Skip to main content

The Press of A. Colish archives

Identifier: MSS 0358

Scope and Content Note

The Press of A. Colish Archive consists of five linear feet of material, as well as five oversize boxes, and spans the dates 1913 to 1990. The bulk of the material dates from the 1930s through the 1950s. The archive includes correspondence, galley and page proofs, drafts, notes, photographs, negatives, illustrations, advertisements, clippings, broadsides, books, chapbooks, printing journals, typography specimens, financial documents, and ephemera.

The collection is divided into six series: I. History and Information, II. Print Jobs from the Press of A. Colish, III. Collaborations, IV. Printing and Publishing Materials, V. Personal Documents, and IV. Photographs.

Series I provides an overview of the general history and operations of the press and its founder, Abraham Colish. It includes articles on Colish and his press from magazines and newspapers, certificates and awards presented to Abraham Colish and his son Louis, and sixteen letters concerning general business matters. This series also contains advertisements for the press, as well as several stages of their drafts.

Series II contains items related to works printed by the Press of A. Colish, and includes examples from the wide range of publications produced by the press, including limited editions, art books, medical history studies, and personal mementos. The materials are from various stages of the books’ production, and include signatures, page and illustration proofs, design drafts, publicity material, and correspondence. In this series is material from the press’s work with the Limited Editions Club, including several pieces from the thirty-seven volume edition of Shakespeare’s plays and subsequent two-volume edition of his poetry. Also included is a 1956 tribute to George Macy, who was the founder of the Club. Although this item was not printed by Colish, it provides information into the club’s activities and philosophy. There are also items related to the Grolier Club, including a copy of The Grolier Club 1884–1950: An Informal History (1950), which Colish printed, and a scrapbook containing letters of appreciation from several club members to Colish, thanking him for this effort. The collection also contains proofs and final copies of medical history books which Colish printed for publisher Henry Schuman. Also included in this series are examples of the art books and personal mementos that the Press printed.

Series III consists of material related to three artists with whom Abraham Colish worked repeatedly. Colish’s alliances with American artists T.M. Cleland and Rockwell Kent are documented through their letters, and the collection also contains several examples of their work, including posters, cards, advertisements, and bookplates. But the majority of this series involves Colish’s collaborations with designer and typographer Bruce Rogers. The collection has extensive documents concerning their joint publication of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, including several marked proofs, paper and type samples, design drafts, and correspondence and financial documents concerning the production, sales, and distribution of the edition.

Series IV contains a variety of material relating to the printing and publishing industry, including paper samples, type catalogs, printing industry publications, and items relating to publishing and printing organizations. This series also contains finished and unfinished items for which printing origins are not apparent, or which were printed by a press other than Colish’s. Connections between these materials and the Press of A. Colish remain to be determined.

Series V includes personal items, mostly letters, cards, and telegrams, dating from either Abraham Colish’s 1954 vacation to Europe or his and Celia Colish’s 50th wedding anniversary in 1953. Included are several letters from his children and grandchildren which provide the collection’s only insight into Colish’s family life.

Series VI contains several black and white photographs, negatives, and contact sheets. Several of the photographs are of Abraham Colish, both alone and with unidentified associates. Others are of the Mount Vernon printing plant, some of which were used in advertisements for the press. There are also multiple pictures of New York City which were possibly taken from the Press of A. Colish’s Manhattan office.


  • Creation: 1913–1990
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930s–1950s


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use andReproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical and Historical Note

American fine printer and publisher Abraham Colish (1882–1963) immigrated with his family to the United States from Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth century. In 1894, at the age of twelve, he took an after-school job with a small printing shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Over the next few years, his duties progressed from sweeping the shop and selling papers to feeding the press and composing type. When he was sixteen, Colish and his mother moved to New York City, where he quickly found a position as a typesetter for Kane Brothers, a Broadway printing company.

In 1907, Colish left his position as a composing room foreman at Rogers and Company and opened his own composing office. His business specialized in advertising typography and is credited as the first shop to exclusively cater to the advertising market. By the next year, Colish moved into larger quarters and began printing small orders. After several moves to successively larger offices in New York City, the Press of A. Colish relocated to a printing plant in Mount Vernon, New York, in 1956.

By the late 1920s, the press was producing fine printing jobs as well as advertising. Colish began working with the Limited Editions Club and, in 1930, printed an edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron. The Press continued to print material for the club through the 1980s, including a thirty-seven volume edition of Shakespeare’s plays from 1929 to 1940. In addition to working with the Limited Edition Club, the Press of A. Colish also produced work for, among others, the Grolier Club, the Typophiles, the Colophon, Harvard University, the Universities of Texas and Illinois, the Pforzheimer Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and publisher Henry Schuman.

Colish worked repeatedly with prominent artists and designers. His experience with the Limited Edition Club brought him into contact with American artist T.M. Cleland (1880–1964), who illustrated several of the Club’s editions, among them the Decameron, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1935), and William Congreve’s Way of the World (1959), all of which were printed by Colish. Another of Colish’s creative partnerships was with designer and typographer Bruce Rogers (1870–1957), who had provided designs for the Limited Edition’s Shakespeare series. Colish and Rogers collaborated on several fine printing projects over the next three decades, including a limited edition lecturn Bible for the World Publishing Company (1947), and an illustrated folio edition of Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy (1955). Colish also printed illustrations and bookplates for American artist Rockwell Kent (1882–1971), who designed the Press of A. Colish logo.

Abraham Colish worked at his press until the week before he died on April 10, 1963. His son, Louis Colish, who had worked at the press since the 1920s, assumed the management of the plant. In the late 1980s, the Press of A. Colish, which was also known as A. Colish, Incorporated, merged with Laurel Printing of Elmsford, New York.

Biographical and historical information was derived from the collection.


5 linear foot

5 oversize box


The Press of A. Colish archives contains materials relating to the printing career of American fine printer and publisher Abraham Colish (1882–1963).


Purchase, September 1991.

Shelving Summary

  1. Boxes 1-4: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  2. Boxes 5-7: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  3. Oversize boxes 1-5: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)
  4. Oversize box 4: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)


Processed by Shannon Lawson, March 1998. Encoded by Natalie Baur, March 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly, January 2016, and Tiffany Saulter, May 2016.


Finding aid for The Press of A. Colish archives
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 17
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA