Special Collections

The Anthoensen Press

The Anthoensen Press of Portland, Maine was nationally renowned as a creator of fine books. Throughout most of its existence, the Press used Linotype machine composition in order to craft books of the highest quality. Some titles were composed by hand including A. S. W. Rosenbach’s Early American Children’s Books. The Press printed other notable bibliographies and catalogs such as Margaret Bingham Stillwell’s Incunabula in American Libraries. Its roster of clients included Bowdoin and Colby Colleges, the Peabody Museum, the Boston Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Limited Editions Club, and scholarly journals such as The New England Quarterly, The American Neptune, The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, and The American Oxonian. These clients relied on The Press not only for its high manufacturing standards, but also because the Anthoensen proof-room was renowned for its accuracy in the handling of complex academic writing. From the 1920’s until after World War II, books printed by the Press were frequently selected for the American Institute of Graphic Arts “Fifty Books of the Year” exhibitions.

As a printer, Fred Anthoensen believed that a well-designed book helped make reading a larger experience; he believed that the look and feel of the binding, paper and type added to the readability of the book. His passion for printing kept him continually searching out old, lost, or forgotten types and designs, which gradually developed into the country’s largest collection of rare borders, flowers, and other typographical ornaments from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Books created and printed by The Anthoensen Press have long been known for their aesthetic beauty, functionality, accuracy and readability.

The Anthoensen Press, originally known as the Southworth Press, was founded in 1875 by the Rev. Francis Southworth as a means to publish religious material to distribute to sailors. Danish-born Fred Anthoensen arrived in the United States in 1884 at the age of two. He began his apprenticeship at the Southworth Press in 1898, became a full-time compositor in 1901, and by 1917 had become the firm’s managing director. Under Anthoensen’s direction the Press expanded its clientele beyond local customers starting in 1921 with the Pratt Institute Free Library. Fred Anthoensen purchased the company in 1934 and changed its name to The Southworth-Anthoensen Press, and by 1944 it was known simply as The Anthoensen Press. The name remained with the company even after Anthoensen’s death in 1969, when operation of the Press was taken over first by Warren Skillings, then Harry Milliken, and finally by Henry C. Thomas, who bought the press in 1982. By 1983, it was decided that the press should modernize, so computerized typesetting and offset printing equipment was installed alongside the existing Linotype and letterpress machinery. However, the Anthoensen Press had difficulty competing with larger modern presses and closed its doors in 1987.

For most of the 20th Century, the Press was located at 105 Middle Street. A fire in 1970 temporarily shut down the press, causing some smoke and water damage to their rare types and the office collection of the books they had produced. After the fire, The Anthoensen Press moved to a new location at 37 Exchange Street, eventually expanding to include 45 Exchange Street. At the time of their move to Exchange Street, the Press donated some of their office collection to the University of Southern Maine, and continued making gifts to the Anthoensen Collection housed in USM’s Special Collections until 1985.

Anthoensen, Fred. Types and Bookmaking, Containing Notes on the Books Printed at the Southworth-Anthoensen Press, 1943.
Dana, Edward F. Twenty-one Years of the Anthoensen Press, 1947-1967, 1971.
Whitehill, Walter Muir. Fred Anthoensen: A Lecture, 1966.