William Joseph Dard Hunter (1883 - 1966) was born in Steubenville, Ohio at the height of the industrial revolution. His father, William Henry Hunter, was an ardent proponent of modern advances such as the automobile, but he was equally concerned that hand crafts not be sacrificed in the name of progress. The elder Hunter was a newspaper owner and publisher and an amateur woodcarver. From an early age, Dard was immersed with the techniques of printing at his father’s newspaper and often set lines of type by hand as a young adult. His artistic abilities were first evidenced in 1900 when his father moved the family to Chillicothe, Ohio to operate another newspaper and hired Dard to be the staff artist.
In 1903, he stayed at the New Glenwood Hotel (now The Mission Inn) in Riverside, California one of the first hotels fashioned in the American Arts & Crafts (or “Mission”) style. It was his first introduction to the Mission Style in art and design and would change his life. In 1904, Dard was hired by Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters of East Aurora, New York. Within a few months, he was designing stained glass for windows in The Roycroft Inn and title pages for Hubbard's press. In 1908, Dard married Roycroft pianist Edith Cornell and they spent their honeymoon in Vienna where he was enamoured with the work of Josef Hoffman and the Wiener Werkstatte. For the next few years, Dard incorporated geometric patterns and highly stylized figures into his work with the Roycrofters.
Dard’s designs for books, leather, glass and metal helped unify the Roycroft product line and distinguish it from that of other American Arts & Crafts enterprises. In 1911, after seeing an exhibit of hand papermaking moulds and watermarks at The London Science Museum, he was inspired to begin experimenting with the techniques of making paper by hand. At this time, there was no handmade paper being produced in America - artists and printers had to rely on European paper for their needs. It was Dard’s goal to change this. He had built a paper mill fashioned after a 17th century Devonshire cottage and, not wanting to compromise his goal to manufacture paper using 17th century techniques, he relied entirely upon a water wheel to provide power to the mill.
Dard quickly became adept with the processes of papermaking but, because paper could only be made in the summer months when there was ample water to turn the wheel, he decided to begin work on a type font during the winter. It was during this time that Dard produced the world’s first one man book by creating a book that was printed by him on paper that he made with a typeface he designed, cut and cast himself. In 1919, the Hunter family returned to Chillicothe and Dard founded a letterpress printing studio named Mountain House Press.
For the next 46 years, Dard authored 20 books on the subject of papermaking (eight of which were printed by hand). These works were the result of over one million miles of travel to remote regions of the world in search of information on the craft. Dard felt that his greatest accomplishment was the establishment of The Dard Hunter Paper Museum which now comprises the majority of the collection of the American Museum of Papermaking located within the Institute of Paper Science and Technology on the campus of Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Dard Hunter died, aged 82, in 1966.
The Dard Hunter Paper Museum:
The Roycroft Campus: