On Saturday, January 24, Paul Gehl received the American Printing History Association’s annual APHA Award for contributions to the study of printing and printing history. Much of Gehl’s work in these areas has been accomplished while serving as Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing at the Newberry, where he has guided the research of scholars and type designers from around the world in addition to producing scholarly work of his own.
Gehl’s research interests lie in the print culture of Renaissance Italy—specifically, how textbooks were written, designed, printed, and marketed to Italian schools. He has published extensively on this subject as well as on modern fine printing and artist’s books. Gehl is currently overseeing a major Newberry project to process almost 30,000 items within the Wing Collection that had been filed but not indexed and therefore largely unavailable to library patrons. Many of the items are type specimens or other marketing materials demonstrating a printer’s abilities in vivid detail. These are ephemera that, in their intended temporariness, have ended up preserving a range of daring expression.
In his acceptance speech for the 2015 APHA Award, Gehl pointed to the collegial collaboration (to which the APHA contributes) so essential in sustaining the study of printing history and the humanities as a whole. This collaborating can take the form of large-scale, institutional partnerships; it may also be of a more ephemeral variety: the chance encounters that can happen at a library like the Newberry when readers and those deeply familiar with the materials upon which their investigations depend are brought into contact with one another.
“The work of individual, occasional collaborators is important, but it leaves few traces,” said Gehl. “The same is even more true for the kind of informal collaborations that I enjoy most about library work: meetings at reference desks, looking over shoulders in the reading rooms, e-mail exchanges about the minutiae of new research. Even within the community of professional historians, these things often go unrecorded.”
While the APHA presented its “Individual Award” to Paul Gehl, it awarded its “Institutional Award” to the Book Art Museum of Łódź, Poland.