Paean to CA Bookman Henry Evans

Courtesy of John Crichton

Because this weekend will see the grand, 53rd annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair, the time seemed right to call attention to a beautifully produced new book written by California bookseller John Crichton about a fellow Golden State bookman, Henry Evans. Published by the Book Club of California (BCC), the 51-page volume stems from a 2018 exhibition that Crichton curated at the BCC, Henry Evans, the Peregrine Press, and the Porpoise Bookshop.

With that exhibition and this book, Crichton, proprietor of San Francisco’s Brick Row Book Shop, seeks to renew interest in Evans, a mid-century bookseller, letterpress printer, and later, botanical printmaker. To that end, Crichton offers a short biography, illustrated by archival photos and examples from the Peregrine Press. Evans was, it appears, very independently-minded and only printed exactly what he wanted to print; Crichton relays a delicious anecdote about Evans turning down the opportunity to print Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl," referring the poet to City Lights instead.  

Increasingly, Evans and his first wife, Patricia, focused on artist portfolios and experimental printing, including his own linoleum block prints. Bright color illustrations accompany this section of Crichton’s book. Evans’ botanical prints fared well with collectors, to the point where he fazed out of antiquarian bookselling entirely. His magnum opus, California Native Wildflowers (1976-1984) was a fully subscribed limited edition of fifty books, each costing $1,500, and was “one of the most remarkable books of its genre,” writes Crichton.

For collectors and scholars, a chronological checklist of the publications of the Peregrine Press, the Porpoise Bookshop, and Henry Evans, Printmaker, 1948-1990, follows Crichton’s admirable biography.

Henry Evans: Bookseller, Printer, Publisher, Printmaker can be ordered from the BCC’s site for $35.