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Arion founder and publisher Andrew Hoyem prints pages of “Leaves of Grass” in a 1920 Planten Press. / Jeremy Raff Photo

Hoyem artist, poet, printer, publisher- a unique Burro

By Bruce Auld News Review Correspondent–

Andrew Hoyem – A Unique Burro

Costa Rica is a stunning country; everyone we met was pleasant and accommodating. If you go, don’t rent a car, the roads are terrifying. After returning from Costa Rica, I told my wife Ann we were going to the Presidio in San Francisco – equally terrifying driving!

Before leaving for San Francisco, I visited the Grabhorn Institute/Arion Press website to ensure the facility would be open on Friday and confirmed that it would be open.  After a harrowing drive through downtown San Francisco, we arrived at the Presidio, only to find the door locked. Ann noticed a business card-size sign on the door directing us to ring the doorbell. After a discouraging long pause, Director of the Press Rolph Blyth opened the door and informed us that the facility was closed, “but please come in.”

I informed Rolph that I was a childhood neighbor of Andrew Hoyem. He asked my name and said he needed to attend to his office. Ann noticed that he was on the phone. We toured the facility with its massive bookshelves and equally massive antique armoires.  Also present were several hand presses, both large and small. There were no shirts or hats in the bookstore, just excellent books painstakingly hand-printed by Andrew Hoyem. We found the catalog of Arion Press’ first 100 hand-printed books, all considered museum quality. In association with Grossman Publishers, Cape Goliard Press published Andrew’s Articles in 1967. Arion Press published Andrew’s What If in 1987. Andrew created each letter from lead, created the text, and hand-printed each page. Later, Rolph emerged from his office with his business card with Andrew’s email published on the back. Andrew responded to my introductory email in short order.

My go-to source for all things China Lake is the four volumes of China Lake history. The Rocketeer archives are another great reference. Excerpted from the January 29, 1965 edition of the Rocketeer:  Andrew’s father, Dr. Albert Hoyem, was named Education Director and Consultant to the Technical Director, Dr. William McLean. Previously, Dr. Hoyem was Head of Aircraft Projects at the Division of Aviation Ordnance. Dr. Hoyem earned his BS from Olaf College and his MS and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. Dr. Hoyem served as the Department Head of Physics and Mathematics at Augusta College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where all of the Hoyem children were born when his bomb project was transferred to China Lake. Likely, Andrew was nine-years-old when arriving at China Lake in 1946. 

Andrew Hoyem at Arion Press in 1978 / Courtesy Photo

At Burroughs, Andrew played tennis, participated in student council, and was a California Interscholastic Federation (CSF) member. Hoyem graduated from Pomona College, majoring in Government, yet taking numerous literature and art classes. In 1987, Andrew received the Pomona College Barrows Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2015, Pomona College bestowed him with an Honorary Doctor of Letters. Andrew served in the US Navy from 1957 through 1960, advancing to Commanding Officer of a Naval Reserve Training Center in San Angelo, Texas. (Interview with Andrew Hoyem)

“In 1961, Andrew settled in San Francisco, where he became an integral part of the literary renaissance of that decade. In partnership with the Auerhahn Press, a small avant-garde publishing firm, he helped give voice to a new generation of writers called “Beat.” In 1963 the Auerhahn Press issued his first book, The Wake.” (From the back cover of What If)

My parents, Howard and Barbara Auld loved books.  They bought books of every genre, especially Shakespeare.  While sorting through their vast collection, I saw Andrew’s book Articles.  They paid $2.50 for it, discounted from the $4.95 list price.

“An artist, poet, fine printer, and publisher, Andrew Hoyem designed and printed nearly 300 limited-edition books at four publishing companies he has directed since 1961. In 1974, he founded the Arion Press, where he preserved an unusually complete letterpress printing operation, which includes a bindery and the last fully functioning type foundry in the United States, MacKenzie & Harris (M&H). Arion Press published original works of literature, scholarship, translation, and literary classics. His collaborations with contemporary artists in a series of livre d’artistes began in 1976 with A Travel Book by Fred Martin. Arion’s best-known projects are a complete handset edition of Moby Dick with 100 wood engravings by Barry Moser and an edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses with 40 etchings by Robert Motherwell. ‘Many authorities rank this edition of Moby Dick as one of two or three greatest American fine-print books.’ (Biblio magazine) The most ambitious undertaking of his career is a large folio Bible, likely to be the last such Bible printed by letterpress.” (Andrew’s Resume)

Andrew “is a typographer, letterpress printer, publisher, poet, and preservationist.  He is the founder of Arion Press in San Francisco.  Arion Press is considered the nation’s leading publisher of fine-press books.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

In 1989, Hoyem acquired and saved Mackenzie & Harris, the oldest and largest remaining type foundry in the United States, established with equipment displayed at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, thereby creating a workshop where all of the traditional crafts of bookmaking are practiced under one roof, from making type out of the molten lead to letterpress printing to binding books by hand.  Printing Museum director Justin Knopp wrote from Oxford, England, ‘There is no other business like it anywhere in the world.  You are truly unique in the literal and only sense of the word.”  Hoyem’s activities made him a notable figure in the book arts renaissance which began in the 1980s, as well as in industrial preservation.  Writing in Preservation Magazine, art critic Martica Sawin said, “The collaboration among Arion Press, M&H Type, and the Grabhorn Institute is a model for preserving historic manufacturing equipment, keeping alive disappearing crafts, and printing beautiful artifacts all in one enterprise.”

Andrew Hoyem and his fine-printed folio Bible were likely the last to print by hand. / Courtesy Photo

In 2000, Hoyem’s operation was threatened with eviction, requiring the logistical challenge and expense of moving over 140 tons of equipment and metal type to a suitable new facility.  In response, Hoyem and his wife Diana Ketcham, Ph.D., founded the nonprofit Grabhorn Institute to preserve and continue the operation of one the last integrated facilities for type founding, letterpress printing, and bookbinding.  Hoyem retrofitted a 1924 steam plant in the Presidio of San Francisco, where his operation opened to the public as a cultural tenant of the new national park.  As executive director of the Grabhorn Institute, he took on the role of educator, presenting an apprenticeship program, college courses, and a series of gallery exhibitions and lectures.  In 2000, Hoyem’s operation was designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as part of “the nation’s irreplaceable historical and cultural legacy” under its Save America’s Treasures program. (Wikipedia)

The ground floor of the Grabhorn Institute at the Presidio in San Francisco is essentially a museum. The basement is where publications are hand typeset and printed. Guided tours are conducted the first Thursday of each month from 3 – 4:30 pm. Participation is very limited, as is parking. Make a reservation well in advance.

Working well into his 80s, Andrew has returned to his birth city, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He walks his dog, a Lagotto Romanolo, three to five miles daily and prepares to publish his latest 100 poems—a very unique Burro.