The L&D Allen Press Bibliography

{Ed. Note: Books and Vines contributor DlphcOracl introduced many of you to Allen Press in this article published last year. Much of that article is republished here to add historical context to the complete bibliography provided below. Information for the bibliography was provided by DlphcOracl, along with some information taken from here.}

Readers of Books and Vines know that the L&D Allen Press is one of the great private fine presses of the twentieth century.  This was quite literally a “mom and pop” affair with Lewis and Dorothy Allen making each book entirely on their own using either an 1830 Acorn-Smith handpress or an 1846 Columbian handpress in their home. The paper for each book was handmade or mouldmade, each page was printed damp to give it a distinct tactile as well as visual impression, with Dorothy Allen doing the hand sewn bindings.

The first book they published in 1940 called The Trail of Beauty was an homage to Lewis Allen’s father and was a collection of his maxims and philosophical thoughts gathered throughout a lifetime of experience and travel. He had worked for the Grabhorn Press in the early part of the 20th Century. For two decades thereafter they published modest volumes, many as commissions from the Book Club of California. They continued in this manner until 1957 when they decided to make this their full time vocation and pursue making handmade books of the highest quality. At this point they sold everything in California, took a sabbatical and moved to France to learn as much as possible about handmade papers and the art of printing books by hand using the letterpress. When they returned two years later they began making books of extraordinary quality, beginning with their folio-sized edition of Joseph Conrad’s short story Youth in 1959.

In all, they continued their work until they were well into their 70′s. After over a half century of working by themselves and printing 58 books entirely by hand they finally retired in 1992. This was truly a remarkable enterprise and they have left behind a body of work that is of unquestioned and uncompromising quality. Because they did not have a staff to assist them several characteristics are common to each book:

  1. Most of the volumes were less than 150 pages and they were unable to produce large-scale works such as ‘Ulysses’ or ‘Don Quixote’.
  2. They only published one book each year in most years. Because of this, they could not publish obscure books or books of narrow interest. Fortunately,they didn’t. More than any other private press they consistently published books of classic works or overlooked and forgotten works that were well worth rediscovering.
  3. All of their books were published in small runs of 100 to 150 books per title


(The linked titles below will take you to see pictures of that edition from previous reviews on Books and Vines.)

