TICHENOR, IRENE. No Art without Craft. The Life of Theodore Low De Vinne, Printer. Boston: David R Godine, 2005. xii, 330 pp. ISBN 1-56792-286-4. $35.00.
Theodore Low De Vinne was to be overshadowed by Bruce Rogers and Daniel Berkeley Updike in the next generation, but during his lifetime he was widely thought to be (as the British and Colonial Printer and Stationer remarked in 1901) "the dean of American printers." Although it is surprising that he has received so little attention from printing historians, Irene Tichenor has now filled this gap with an outstanding biography of De Vinne that places him firmly in the context of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America.
After an upstate apprenticeship, De Vinne moved to New York City and there, through diligence and resourcefulness, made himself the master of a key industry in a lively, bustling city at the center of the capitalist world. Though a highly successful businessman, De Vinne also achieved fame as an historian, as one of the founders of the Grolier Club, and as a writer and speaker about all things typographical. He is really a very attractive figure--sensible, learned, fair-minded--and Dr. Tichenor (who displays these same qualities herself) has done justice to his interesting career.
She has trawled through everypossible archive, even less obvious sources such as the real estate contracts for the imposing Manhattan building that housed his printing plant. …