gift, made in honor of her parents, the Writers House was able to continue and to enhance its work at the Common Press. We currently have two broadside series — one which features the work of our visiting poets and one, called the "Hub Series," which features the work of our community members. The Robinson Press also sponsors one student chapbook project each year. In addition, we collaborate with our partners at the Common Press for special press workshops and embark upon larger limited-editions projects.

It is the intention of the KWH community to continue teaching our young writers the importance of setting type, getting your fingers inky and experiencing the feel of type impressed on paper — if only to remind these students of what is generally true behind the mission for all KWH projects: writing is a communal rather than a solitary act and the work of bringing writing to readers is a practical art that requires concrete skills. The colophon symbol of the Robinson Press — three mismatched chairs replicated from actual chairs in our Arts Cafe at the KWH — continually reminds us of our community project.

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Visit the Digital Archive

Click on any image above to visit the Robinson Press archive and browse our collection of high resolution digital images. Some are available for purchase (at a nonprofit price), so do not hesitate to contact us at