The Printer and the Bookseller: A Happy Collaboration Re-visited By Al Lowman Near the entrance to the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library in Midland is a terrace in which are laid pavers that commemorate noted west Texans. One of those pavers bears the simple inscription: "Carl Hertzog Printer at the Pass of the North who enshrined the literature of this land with books of matchless beauty." This catalogue is a remarkable record of that achievement, one that goes a long way toward refurbishing the reputation of one who dominated printing arts in the Southwest for a half century. For those attuned to beauty in the printed word, Hertzog's work endures because no other designer between the Atlantic and the Pacific gave so much thought and attention to the relationship between subject matter and format. Or, at least, no one else expressed it with such fervor and frequency. Hertzog left an endless paper trail detailing his thoughts about every aspect of every book he ever conceived. Each element of a book-paper, typeface, ink, layout, binding-had to bear directly on the subject matter at hand.
I recall a world-weary Austin bookseller lamenting some three decades ago that Hertzog books were beginning to look alike to him. If this were true, it was true only in the sense that each book demonstrated certain standards of taste in size and shape, choice of paper color and texture, typeface, harmonious page layout and margins, spacing between letters and leading between lines to ensure reading comfort, immaculate presswork, and a binding with eye appeal. Yes, Hertzog books were alike in that he paid serious attention to each of these elements. Yet each book stood on its own merits. Like good old Homer, however, even Hertzog nodded from time to time. In later years some of his binding choices in particular seem less than inspired. But those are the exceptions. Even so, he would offer his reasons. Each buyer must then decide for himself.
The books that Hertzog produced from about 1937 to 1947 may show, on the whole, more individuality than those in the post-1948 period. In the earlier period, he operated with fewer resources but greater freedom, as he was virtually a one-man show. After 1948 most of his effort was devoted to founding, then operating a college print shop on the campus of Texas Western College which, in 1952, turned into a small publishing enterprise. For the next two decades he worked practically full-time in a job as press director for which he was paid only half time. His confrontations with the college business manager became the stuff of campus legend. In spare hours he was free to hustle outside book work that, once designed and specked, had to be farmed out for typesetting, printing, and binding. The absence of effective control in those circumstances left him bitterly frustrated.
But the achievement of the post-1948 period is by no means to be denigrated. The first publication of the Texas Western Press in 1952 was Spanish Heritage of the Southwest (Item 7 herein), with text by Francis Fugate and illustrations by José Cisneros. That same year Hertzog racked up an off-campus success with the production of Fort Concho and the Texas Frontier (Item 146 herein) by J. Evetts Haley, with pen-and-ink sketches by Harold Bugbee. San Angelo newspaper publisher Houston Harte was the godfather of this project. In 1957 came The King Ranch (Item 310 herein) by Tom Lea, produced privately for the ranch owners, followed by a trade edition for Little, Brown & Co. Another private edition was Interwoven (Item 348 herein), a pioneer chronicle by Sallie Reynolds Matthews, issued for her descendants at the instigation of her youngest son, Albany rancher Watt R. Matthews. In addition to being one of his typographical masterpieces, this book was Hertzog's sentimental favorite; he became a family member in every respect but blood. The Samuel H. Kress Collection (Item 101 herein), a catalogue for the El Paso Art Museum in 1961, was another sparkling gem, proof that inspiration still flamed high. At seventy-seven he designed his first miniature book, The Captive Indian Boy, by Barbara Hofland (Item 251 herein). This was a reprint of an early 19th century rarity produced for Hertzog's long-time patron, Stanley Marcus of Dallas.
Time now to properly introduce this remarkable artisan to a new generation of book collectors who have arrived on the scene in the last decade or so. For those who remember Hertzog as a quintessential west Texan, it always came as a surprise to learn that he was born February 8, 1902, of American parents who were sojourning in Lyon, France. His father's deteriorating health soon forced the family's return to America. The elder Hertzog was a professional violinist, who died while teaching at the University of New Mexico. Hertzog's mother placed him in foster care with an Ohio farm family, while she sold encyclopedias and later taught school in the Pacific Northwest. Young Carl rejoined her when she married Chester B. Story, a high school English teacher in a Pittsburgh suburb. When Carl was ten, his stepfather gave him a toy printing press which the boy took quite seriously. By the time of his high school graduation in 1919, he qualified as a journeyman typesetter. In 1921-22 he had a year of formal training at the Carnegie Institute of Technology School of Printing and Publishing, then dropped out for want of money to continue. Thus he was largely self-taught as a designer and deeply influenced by the examples and the encouragement of Porter Garnett, a Californian who came to Carnegie Tech to establish the legendary Laboratory Press just as Hertzog was leaving the school. After a year's employment at the Owl Print Shop in Wheeling, West Virginia, he responded to an ad in a trade journal for a layout man at the W. S. McMath Company in El Paso, Texas.
