The History of the Elliott Press

Founded in 1982, the Elliott Press is a hands-on workshop for students in PLU’s Publishing & Printing Arts (PPA) Program and for others interested in the history and artistry of the printed word.

The Press is named in honor of T. Leslie Elliott, a retired editor and bookseller who in 1974 began teaching a course in the English Department entitled “The World of the Book.” Thanks to Elliott’s efforts, PLU was offered its first gift of letterpress equipment in the late 1970s. Over the years, other gifts of presses, type, and related materials enabled both the Elliott Press and the PPA Program to grow.

In 1984, PLU alumna, writer, and book artist Megan Benton became the first Director of the Elliott Press and of the PPA Program. Under her guidance, the Press provided vital services to the PLU community by functioning as a job shop that printed certificates, posters, and business cards. Students gained valuable experience in all aspects of print production, from shop management to completed orders. Benton also built a valuable collection of fine press books and broadsides created by regional printers, many of whom lectured and led workshops at the Press. By the turn of the century, the Elliott Press had become a center for book arts instruction in the Pacific Northwest.

In 2001, Solveig Robinson became PPA Director, and in 2007 Jessica Spring assumed responsibility for the management of the Elliott Press. Under Spring’s direction, students at the Press have created broadsides and books to commemorate visiting artists at PLU, including current Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken. They have also participated in many community events, from the annual Wayzgoose at King’s Books in Tacoma to Literacy Month events at the Tacoma Art Museum.

Students in the Elliott Press focus on traditional typesetting, printing, and bookbinding techniques as they create broadsides, artist books, and ephemera. But with the evolution of technology and aesthetics, some students also choose to use modern graphic design techniques in their work. Work by students at the Press has been exhibited at King’s Books, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, and the University of Puget Sound. In recognition of outstanding student achievement at the Press, the Book Club of Washington offers an annual Robert D. Monroe Award. Recipients’ work is archived in Special Collections at the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library.

Originally located on PLU’s Lower Campus, today the Elliott Press is in Ingram Hall, between the graphic design and printmaking studios. The Press features two platen letterpresses from the early 1900s and a Vandercook proof press from 1940. New in Fall 2012 is a small, portable parlor press, dubbed Baby Elliott. The Press also houses more than 300 different cases of type, many intricately carved ornaments, and stamps depicting everything from dental charts to 1920s roadsters.