Established in 1994, the Ross Collection represents a book arts collection principally comprised of selections of books and ephemera printed by contemporary private presses. English presses are well-represented, as well as works from presses in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland, Belgium, Spain, and Wales. There also are several American presses represented, including Gehenna (“Skulls”), Double Elephant, Grabhorn and Providence.
It has been argued that the modern private press movement began as a result of the great arts and crafts era that flourished in the nineteenth century. In Oxford, the Daniel Press published small but lovely editions of poetry, which may have been a point of inspiration for William Morris, a student at Christ Church College, who was to transform the book arts through the work of his great Kelmscott Press.
While the art of the book has been largely neglected since the demise of the great British private presses: Kelmscott, Doves, Ashendene and Golden Cockerell, the movement has never died out completely. Some enthusiasts have observed that the book arts seem to be approaching a threshold of rejuvenation. The patrons of the Collection, George Berkeley Ross and his daughter, Virginia (Mount Holyoke College Class of 1966), wish to encourage contemporary private printers of fine books and acquire some of the long overlooked editions of earlier presses. In the first year, a collection of books and ephemera published by the Rocket Press of England helped to form the nucleus of a contemporary book arts collection.
The patrons hope that the Ross Collection will become an inspiration to scholars and book artists at Mount Holyoke, where, in an age of information technology dominated by the images appearing on glimmering screens, they would like to encourage a renewal of creative emphasis on the arts of the sumptuous book.