University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact: Special Collections, University of Delaware Library | Newark, Delaware 19717-5267 | (302) 831-2229

UD Special Collections > Finding Aids > John DePol Papers Index > Series Outline





1837 – 2004


(bulk dates 1935-2001)

Manuscript Collection Number 297


Accessioned:  Various gifts and purchases.


Extent:  51 linear ft. and oversize materials


Content:  Correspondence, greeting cards, books, pamphlets, brochures, proofs, clippings, flyers, broadsides, programs, keepsakes, wood engravings, wood blocks, photographs, and posters.


Access:  The collection is open for research.


Processed:  2003-2004 by Anita A. Wellner and Theresa Hessey.

Table of Contents

Biographical Note


            Artist and engraver John DePol was born in 1913 in Greenwich Village in New York City.  As a young man DePol spent much of his free time exploring the West Village in New York, sketching street scenes and the waterfront.  Some of these sketches would later be the basis of etchings or wood engravings.  By 1929 DePol was working as a statistical clerk and securities runner on Wall Street and attending night classes, learning typing and shorthand, skills he later utilized as a clerk during World War II.

            DePol’s first venture into printmaking began on April 28, 1935 when he printed his first etching with a homemade press in the basement workshop of a neighbor.  A watercolor depicting this event survives in the collection.  Seeking to improve his knowledge of etching and the printing process, DePol enrolled in an evening class in etching and lithography taught by George Picken at the Art Students League in 1938.  While at the Art Students League DePol created several lithographs.

            From 1943 to 1945, DePol served in the United States Army Air Force, and while on duty in Northern Ireland he participated in a lithography class in the art department of the School of Technology in Belfast.  During this time, DePol also sketched the sights and scenes of Ireland, images which would later form the basis for a series of wood engravings and a 1982 catalog, Ireland Remembered:  A GI's Recollections.

            Between January 1944 and his honorable discharge from the service in 1945, DePol was also stationed at Chipping Ongar in England and later sent to France and Germany as an Intelligence Specialist with the Headquarters 2nd Air Disarmament Wing.  DePol continued to sketch as he traveled and many scenes from his journeys were later developed as etchings or wood engravings.

            After being discharged from the service, DePol returned to work on Wall Street as a statistical clerk for the Adams Express Company.  Continuing his avocation, DePol sketched, etched and printed in off-hours.  In 1947, DePol turned his interest from etching to wood engraving, which he taught himself.  In 1950, DePol approached the Devin-Adair Co. seeking to illustrate a book for them.  His portfolio of “Irish etching” was surely the prompt for his hiring.  As a result he illustrated his first book, Liam O’Flaherty’s Two Lovely Beasts and Other Stories and years later a James Plunkett’s The Trusting and the Maimed and Other Irish Stories.

            In June 1949, DePol was hired by Lewis White as a production assistant for L. F. White Company, where he learned the art of printing.  It was here in 1951 that DePol printed Places & Things, the first issue of his own private press imprint, Endgrain Press.  Through White, DePol had the opportunity to create wood engravings for publications issued by The Typophiles and to develop friendships among these noted printers, including Ben Grauer and John Fass.  During this time DePol’s work attracted notice and he engaged in independent work decorating private-press booklets, separate prints, broadsides, and limited edition books.  Also through Lew White, who designed the first Ben Franklin keepsake in 1953, DePol became the illustrator for a series which produced 30 keepsakes.  DePol’s engravings illustrated all 30, as well as the commemorative Thirty, published in 1987.

            After L. F. White was sold in 1953 and succeeded by Clarke & Way (The Thistle Press), DePol continued to work for the new management, but after a year he chose to begin a freelance business as an engraver.  His work designing pieces for Security-Columbian Banknote Company (later United States Banknote Corporation and Pandick Press) earned him a position at the company, which he kept until his retirement in 1978.  While working there, DePol produced a series of keepsakes which feature his engravings.

            Through the years DePol collaborated with numerous private press printers, including John Fass (Hammer Creek Press), John Anderson (Pickering Press), Robert M. Jones (Glad Hand Press), Arthur Rushmore (Golden Hind Press), Lewis and Dorothy Allen (Allen Press), Morris Gelfand (The Stone House Press), Neil Shaver (Yellow Barn Press), and many others.  He has illustrated books and broadsides, created press marks, and created keepsakes.

            Following his retirement in 1978, DePol continued to devote even more time to his career as wood engraver, working for private presses, institutions, and individuals.  He has also taught courses on wood engraving and occasionally lectured.  His work is part of the permanent collections of libraries and museums throughout the United States and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.  DePol’s work has been the focus of exhibitions at South Street Seaport Museum, Bucknell University, Syracuse University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Juniata University, and other institutions.

            John DePol has been honored for his work by his colleagues.  He was named an Associate of the National Academy of Design in 1954 and in 1980 to the New York Printers Wall of Fame.  He has been made an honorary member of The Rowfant Club and The Typophiles, Inc. and in 1994 a festschrift, John DePol: A Celebration of His Work, was published and presented at a reception at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.





DePol, John.  Ireland Remembered : a GI's Recollections.  Madison, N.J.:  Friends of the Library, Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1982.


Fraser, James F.  John DePol: A Celebration of His Work by Many Hands.  Council Bluffs, Iowa: The Yellow Barn Press, 1994.


