In 1931 Dard Hunter wrote an autobiographical article titled, Peregrinations & Prospects, for the quarterly journal,The Colophon. He told a story about one of his earliest, and most unusual, Roycroft commissions. Some of our readers may have heard this story before, but I thought it worth sharing as it also shows Dard’s sense of humor.
Below is the story, as excerpted from Cathleen A. Baker’s book, By His Own Labor, The Biography of Dard Hunter.
“. . . The client, a widow of tender years, was staying at the Roycroft Inn, and the book was a memorial to the good lady’s late husband who had died shortly before, leaving a tidy sum to our customer. . . I had the pages all lettered ready for binding and had confected a mournful title-page covered with urns and black draperies. As I was to design the cover as well, I went to the bindery and procured a full assortment of all the materials in the shop. . . With these specimens and the hand-illuminated text under my arm I went to the young widow’s room at the Inn so she might choose the leather she liked best. . . She then told me she would supply the binding materials herself, and going to her trunk, took from it a rolled parcel. . .I unrolled it but could not determine the kind of leather. I hated to show my ignorance, but finally mustered sufficient courage to ask what sort of animal had produced it. It was from the back of her late husband, she said - she wanted the book to be a true memorial to him. We bound the book according to specifications and the widow left the shop a satisfied customer. Years later I learned she had married again, and I have often thought what a strange feeling the second husband must have had when he saw the memorial book on the drawing room table, perhaps thinking of himself as Volume Two. Let us hope this was a strictly limited edition.”