William Andrews Clark took an avid interest in the books produced in the context of the late 19th-century British Arts and Crafts movement. He developed his collection in the early decades of the 20th century, when California printers were adopting many of the principles of Arts and Crafts design for their own work. The influence of such major figures as William Morris, Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, and Emery Walker, who promoted the idea of the “ideal book,” can be seen in the designs of the books created by San Francisco printer John Henry Nash in the 1910s and 20s. Clark not only collected California printers’ work, but often commissioned projects from Nash and others.
As California fine printing proliferated in the course of the 20th century, the range of approaches to visual design, as well as literary content, reflected shifts in tastes. By mid-to late-century, fine presses had taken root. The Grabhorns (Robert, Jane, and Edward) along with Adrian and Joyce Wilson, William Everson, Ward Ritchie, Lewis and Dorothy Allen, and others throughout California, had created their own aesthetic visions as well as networks of social connections and exchange. The links between the founding figures of the Arts and Crafts movement and those engaged in fine printing in California remained vital as a set of principles and practices. The depth and breadth of the holdings of the Clark Library in this area reflect not only the interests of its original founder, but the ongoing commitment of the Library to collect the work of a still vital community working in the tradition of fine press printing and publishing.