Fraser, James Howard and Eleanor Friedl (eds.)  John DePol: a Catalogue Raisonne of His Graphic Work 1935-1998.  San Francisco: The Book Club of California, 2001.


Godine, David (ed.) Five Decades of the Burin: The Wood Engravings of John DePol.  Jaffrey, New Hampshire: David R. Godine, Publisher, 2004.





Scope and Content Note


            The John DePol Papers document a remarkable artistic life and the career of arguably the most renowned American wood engraver of the twentieth century.  Over 51 linear feet of personal papers and an additional extensive book collection trace the evolution of John DePol’s craft from his early experiments in lithography during his military service in Ireland, England, and Europe, to his apprentice years with Lewis White Company, on through his prolific career as a wood engraver for commercial firms and fine press printers which continued into the twenty-first century.  During this period John DePol has collaborated with some of the most important individuals in the world of printing, including Lewis and Dorothy Allen (The Allen Press), John Anderson (The Pickering Press), John Fass (Hammer Creek Press), the Typophiles, Arthur Rushmore (The Golden Hind Press), Robert M. Jones (Glad Hand Press), Barnard Taylor (Press of Appletree Alley), Steve Miller (Red Ozier Press), Morris A. Gelfand (The Stone House Press), Jan and Crispin Elsted (Barbarian Press), Neil Shaver (Yellow Barn Press), and a host of others.  During his long career DePol also continued to produce commercial work, keepsakes, invitations, booklets, and illustrations for countless magazines, corporations, publishers, foundations, and academic institutions.

            John DePol maintained meticulous records of his commissions as well as his own independent work, and his papers contain virtually all of his correspondence and memoranda relating to jobs, contractual material, preliminary renderings and sketches, photographs, proof material, examples of the final printed work, original woodblocks, and files, relating to all the artists, printers, and publishers with whom he has worked.  In addition to the above individuals, the John DePol Papers include material shedding light on such figures as Valenti Angelo, Harold Berliner, Lester Douglas, Gabriel Rummonds, Douglass Morse Howell, Benjamin Grauer, Fridolf Johnson, J. Ben Lieberman, Bernard Brussel-Smith, and his early employer, Lewis F. White.

One of the largest and most important groups of papers documents the long, productive collaboration between DePol and John Anderson of the Pickering Press.  DePol and Anderson worked together for nearly forty years producing numerous pamphlets, chapbooks, broadsides, keepsakes, Christmas cards, letterheads, and ephemera, all of which are represented in the John DePol Papers.

John DePol has also been a dedicated student and collector in the history and craft of printing and his papers include a wealth of material relating to these interests, including books from his personal library, original prints, and artwork.  Of particular note are original letters, photographs, and documents pertaining to Frederic Goudy, Bruce Rogers, and other important figures in twentieth-century printing.

The John DePol Papers are a major addition to the University of Delaware Library’s archival holdings on the history of printing and an important complement to such existing collections as the archives of the Pickering Press, the Bird & Bull Press, the Pentagram Press, the Plough Press, the of Press of A. Colish, Peter Koch and the Blackstone Press, the Angelica and Amity Press, and Oak Knoll Books; the papers of J. Ben Lieberman and Fridolf Johnson; and significant archival holdings centering around Paul A. Bennett, Lester Douglas, Frederic Goudy, and Arthur Rushmore.

The John DePol Papers provide a treasure trove of primary research materials for students and scholars of twentieth century printing and the book arts.

*Written by Timothy D. Murray, Head, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, for Five Decades of the Burin (2004).

Series Outline


Series I.   Work by John DePol, 1931-1997


1.  Early Artwork, 1931-1967 

2.  Etched copper & zinc plates, 1936-1947

3. Etchings, 1935-1996

4.  Woodcuts, 1947-1949

5.  Miscellaneous drawings and lettering, 1937-1986

6.  Wood engravings, 1947-1997

7.  Woodblocks, 1952-1997


Series II.   John DePol working files, 1896-2001


Series III.   John Anderson Collection, 1925-1999

1.  Correspondence, 1944-1987

2.  Bantam Press, 1932-1943

3.  Pickering Press, 1927-1996

4.  Associations, 1942-1959

5.  Workshops, 1930-1985

6.  Type Distributors, n.d.

7.  Miscellaneous, 1925-1999 


Series IV.   Material related to printing, 1935-1999


Series V.   Videocassette recordings related to John DePol, 1930-1997


Series VI.   Photographs, 1931-2000   


Series VII.   John DePol’s Personal Papers, 1837-2000


1.  Identification documents, 1931-1955

2.  Correspondence, 1933-2000

3.  DePol’s Christmas cards, 1945-1999

4.  Financial papers, 1937-1946

5.  Journals and notes, 1935-1996

6.  Material related to DePol’s Military Service, 1943-1996

7.  European Travel, 1947-1948

8.  Honors and Awards, 1970

9.  Birthday keepsakes, 1988-1998

10.  Exhibition announcements and clippings, 1946-1947

11.  Miscellaneous Personal Material, 1942-1964

12.  Printed material, 1837-1999

13.  Collection of engravings related to the U. S. Navy, n.d.     


Bibliography: Available in repository.

UD Special Collections > Finding Aids > John DePol Papers Index > Series Outline

This page is maintained by Special Collections
Last modified: 01/19/11
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014