Skip to main content

Black Stone Press records

Identifier: MSS 0316

Scope and Content Note

The Black Stone Press records consists of 5 linear feet of material spanning the dates 1974 to 1984. The archive includes correspondence, galleys, negatives, broadsides, books, six issues of Montana Gothic (a literary journal), ephemera and job files, and business records from the press. In addition to documenting the short history of the imprint, the collection is particularly useful in reconstructing the printer’s working procedures, containing working materials ranging from manuscripts and rough sketches through mockups and galleys, to finished pieces.

The collection is organized in three series. The first consists of printed material, including preparatory materials for Montana Gothic, Deadstart, books, and broadsides, as well as job printing, the latter arranged by client and by year. The second series contains correspondence, consisting primarily of letters and manuscripts from contributors and potential contributors to Montana Gothic. The third series includes business records for 1974–1984, including bank statements, grant applications, and tax documents. The fourth and final series consists of books and literary journals printed by Black Stone Press. The collection and this finding aid include a bibliography of all titles received with the collection, a number of which have been cataloged and are available in Special Collections. Two oversize boxes contain material removed from Series I and II.


  • Creation: 1974-1984


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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 Note

Peter Koch, founder and proprietor of Black Stone Press, views his role in book creation as multifaceted. The poet, publisher, and printer has described himself as “Artist/Collaborationist, Designer/Printer, and Publisher,” as well as an “Archeologist of the Book, Book Architect,... Typographer/Printer to the Ur-text Project, [and] (urban) Cowboy Surrealist.” In describing his intentions, he quotes Chairil Anwar: “I’ll dig down and root out every word until I’ve gone deep enough to find the germinal word, the germinal image.” Koch continues, “as maker I could add ’...and after I’ve found them I’ll make them.’ As philosopher I might say, ’...and after I make them I’ll contemplate what I have made.”*

Koch was born in Missoula, Montana in 1943. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Montana, Missoula, he spent time traveling in Europe and North Africa. While in Paris, Koch came in contact with the international Surrealist movement, and discovered the works of André Breton and Max Ernst, two influences which were to strongly impact his own work. Koch returned to Montana in 1974 and set up Black Stone Press as a forum for his own work and that of fellow surrealist poets.

The founding venture of the press was the six-issue run of Montana Gothic, a poetry journal edited and published by Koch between 1974 and 1977. Contributors included American writers as well as poets from Latin America and Europe, among them Robert Bly, Charles Henri Ford, Gabriel Weisz Carrington, Michael Poage, and Opal Nations. The journal also featured the work of such Surrealist-inspired artists as Bruce Lee. The single-volume journal Deadstart grew out of an essay by Koch in Montana Gothic #2 that called for a vital approach to both life and poetry: to scrap preconceived notions and start afresh.

While publishing Montana Gothic, Koch became increasingly interested in the printing process. He bought his first handpress in 1978, and in 1979 apprenticed himself to Adrian Wilson at the Press in Tuscany Alley in San Francisco for a year of intensive training in book arts. He relocated the press to the Bay Area the same year. Michael Poage’s book of poems, Born, published in 1975, was the first of many limited edition volumes printed by Koch and his then-wife, Shelley Hoyt-Koch. Other significant books include Jane Bailey’s Pomegranate of 1976, Poage’s Handbook of Ornament of 1979, and Opal Nation’s The Marvels of Professor Pettingruel of 1978, for which Koch provided illustrations. Koch also produced a number of broadsides during this period, most notably his Square Zero series, as well as providing job printing services for local businesses and organizations.

Since the dissolution of Black Stone Press in 1984, Koch has continued to print and publish, until 1990 under the name Peter Rutledge Koch, Typographic Design, and thereafter as Peter Koch, Printer. His work, in recent years, has focussed increasingly on the book itself as physical bearer of meaning, and has become more experimental with form, as earlier it had been with content. One example of his non-traditional approach to book arts is his Diogenes of 1994, printed in an edition of 50 copies, each unique, on lead plates and housed in an eartherware jug. Other significant book projects have included his Herakleitos of 1990 and Robinson Jeffers’ Point Lobos of 1987. Koch’s work has won a number of awards, including the Pushcart Prize for the Best of Small Presses for Montana Gothic in 1976 and the American Library Association Award for Excellence in 1990. He has been featured in solo shows as well as group exhibitions. In addition to his printing activities, Koch was on the faculty at U. C. Berkeley’s Department of Visual Studies, and after 1991, was co-director of the Tuscany Alley Project at San Francisco State University.

Peter Koch: Recent Work. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, 1995. Peter Koch, Printer: Cowboy Surrealists, Maverick Poets & Pre-Socratic Philosophers . New York; San Francisco: New York Public Library; San Francisco Public Library, 1995. Biographical information has also been derived from material in the collection.


5 linear foot (5 boxes)

1 oversize removal


The Black Stone Press records includes correspondence, galleys, negatives, broadsides, books, six issues of Montana Gothic (a literary journal), ephemera and job files, and business records from the letterpress operated by Peter Koch in Missoula, Montana, 1974-1984.


Purchases, 1989, 1992. Additions gift of Peter Kcoh, 2023.

Shelving Summary

  • Boxes 1-5: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  • Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)


Processed by Colette Walker, May 1995. Additions processed by L.R. Johnson Melvin, November 2023. Encoded by Natalie Baur, March 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly, September 2015, Tiffany Saulter, November 2015. Updated by L.R. Johnson Melvin, November 2023.


Finding aid for Black Stone Press records
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 3
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 November 30: Updated with additions to the collection

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA