Jack Stauffacher was one of the world’s most celebrated book designers and fine printers.
A fixture of San Francisco’s creative community, he was a celebrated teacher and the brilliant craftsman behind many publication designs and renowned editions put out by his own Greenwood Press. He earned widespread acclaim in his eight-decade-long career, including an AIGA medal in 2004.
But not many knew that on Saturdays only, he was busy working with a mismatched set of old wooden letters to reimagine type as modern art.
Only on Saturday by Letterform Archive is the first book devoted to Stauffacher’s astonishing letterpress wood type prints, which now appear in the collections of SFMOMA, LACMA, and other major institutions.
It features unparalleled reproductions of both well-known and rarely seen work (from the 1960s almost up to the present), offering us an in-depth look at Stauffacher’s development and influences. It also gives a little insight into his life as a titan of typography and a beloved printer in the Bay area.
The book is anchored with an insightful essay by author and designer Chuck Byrne (former contributing editor for PRINT magazine and a long-time friend of Stauffacher), and includes contributions from names in type like Chuck Bigelow, Matthew Carter, and Jim Faris. Plus experts from the modern art world such as Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA curator, and Staci Steinberger, LACMA associate curator; and a host of his closest friends and collaborators, including photographer Dennis Letbetter.
Of his work Erik Spiekermann said: “As typographers, designers, and printers, we translate words into written communication. Jack had done that all his life, making words visible. Then, after he had designed pretty much everything worth designing for a purpose, he started doing the opposite: He picked random wood letters from a case he had stumbled upon and made images with them… When I asked Jack about the prints, he said that those letters had become such intimate friends over time that he could behold them just as beautiful objects; they didn’t have to work for a living anymore.”
Only on Saturday is a stunning tribute to Stauffacher’s artistry and an eye-opening exploration of the visual possibilities of type. Only on Saturday adds an important chapter to the story of design and art — one that playfully challenges our impulse to hold them apart.
Jack Stauffacher at his Greenwood Press studio with prints from Vico Wooden Letters, 2003. Photograph Dennis Letbetter
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