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J. Ben Lieberman papers

Identifier: MSS 0516

Scope and Contents

The J. Ben Lieberman Papers, acquired in 1998, comprise 66 linear feet of files and oversize boxes, which reflect some of the accomplishments of educator, printer, and self-described “generalist” J. Ben Lieberman and his wife Elizabeth Koller Lieberman. The collection reflects the lifelong passion of the Liebermans for popularizing personal printing and their leadership in the modern private press movement in America. Organized in twelve series, the papers document the Liebermans' personal and professional printing projects, the social and professional networks of printers and typographers, printers' chappels, type specimens, commercial type directories, and other trade ephemera. The collection is doubly rich for documenting the collaboration of printers who learned from each other and shared their expertise and enthusiasm, as well as for providing exhaustive reference files related to technical aspects of the twentieth-century printing trade.

Ranging in dates from 1902 to 1997, with the bulk of the material dated between 1945 and 1984, the files consist of a wide variety of printed material. Printed formats include magazines, newspapers, posters, prop cards (proprietor’s cards), greeting cards, books, galley and page proofs, broadsides, keepsakes, invitations, menus, prospectuses, type specimen sheets, calendars, stationery, clippings, forms, manuals, catalogs, brochures, reports, announcements, book covers, and ephemera. The Liebermans received many of these printed items from proprietors as a prerequisite to registering their private press names or from commercial print-related companies.

Additionally this collection includes correspondence, photographs, negatives, contact sheets, paper samples, bills and receipts, mock-ups, notes, a design portfolio, stereotypes, electrotype plates, minutes, a corporate seal, bylaws, membership lists, applications, histories, and phonograph recordings. Other formats, such as lithographs, etchings, a charcoal drawing, and watercolors, are related to the small collection of artwork accumulated by Ben Lieberman.

Among the Liebermans' contributions to popularizing personal printing were their registry of press names, the publication of The Check-Log of Private Press Names, the invention of the prop card (proprietor’s card), and the founding of the modern chappel movement in the United States. The records track each of these contributions, providing an early proposal and bylaws for the first chappel (Moxon) founded by Lieberman in 1957, as well as copies of the published check-log.

Elizabeth Lieberman was registrar for the registry of press names and the editor of the check-log. The registry of press names generated a substantial file of private press ephemera; one of the strengths of this collection. Over twenty linear feet of examples of printing by private press proprietors, mainly in the United States, but including some examples from Great Britain, are available for research.

Publications bearing the Liebermans' private press imprints, The Herity Press and the Ioxis Division of Herity Press, both represented in the collection, were devoted to serving the personal press and chappel movements. The Herity Press produced many of their keepsakes, announcements, booklets, and other ephemera on their Kelmscott/Goudy Press (Albion No. 6551) acquired from George Van Vechten, Jr. First used by William Morris to print his Kelmscott Chaucer, Frederick Goudy brought this press to the United States for his Village Press.

In addition to participating in many chappels, Ben Lieberman was active in numerous print-related organizations and founded several. The files chronicle Lieberman’s efforts in forming the American Printing History Association and the Goudy Society, as well as his early leadership as president and chair, respectively, of these two organizations.

Ben Lieberman’s passion for and advocacy of what he termed “simple printing” is obvious among records of his writing, speeches, teaching, and exhibitions. Lieberman believed that "simple printing" was not only a creative outlet as a hobby but a powerful tool for literacy and international development. In an attempt to make printing equipment and supplies universally and cheaply available, Lieberman invented several simple printing presses and founded of a company, Popular Printing, Inc., to sell printing supplies and small presses.

Noted as an authority on print and typography, Lieberman collected extensive subject files (on print and graphic arts topics), files on printers, files on type and reproduction processes, and a collection of type specimen sheets. These files and the research they represent demonstrate Lieberman's interest in the history of print, particularly technology and type design. This research informed his speeches and his writing, particularly his books, Type and Typefaces and Printing as a Hobby. Lieberman's experiments with type design are illustrated by a mock-up for a typeface called "upstroke" that is found in the first series.

