This much we know: the Harvard library system has broadsides printed by the “Adams-Lowell Printers” that date to the 1950s. 

Then, twenty-odd years of silence.

In the late 1970s, James Barondess found what was reported as “a long-forgotten press in the [Adams] house basement.” Barondess amassed materials discarded by the printing industry as it was transitioning into what would become the digital world.  With these hand-me-downs, he set up shop, and taught himself--and others--how print. 

By the late 1980s, the Bow & Arrow Press was highly active, and had hosted a number of students and tutors who would go on to be important designers in wide-ranging fields: Gino Lee would contribute to the Mac font Zapfino; James Barondess would win a design award from the James Beard Foundation; Devon Gray would open an antiquarian bookshop; Matthew Butterick would become an attorney and maintain the site “Typography for Lawyers.”

In the 1990s, the press saw a spate of artists and writers: Kevin Young, Katherine McCanless Ruffin, Johanna Drucker, Jen Mergels, and Sasha Wizansky all printed at the Bow & Arrow.  It also forged a close relationship with the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, and began commissioning poems from distinguished writers like Donald Hall, ’51.

With an active past came quiet corners; its use has depended on student interest, and thus occasionally falls into stealth mode.  Some new directions for the press include its museum; its recent fundraising and donation drive; and its various class offerings. We’re aiming to continue attracting the next generation of artists and designers.