Carl Hertzog always liked a good story, and if he couldn't make one from the ingredients at hand, then he seldom hesitated to supply the missing elements-like the story of his arrival at the El Paso train station from Wheeling in June 1923. Hertzog said he got off the train, suitcase in hand, sniffed the high, dry air, and caught the dim scent of ink emanating from the nearby McMath plant.
A good story until ninety-two-year-old Gilbert Maeza told me the real one in 1994. In a soft accent redolent of his Mexican boyhood, Maeza said that McMath dispatched him in the boss's big touring car to meet Hertzog and his luggage at the depot. Thus, although the McMath Company was only two blocks away, Hertzog had help getting there.
He quickly advanced to the post of shop foreman, then left McMath in 1926 to become advertising manager of the El Paso Sash and Door Company. He returned full-time to the printing trade at the Rocky Mountain Bank Note Company in 1930, but after two years the owners wearied of his quest for perfection and encouraged his return to the McMath Company. In 1934 Hertzog went into business for himself at 219 West San Antonio Street. Three years later his introduction to artist Tom Lea renewed his inspiration as a designer. This was first evidenced in the Notebook of Nancy Lea (Item 283 herein), a commemorative volume containing writings of Tom's late wife. The collaboration between artist and printer continued with varying degrees of intensity for the next three decades.
The Holman Dozen. William R. Holman's personal selection of
twelve of the finest book designs by Carl Hertzog.
In 1929, while employed at the El Paso Sash and Door Company, Hertzog had joined the El Paso Rotary Club, and he never missed an opportunity to promote quality printing among his fellow Rotarians. When he entered into business for himself in 1934, these same people became the customers who sustained him through the worst part of the depression. By 1939 Hertzog's work had come to the attention of Stanley Marcus of Dallas, founder and president of the Book Club of Texas. Marcus was well connected to that town's leading bibliophiles, most of whom were habitués of Elizabeth Ann McMurray's book store at 1331 Commerce Street. These included Ramon Adams, Everett DeGolyer, Walace Hawkins, and Bob Moseley, to name only a few. These same individuals were also supportive of the Texas State Historical Association and attended the organization's annual meetings in Austin when they could. In 1943 the Association published Martin Schwettman's Santa Rita (Item 442 herein), an account of the fabulous west Texas oil discovery that so richly benefited the University of Texas System. This project had been underway since 1939, when Schwettman was one of Walter Webb's graduate students, but it had been sidetracked by a threatened lawsuit. Tom Lea found time apart from his work as a World War II artist-correspondent for Time-Life publications to provide ten pen-and-ink drawings for the book. Santa Rita generated considerable excitement among T.S.H.A. members, including the McMurray Book Store crowd.
Hertzog was invited to the Association's 1944 annual meeting in Austin, and, although the program was filled, a way was found-in those more improvisational days-to accommodate a thirty-minute presentation on the finer points of bookmaking. Using examples from his own experience, he held the audience enthralled and made for himself a host of new friends and supporters. One of those was rancher-writer J. Evetts Haley of Canyon, whose story of Charles Schreiner the Kerrville merchant was about to be published by the Association. Haley insisted that Hertzog should be the designer. And he was. Another new friend was San Marcos bookseller Dudley R. Dobie, who impressed Hertzog with his knowledge of rare Texana. Dobie had known of Hertzog since 1938 through his cousin J. Frank Dobie's connection with Tom Lea. Dudley had become a full-time dealer in 1934 after a bout of schoolteaching. Before his demise in 1982, he was the acknowledged dean of Texas antiquarian booksellers.
Hertzog left the meeting with renewed confidence, and among his new friends were the next three presidents of the Texas State Historical Association: Dr. Pat Ireland Nixon of San Antonio, Earl Vandale of Amarillo, and Dr. Herbert Gambrell of Dallas. In time, an idea took shape in Hertzog's mind. He would offer some of his rarities for sale through the good offices of Elizabeth Ann McMurray. He would design, print, and mail a four-page folder carrying her imprint-it would look less of a self-promotion that way. But McMurray was otherwise distracted at the moment and declined reluctantly to accept the offer, which was now extended to Dudley Dobie, who harbored no reservations. The list hit the mail in May 1945 and was an immediate success. (Paul Horgan, then a lieutenant colonel in the information office of the War Department, returned his with a hastily scribbled note that all items were tempting, but he was in no position to pursue book collecting under the circumstances.) Dobie and Hertzog sold everything they wanted to, but Dobie, always the canny one, would never exhaust his stock if he could help it.
And now, fifty-five years later, most of these titles resurface, affording unusual opportunity for old and new collectors alike. Hertzog, who created these gems, died in 1984. Dobie, who saved them, had died two years earlier. Portions of this catalogue were assembled from under Hertzog beds and out of Hertzog closets, from a lean-to shed adjacent to the back bedroom and the cuartito behind the garage, while other parts are from what Dobie always called his "smokehouse," actually his garage which had never seen an automobile from the day it was constructed. This catalogue stands as a fitting tribute to two men, each of whom contributed in his own illustrious way to the literary heritage of the Southwest. Al Lowman August 2000