Something about the Cranbrook Press

George Booth only published four books, but these four have become some of the finest books ever published in the 20th century.

Publisher George G. Booth stands at the entrance to the newly opened Detroit News building in 1917.

Publisher George G. Booth stands at the entrance to the newly opened Detroit News building in 1917.

Mike Selby

It only operated for two years, and only published four books, but these four have become some of the finest books ever published in the 20th century.

The publisher was George G. Booth, one of the most successful newspaper owners of his age. A successful iron-works factory owner from Toronto, Booth acquired the ‘Detroit News’ in the late 1800s. The improvements in faster and cheaper printing machines combined with a growing population of readers enabled Booth to quickly acquire a vast fortune. He also married the daughter of newspaper magnate James Scripps, which increased his wealth by ten.

As the 19th century drew to a close, Booth had a profound experience. While visiting the Lenox Library in New York, he had his first encounter with thousands of beautiful books, which had all been finely bound by hand. He was especially taken with books published by the Kelmscott Press — a British press run by William Morris, who had used the printing techniques of the 15th century to create modern editions. Morris felt a book’s type, illustrations, design, and binding should meticulously flow together; a direct contrast to the poor quality books being churned out by mechanical processes. Booth was both impressed and inspired.

Upon returning home, Booth converted the attic of the ‘Detroit News’ building into his own private press. He installed a hand-operated letter press, carved his own type, and spent every free moment he had printing books “which will live for all time.” From 1900 to 1902, Booth printed the following: John Locke Scripps’ ‘The First Published Life of Abraham Lincoln’; William Caxton’s ‘The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers’; Francis Bacon’s ‘Three Wise Men’; and Thomas More’s ‘Utopia.’

In addition to these handcrafted works of art, Booth came up with one of the best names for his new venture: The Cranbrook Press.

Disappointedly, the Cranbrook Press is not named after our city, but it does have a connection. Booth named it after his ancestral town, the same Cranbrook in Kent, England,  where Colonel Baker hailed from.

His business demands forced Booth to abandon the Cranbrook Press after two years. Yet he strove to continue its tradition, hoping to give back to his community, as well as the burgeoning arts and crafts movement. Until his death in 1949, he and his wife used their wealth to build the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Cranbrook Museum, the Cranbrook Gardens and the Cranbrook Educational Community. Built on the premises of their own home, today the site is a National Historic Landmark.

Booth used his enthusiasm for hand crafted books for the Cranbrook schools, and this has had a deep influence on art and design during the first half of the 20th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a ‘Design in America: the Cranbrook Vision 1925-1950’ exhibit which attests to this.

But his heart was always with those four books he printed, and he explained his passion for them in a fifth book he printed titled “There is Something About the Cranbrook Press”…

(…which can be read in its entirety here:

Mike Selby is Reference Librarian at the Cranbrook Public Library

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Supporters — and shoppers — lined up waiting at the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South, waiting for the doors to open on the store's first day of operations since the pandemic forced its closure. (Photo courtesy Kate Fox)
CHCA Thrift Store re-opens in Cranbrook

After a closure of 15 months, due to the pandemic, the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South has once again opened its doors for business.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read