Karl Kimber Merker died in Iowa City on April 28 following a long decline.

He has been remembered in many places, notably on the Princeton University graphic arts blog and the College Book Art Association blog. A detailed tribute was written by Bonnie O’Connell in 1996 at the time of a major retrospective exhibit. Those in search of a hard copy bibliography should look for Sidney Berger’s Printing & the Mind of Merker: A Bibliographical Study, published by the Grolier Club in 1997.

I’m not sure when I first met him, but I got to know him when I visited Iowa City in the winter of 1991. I took the picture above on that trip. It shows him standing at his hand press in the midst of his meticulously-organized studio. At the time he was running both his personal Stone Wall Press and the University of Iowa’s Windhover Press. In addition, he was working tirelessly to pressure the University into making the Iowa Center for the Book Arts a permanent reality.

My impression of Merker at the time was of a publisher. I wrote in the STA Journal: “Although Windhover and Stone Wall Press books are beautifully designed and printed, Merker has nevertheless earned a reputation among private printers as an advocate of publishing–getting the word out. That’s partly because he can keep his books reasonably priced: the university pays his salary, and several years ago he was able to have 18,000 sheets of handmade paper made for about 35 cents a sheet; today [remember, this was 1991], in smaller quantities, similar paper could cost another printer four dollars.”

–Bob McCamant

5/28/13: Today the New York Times published a lengthy obituary of Merker, emphasizing his publishing of famous poets before they became famous. It’s here.