We took a trip to Fairlook Antiques on our lunch break this week. While perusing their large catalog section, we found this absolute gem.
The Kelsey Press Company was established in 1872 in Meriden, Connecticut. Kelsey produced small printing presses and supplies for hobby printers. This particular catalog is from the early 1930′s, and displays presses, supplies, and typefaces for sale from Kelsey.
The catalog is in impeccable shape – it’s complete and beautiful. Some of the pages have offset onto others, leaving this overprinted effect. It makes certain pages difficult to read, but it’s visually attractive. This gentleman is one of the best parts – how suave his is with his pipe and his press!
My first letterpress encounter was finding one of Kelsey’s Excelsior models (just like this one) in an antique store in Florida. I purchased it on the spot (how could I not!), and it spent 3 years in my college dorm room, and then traveled cross country with us when we moved to Seattle. It currently has a place of honor in our studio. While I’ve considered selling it, I can never bring myself to do it. We call her Kelsey, and she’s a permanent member of the family.
Kelsey’s small presses originally cost from twenty to fifty dollars. I purchased our 5×8 Excelsior for $100 in 2006. They have become more and more popular with collectors and beginning printers (they’re small, manageable, and only weigh about 100 pounds – unlike their larger counterparts that weigh 1200+ lbs.), and are commonly listed on etsy, craigslist, and ebay for $1,000 or more.
This catalog was a truly wonderful find. It will be well cared for and cherished. Cast iron lasts forever, and the Kelsey presses have stood the test of time. However, ephemeral pieces like this are hard to find. Paper items were the first to go when letterpress equipment was retired, and the history of it just wasn’t appreciated.
I will soon be making high resolution scans of the catalog to share with the letterpress community. Others have done this in the past, and we want to be generous as well. We’ll do a follow-up when it’s available.