Kitty Maryatt ’66

Kitty

By Andrew Nguy (PO’19)

In a room filled with wood, tools, paper, metal typefaces, and six printing press, Kitty Maryatt, Assistant Professor of Art and director of the Scripps College Press, draws a square on tracing paper and hands it to a student, who adds an illustration. Elsewhere in the room, scratching can be heard as another student carves away at a sheet of linoleum to make a relief image of trees and grass.

Such is a typical day at the Scripps College Press.

In 1941, Scripps librarian Dorothy Drake founded the press as an experimental typographic laboratory, with the Class of 1941 raising funds for it. They even commissioned type designer Frederic Goudy to create Scripps’ own font, Scripps College Old Style, which is used on building signage and in the masthead of this magazine. Maryatt has overseen the press since 1986, making her directorship the longest in the College’s history. “When I came, the press was about to be closed due to financial pressures,” she recalls. So she devised an ambitious program to engage students in the collaborative design, printing, and binding of a book each semester, to be sold in limited edition as a way of boosting the visibility of the press. Many of the 59 publications that her program has produced are now in the collections of prestigious institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

A Scrippsie herself, Maryatt admits that she was not involved with the press as an undergraduate. She majored in math, minored in French, and went on to earn her master’s degree in linear algebra at Claremont Graduate University before teaching high school math for 12 years. But she has also had a lifelong interest in art and design, studying calligraphy, bookbinding, and printing in her spare time. “I always liked letterforms,” she recalls. “When I was in Grace Scripps Hall, every Christmas we would have a medieval dinner, and we’d have to send out invitations written by hand.” She later earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Maryatt has different reasons for admiring the various publications her students have produced over the years—some because of how well the class worked together, some because of the content, and one because of its historical significance: Beorum II (2004) used a typeface called B-42 based on Gutenberg’s, which disappeared from use soon after the printing of the Gutenberg Bible. Recasting the Gutenberg letterforms had never been done before, and Maryatt recruited a student from her class who was proficient in Latin to translate and transliterate a page of the Gutenberg Bible that is part of the Ella Strong Denison Library collection. For Beorum II, the class printed a facsimile of the page and wrote stories about risk-taking.

This spring, as the Scripps College Press turns 75, Maryatt will retire from the College. There will be an official review of the press, which will recommend the best course of action for continuing the program. “I have been lucky to work with intelligent, thoughtful, and expressive students from all the colleges,” Maryatt says. “My hope is for the press to continue making collaborative books, but nothing goes on forever. So I’m just hoping for the best.”

For information about Scripps College Press publications and events, visit scrippscollege.edu/scrippspress/.

 

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