Lieberman's writing also extended to reports and articles. For example, Lieberman, considered an authority in the United States on freedom of the press, wrote the article on the subject for Encyclopedia Americana.

The files on cold type, photo-processes and twentieth century reproduction methods (Series VIII) illustrate the services and products available during the mid to late twentieth century to practitioners of printing. The brochures, catalogs and printed material sent to Lieberman offer a snapshot of what was on the market and demonstrate many of the processes, including cold type, offset lithography, gravure and rotogravure, and screen process printing.

In the ninth series and scattered through out these papers are files which originally belonged to O. Afred Dickman, longtime advertising production manager for The New York Herald Tribune. Many of the older type specimen catalogs and commercial type directories, as well as some of the paper samples originally belonged to Dickman. As a longtime friend and associate of Ben Lieberman, Dickman’s files were absorbed into the Lieberman papers.

Detailed descriptions of the material accessible in this collection are available in series notes that begin each series in this finding aid. These notes offer a range of dates for the material in that series, describe the arrangement of the material, list the types of material found in the series, and further elaborate on the contents.

The J. Ben Lieberman Papers are a testament to most of the roles served by Lieberman, from journalist to administrator, from international development practitioner to teacher, from printer to advocate. Some aspects of his career, such as his faculty appointment at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and his public relations work are only mentioned in the papers.

The strength of these papers is the legacy of twentieth-century personal printing movement, nurtured by Ben and Elizabeth Lieberman, and sampled for posterity in this collection.


  • Creation: 1902-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1945-1984


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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 Department, University of Delaware Library,

J. Ben Lieberman (1914-1984)

Educator, editor, author, amateur printer, and proponent of the private press, J. Ben Lieberman is widely regarded as the father of the twentieth-century chappel movement in the United States.

Jay Benjamin Lieberman was born November 17, 1914, in Champaign, Illinois. Lieberman grew up in Indiana and attended Benjamin Bosse High School in Evansville. He received a B.A. with honors in political science and philosophy from the University of Illinois (1935), where he was the editor of the student newspaper, the Daily Illini. From 1935 to 1936, he did graduate work in economics, political science, and philosophy at Columbia University. Lieberman also worked for several years at the Evansville Courier.

Commissioned in the U. S. Navy in 1942 and assigned to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Lieberman served as director/officer-in-charge of the Informational Services Division and editor of the monthly Navy magazine (later renamed All Hands). He also authored the Navy Editors’ Manual (1945).

Having completed military service in 1946, Lieberman was next employed by Washington State University in Pullman as the director of publication. In 1948 he took a position with the San Francisco Chronicle where he worked for five years, including a position as assistant to the general manager. During his years at the Chronicle Lieberman founded The Herity Press (1952) and received his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University (1952).

After leaving the Chronicle in 1953, Lieberman worked as coordinator for communication media at the Contra Costa Junior College District for two years. While working in the district he taught Journalism 21 (Introduction to Printing) at East Contra Costa Junior College (1955) and earned a secondary teaching credential for California from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1955, he joined the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in Menlo Park, California.

In 1957, he founded the Moxon Chappel in San Francisco, the first of the modern chappels in the United States. Borrowing the term from early English usage, Lieberman defined a chappel as simply "a club, society or informal group of personal printers who live close enough to be able to attend meetings in each other’s homes in turn."

Lieberman moved to the East Coast in 1957 and became a public relations associate for General Foods Corporation, in White Plains, New York. By the early 1960s he was a professor at the Columbia University graduate schools of journalism and business, and in 1967 he was employed by Hill and Knowlton, Inc. as senior education counselor and associate director of the education department. In 1970, he was promoted to vice president and served as associate director of the youth and education department until his retirement in 1976.

Continuing his passion in promoting the private press movement and expanding on his concepts of "simple printing," in 1959 Lieberman founded Popular Printing Inc., (incorporated in Connecticut) to promote private printing by providing simple and inexpensive printing equipment. He held several patents for simple printing devices, including the Tympan-pack printing press and the six-toggle printing press. Although the company was out of business by the end of the 1960s, Lieberman continued to promote "simple printing" through publications and by founding chappels.

