Barry Moser arrived in Western Massachusetts in 1967, and from there began a career that has swept the ranges of book-making, from design to printing to illustration. Through several artists, among them Leonard Baskin, Moser nurtured his craft. Baskin’s artwork and tutelage proved essential to Moser’s foray into woodcuts, and his stylistic bridge of the mythological and the human did much to shape Moser’s own artistic identity. Spurred on by that newfound passion for printing and a commission to illustrate a trade book, in 1969 he founded his Pennyroyal Press. Throughout the years, Pennyroyal Press functioned as an avenue for bold artwork and letterpress printing surrounding much-loved texts. The 1982 production of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland won the American Book Award for Design and Illustration, and its success ushered in four more large-scale volumes over the next three years: Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In 1999, the Pennyroyal Press’ magnum opus, an edition of the King James Bible, would enter the world. In it, Moser embraced the traditional darkness of much of the text, inviting perspectives of wonder and veneration. Many in the realm of the book, of art, and of design consider the Pennyroyal King James Bible to be the finest illustrated Bible of the twentieth century.
The Pennyroyal Press continues to stand as a bastion of book production both meticulous and bold, turning the familiar into the fantastic. Beyond the large-scale works of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the like, the press’ devoted attentions to minor publications speak to Moser’s integrity for the printed word and his passion for its illustration. In Mark Twain’s Book of Animals, each creature receives a portrait considered with wonder and reverence; Moser casts the horned beetle in due power, and he softens the Saint Bernard, which is featured on the cover, to the appearance of a caretaker. The press’ editions of Classical poetry – Ovid: The Amores and Pan – format the verses with refined simplicity and frame them with unflinching woodcuts and wood engravings whose play between the serious and the comedic reflects that dualism in the poems. Even the quantitatively smallest of productions, such as Moser’s booklet commemorating his seventy-fifth birthday, testify to loving craftsmanship, a mastery of woodwork, and a learned eye for the beauty of text.