There are two Special Collections exhibits currently in the Library: author Ruth Gipson Plowhead (first floor of the library), and of her brother James Gipson, who founded Caxton Printers and published all of Plowhead’s books (this exhibit is located at Special Collections & Archives, second floor of the library). Founded in 1907, Caxton Printers became one of the most important regional book publishers in the U.S. Located in Caldwell, Idaho, Caxton entered the book publishing business in
earnest in 1925.
Over the following decades, Caxton produced hundreds of books in numerous genres––Americana, fiction, children’s stories, history, and essays, among others––primarily about the American West. Caxton’s philosophy was to help writers from the West get published, regardless of the commercial success of their books.
The person who established that philosophy, James H. Gipson, directed the company from its founding until his death in 1965. He took the company’s name and colophon from William Caxton, the fifteenth-century printer believed to be the first in England. During his tenure, Gipson personally approved every book the company published––over eight hundred titles. His efforts turned Caxton into an important regional publisher, an accomplishment that proved the West took book publishing seriously.
Caxton is still owned and managed by the Gipson family, and they continue to publish regional nonfiction books. Using books housed in Boise State’s Special Collections as well as materials from its manuscript collections, the exhibit tells the story of Caxton Printers from its founding to the present, while also showing the transformation of how Caxton produced their books. Some of their earliest books were bound in suede leather, while later books were hand bound in Moroccan leather as “deluxe editions,” while still others were “perfect bound” paperbacks.
Archivist/Librarian & Assistant Professor