The Legacy of Dard Hunter


The Dard Hunter Gallery centers a portrait of the Paper Museum founder. On either side of the painted portrait are cases housing handmade books written, typeset, and printed by Dard Hunter.

Dard Hunter Gallery at the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking

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Dard Hunter with Tapa Cloth

Dard Hunter (1883-1966) is considered by many to be the father of hand papermaking in the United States. Hunter travelled extensively around the world, learning about papermaking and collecting artifacts related to the topic. He wrote several books on hand papermaking traditions, and also studied other paper-like materials such as papyrus and amatl.


Black and White Photo of Alice and Elbert Hubbard in the letterpress shop on the Roycrofter Campus

Alice and Elbert Hubbard, founders of the Roycrofters, Photo courtesy of the Roycroft Campus

Young Dard Hunter

Dard Hunter was born on November 29, 1883 into an Ohio family with a long tradition of printing and publishing. His given name was William Joseph. The origin of the nickname "Dard" remains unknown. Seeking a career in art, he joined Elbert Hubbard's Roycrofters in East Aurora, New York, in 1904. As a leading proponent of America's Arts and Crafts Movement, Hubbard encouraged Hunter to develop his artistic talents in many media, including graphic design, stained glass, and metalwork. Hunter is now considered one of the movement's greatest artists.

Watermark portrait of a young Dard Hunter

Watermark portrait of young Dard Hunter

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The Etching of Figures title page printed in 1915. The title page features a double boarder and the words, The Etching of Figures by William Aspenwall Bradley with an Original Etching by William Auerbach Levy. A red-orange rectangular logo for the Chicago Society of Etchers appears below the title text and under the logo the words Dard Hunter, Marlborough on Hudson, followed by the Roman numerals for 1915

Dard Hunter's Introduction to Papermaking

In 1911, Dard Hunter visited London, where he became fascinated with early European papermaking and printing. He returned to America to set up a shop in Marlborough-on-Hudson, New York. In printing his first book in 1915, The Etching of Figures by William Bradley, Hunter continued to practice the creed of the Arts and Crafts Movement, whose proponents believed that a hand-crafted object was inherently more desirable, beautiful, serviceable, and worthy of human endeavor than anything made by a machine.

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Black and white photo of Dard Hunter sitting in his library. Dard, a caucasian  male, is wearing a tie and a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He sits in front of a background of bookshelves in a white chair with a floral pattern and is facing the camera with a book on his lap and a pipe in his right hand.

Dard Hunter, Paper Historian

After moving to Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1919, Hunter decided to devote his life to researching, collecting, writing, and publishing the world's history of hand papermaking and printing. Over the next ten years, he published three limited-edition books at his Mountain House Press. Their titles were Old Papermaking (1923), Literature of Papermaking (1925), and Primitive Papermaking (1927). In 1928, he started up a second paper mill in Lime Rock, Connecticut. Although a commercial failure, Hunter's Lime Rock Mill nevertheless became the inspiration for many of the successful handmade paper mills in the United States today.

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The Dard Hunter Paper Museum

Although Dard Hunter had originally intended to establish a museum in the Lime Rock mill for his large collection of books and artifacts, the Dard Hunter Paper Museum first opened in 1939 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. In the Museum's brochure, Hunter stated that the Paper Museum was established "...with the hope of stimulating interest in the ancient craft of papermaking and promoting understanding of present-day paper and its relation to the graphic arts." In 1954, the Museum was acquired by The Institute of Paper Chemistry (now Renewable Bioproducts Institute), which was then located in Appleton, Wisconsin. Dard Hunter was named the Museum's Honorary Curator.

Dard Hunter in a black and white PR photo. The image shows Dard in a three piece suite in profile holding a mould over an empty vat in the Paper Museum. There is a gigantic wooden paper press behind him.

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Dard Hutner's Legacy

By the time of his death on February 20, 1966, Dard Hunter was responsible for a renaissance in hand papermaking and printing. From 1923 to 1950, his Mountain Home Press produced eight limited-edition books that stand as testaments to his devotion and perseverance. Today, most of the historians and artisans interested in papermaking and printing were directly inspired by Hunter. To the public, the Dard Hunter Collection in the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum represents an invaluable and irreplaceable legacy, because most of the world's cultural history is borne by this seemingly fragile and insignificant material - paper.

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Hand tinted glass slide of handmade paper hung outside to dry in India. Original photo taken by Dard Hunter.

Photo taken by Dard Hunter during a trip to India of handmade paper hung outside to dry