During the 1960s Lieberman was instrumental in the founding of various chappels in New York, including the New York Chappel and Westchester Chappel. At the first meeting of the Westchester Chappel in 1960 he invented the "prop card," short for proprietor’s card (as opposed to the press card.)

In 1973, he founded and was the first president of the American Printing History Association, receiving the fifth annual award from the association in 1980. He was also the chair of the International Goudy Centennial Committee and subsequently founded and was the first chair of the Goudy Society. He was a board member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, as well as an active member of the Typophiles, the Private Libraries Association, the Amalgamated Printers Association, the Graphic Arts Education Association, and the Type Directors Club.

Beginning in the 1970s, Lieberman also maintained a commercial press, the Myriade Press, which published books on typography and printing, such as Typographic Variations by Hermann Zapf.

Ben Lieberman acquired the Kelmscott/Goudy Press (Albion No. 6551) from George Van Vechten, Jr., and formally inaugurated the press at his home on January 31, 1961, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Kelmscott Press. On June 26, 1962, at a joint chappel meeting in New York, Lieberman affixed a liberty bell to the press and declared, "As long as the private press wears liberty as her crown, the people are free."

Lieberman was the author of Printing as a Hobby (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1963) and Type and Typefaces (New Rochelle, New York: The Myriade Press, 1978), which was originally published as Types of Typefaces and How to Recognize Them (1967). He also wrote numerous articles and press releases and a musical comedy, which the Westchester Junior League produced.

J. Ben Lieberman died September 19, 1984, in New Rochelle, New York, where he had made his home since 1968. Following his death, in 1986, friends of Lieberman in association with the American Printing History Association endowed the J. Ben Lieberman Memorial Lecture in his honor.

Biographical information supplied by Jethro K. Lieberman and resumes found in the collection.

Elizabeth Lieberman (1914-2001)

Elizabeth Koller Lieberman was J. Ben Lieberman’s lifelong partner in private press publishing and in the promotion of printing. She was co-proprietor of the The Herity Press and maintained with Ben Lieberman the International Register of Private Press Names.

Elizabeth Koller Lieberman was born October 10, 1914, in Champaign, Illinois. Though she and Mr. Lieberman both were born in Champaign, they first met in college. They were married on July 4, 1941.

Mrs. Lieberman worked at Advertising Age in Chicago, Illinois, for four years after college. After marriage, she held a variety of part-time positions until her two children were raised. She then worked for several publishing houses in New York as a copy editor in the 1960s and 1970s, including Cowles and William Morrow.

Drawing from the International Register of Private Press Names that she maintained, she edited a list of press names, The Check-Log of Private Press Names. The Myriade Press published the check-log annually beginning in 1960. She also prepared the index for the 1994 Oak Knoll reprint of Maurice Annenberg’s Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs.

Elizabeth Lieberman died in the Bronx, New York, on January 21, 2001.

Biographical information supplied by Jethro K. Lieberman and resumes found in the collection.


66 linear foot

9 oversize box

6 oversize folder

Language of Materials



Educator, editor, author, amateur printer, and proponent of the private press, J. Ben Lieberman is widely regarded as the father of the twentieth-century chappel movement in the United States. The J. Ben Lieberman Papers reflect some of the accomplishments of J. Ben Lieberman and his wife Elizabeth Koller Lieberman.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 1998

Related Materials

MSS 0515 J. Ben Lieberman Manuscript and Early Printed Leaf Collection

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-66: Shelved in ANNEX MSS record center cartons

Boxes 67-72: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)

Boxes 73-75: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)

Oversize folders 1-6: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases

Processing Information

Processed by Ryan L. Roth and Anita A. Wellner, 2005. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, March 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly, August 2015, Tiffany Saulter, December 2015, and John Caldwell, January 2023.

Finding aid for J. Ben Lieberman papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 24
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA