William Joseph “Dard” Hunter (American, 1883–1966) never had a paper route. His father owned a newspaper, so the young Dard began life in an atmosphere of ink, mastheads, deadlines, and the sound of lead meeting paper. In childhood he spent nearly all his waking hours among printers; as an adult he produced graphic designs for an American Arts and Crafts community, lending that group a distinctive visual identity; later he earned fame and fortune by writing, designing, and printing books using print cast and paper made with his own hands.
Working for his father, Dard composed type and produced illustrations from a young age. After growing up in Ohio and traveling about the country a bit, he determined that the Roycrofters had to have him and in 1904 moved to that community of willfully old-fashioned artisans in central New York State. There he tried his hand at just about every conceivable art—he even ran a correspondence school that set out to teach handicraft skills by mail.
Still he remained somehow dissatisfied. He traveled, spending time in Vienna and London. Only in 1912, when he and his wife Edith bought a two-hundred-year-old house, did Hunter finally succumb to his most radical impulses. Under the thatched roof of a mill he built on the model of a seventeenth-century original, Hunter turned wood into paper, relying on the power of the nearby stream. And he taught himself to cut the steel punches used as the basis of lead type, then designed and cut the punches used to create his own font—sixty-three separate pieces of type.
Over the years that followed—which included far more travel, including a remarkable trip to the South Pacific islands where painting had long been done on paper made of beaten bark—Dard Hunter published dozens of books through his Mountain House Press. Whether thatching the roof of his mill with rye he had sown and harvested or setting type that he had made from scratch, Hunter challenged mass industrial methods at every turn, joining forces with nature to produce images notable for their calm and symmetry.