  1. The Trail of Beauty by Harris Stearns Allen, Original watercolor by William Gaskin (1940)
  2. The First Californiac by Dr. Victor Fourgeaud (1942)
  3. The Vision of Sir Launfal (1943)
  4. Heraldry of New Helvetia, With Thirty-two Cattle Brands and Ear marks Reproduced from the Original Certificates Issued at Sutter’s Fort 1845 to 1848; Book Club of California (1945)
  5. The Diary of Patrick Breen (1946)
  6. Donner Miscellany, 41 Diaries and Documents; Book Club of California (1947)
  7. Essays of Montaigne, Illustrated by Mallette Dean (1948)
  8. The Christmas Fireside by Mark Twain (1949)
  9. Across the Plains by Robert Louis Stevenson, Woodcuts by Mallette Dean (1950)
  10. What Men Live By by Leo Tolstoy (1951)
  11. The Sire de Malatroit’s Door by R.L. Stevenson (1952)
  12. Roughing It In California by Mark Twain (1953)
  13. The Adventures of Maitre Cornelius by Honore de Balzac, Woodcuts by Mallette Dean (1953)
  14. Snow-Shoe Thompson (1954)
  15. The Private Journals of Stendahl, Wood engravings by Mallette Dean (1954)
  16. A Millionaire of Rough and Ready by Bret Harte (1955)
  17. On the Ambitious Projects of Russia In Regard To North West America (1955)
  18. The Noble Knight Paris & the Fair Vienne, Wood engraved decorations (1956)
  19. The Wreck of the Golden Mary, A Saga of the California Gold Rush by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, 7 woodcuts by Blair Hughes-Stanton (1956)
  20. Mark Twain correspondent, Selection from His Letters to the Territorial Enterprise: 1865-1866 by Mark Twain (1957)
  21. The Duchow Journal – A Voyage From Boston to California (1958)
  22. Murders In the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe (1958)
  23. Youth by Joseph Conrad (1959)
  24. The Splendid Idle Forties by Gertrude Atherton, Engraving by Mallette Dean; illustrations hand colored by Dorothy Allen (1960)
  25. Four Poems of the Occult by Yvan Goll,  This is the only Allen Press livre d’artiste book with illustrations by Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy and Jean Arp (1962)
  26. The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James, 15 woodcuts by Hughes-Stanton (1963).
  27. A Venetian Story by Lord Byron, 35 engravings (1964)
  28. The Mirrour of the World by William Caxton, 33 illustrations reproduced from woodcuts (1965)
  29. The Fall by Albert Camus, Six colored woodcuts (1966)
  30. The Great Polyglot Bibles by Basil Hall (1966).  A ‘leaf book’ which includes a page from the Complutensian of Acala, Spain (printed 1514-1517).
  31. Dialogues of Creatures Moralized: Moralised Being Ancient Fables, Curious to the Philologer, Interesting to the Lover of Natural History and Helpful to the Moralist. 180 naïve woodcuts. Originally produced in Latin by Gerard Leeu, Holland, in 1480.  A copy exists in the British Museum. (1967)
  32. The Brothers by Terence (1968).  With 27 drawings by Albrecht Durer.
  33. Dialogue of the Dogs by Miguel de Cervantes, Ornaments engraved by Mallette Dean (1969)
  34. Printing with the Handpress, Herewith a Definitive Manual to Encourage Fine Printing through Hand-craftsmanship by Lewis Allen (1969).   Illustrated by Victor Seward. To this day it remains an important reference manual for printers interested in fine printing.
  35. The Book of Genesis with 24 wood-engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton (1970)
  36. Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Pen and ink drawings by Michele Forgeois (1971).
  37. Christopher Columbus by Nikos Kazantzakis (1972)
  38. The Bacchae by Euripides. Three etchings by Michele Forgeois (1972)
  39. Four Fictions. A private press tour-de-force.  Short stories by Joseph Conrad, Gustave Flaubert, Henry James, and Luigi Pirandello, with different hand made papers, typefaces. Illustrated by Blair Hughes-Stanton. (1973)
  40. The Temptation of St. Anthony by Gustave Flaubert (1974)
  41. Quartet of Four Stories by Edith Wharton, Illustrated by Lewis and Dorothy Allen (1975)
  42. All For Love, Antony-Cleopatra by John Dryden, hand painted portrait of Cleopatra (1976)
  43. The Transposed Heads, A Legend of India, by Thomas Mann (1977)
  44. Antigone by Sophocles, Victor Seward illustrations hand colored by Dorothy Allen (1978)
  45. Persian Stories from the Arabian Nights (1980)
  46. The Allen Press Bibliography by Lewis & Dorothy Allen (1981).
  47. Pictures From Italy by Charles Dickens (1982)
  48. The Oresteian Trilogy, Agamemnon, Vol 1 by Aeschylus (1982)
  49. The Oresteian Trilogy, Choephoroi and Eumenides, Volume 2 by Aeschylus (1983)
  50. Jonah Judith Ruth.  Three stories from the Old Testament. Illustrated by Michele Foreois (1984)
  51. The Poeticon Astronomicon by Gaius Julius Hyginus (1985).  Edition printed by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice, 1482.
  52. Barlaam and Josephat (1986),   A Christian Legend of the Buddha, first translated and printed by William Caxton in 1484.
  53. Four Stories by Alexander Pushkin, Wood engravings by John DePol (1987)
  54. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Pen and Ink drawings by Michele Forgeois (1988)
  55. Egypt by Herodotus (1989)
  56. Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1991)
  57. Michelangelo: His Sonnets (1991)
  58. The Life of Dante by Giovanni Boccaccio (1992)

29 thoughts on “The L&D Allen Press Bibliography

  1. Damn, forgot! Thanks Gary. Have a lot of traveling to do the next few weeks, but I will try to promise to get pictures taken and post within a month or so. It is wonderful!

    1. Really enjoyed looking at these, lovely books! I especially liked the more unusual bindings like the A Venetian Story and the Persian selections from the Arabian Nights, how common are these styles in fine press and foreign binding? I feel like after perusing this blog I have learned a little about what to look for at the yard stale, used book store, etc. when keeping an eye out for overlooked gems

    1. Chris, what happened to your promised review of A Venetian Story by Lord Byron from The Allen Press? Gary

  2. Since reading through the five posts on The Allen Press and their books, I have purchased four and am amazed at the exquisite nature of their overall conception – low-key, yet exhibiting a marvelous visual and tactile sensitivity in both the materials employed and the subjects being published. Equally amazing is the accessibility of their titles to collectors – I don’t believe a single title is sells over $1,000, and many are under $500. Thank for introducing me to this marvelous press.

    1. Hi Gary, thanks for the comment! I agree with you completely, Allen Press books are fantastic, and provide a full tactile package! I am amazed at what they can be found for occasionally. I hope later this year to start focusing on finding and buying many more. Which are the four you have bought?

      1. Romeo and Juliet, The Transposed Heads, Persian Stories from the Arabian Nights, and Four Stories by Pushkin. I’m thinking of purchasing a few more.

  3. Thanks for the list Chris. Still looking for the Aeschylus in Fine condition. Of all you have reviewed, the Allen Press is the one whichimpresses me the most,

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