"Reid was Letterpress Man personified. As for computer-generated type and the personal computer, an association would have been as unthinkable as making love to a porcupine." -- Geoff Spencer on Robert R. Reid as a typographer and designer.

Born in 1927 in Medicine Hat, Robert Russell Reid is a fifth-generation Canadian who was brought to the coast in 1936. A gift of a printing press from his sister at age nine changed his life. He grew up in Abbotsford and Vancouver and taught himself to operate a handpress in order to undertake letterpress printing at age 14. Upon his graduation from University of British Columbia, he set up a printing shop on West Pender Street where he produced some of the first fine private press books in Canada. The first of these for his own pleasure was a reprint in 1949 of the first non-governmental B.C. book, Alfred Waddington's The Fraser Mines Vindicated, first printed in Victoria in 1858. It was handset in 12 point caslon old style and printed two pages at a time on Hurlbut Cortlea antique paper with an 8 x 12 foot-treadled platen press. Marbling was executed by the printer and it was "bound by hand at the shop of Mr. M. I. Sochasky." Reid taught printing and typographic design at the Vancouver School of Art and became a member of the Canadian Royal Academy. In 1952 he was joined in his print shop for six months by Takao Tanabe, the painter, who later set up his own press and produced books and printed ephemera for some years. As a B.C. Centennial project, Tanabe and Reid jointly reprinted F.G. Claudet's Gold: Its Properties, Modes of Extraction, Value, Etc., originally printed 100 years previously.

Robert Reid moved east in 1962. After touring the world on a Canada Council Fellowship in 1963, he was hired as the director of production and design for McGill University Press in Montreal. There he began a second private press, called The Redpath Press, and he once redesigned the Montreal Star newspaper. In addition to working as a designer and producer of scholarly books, he later wrote and designed travel books in New York and Los Angeles, and he owned and operated a private press and publishing company in New Haven, Connecticut. He has since returned to live in Vancouver where he privately produced five volumes of very limited edition memoirs.

Having saved copies of World War II newspapers for 50 years, Robert Reid also designed and authored a collection of Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Daily Province and Vancouver News-Herald front pages from World War II. "The Sun's beginning is interesting," he wrote. "Founder Robert Cromie was private secretary to Colonel J.W. Stewart, a powerful political figure who had to leave town over some construction contracts. Cleaning out his effects, Cromie found some worthless stock in the Vancouver Morning Sun, a bankrupt Liberal Party newspaper. Rather than throw it out, he used the stock to take over control of the paper, then bought another evening paper, the World, in 1924, and merged them into The Vancouver Sun. With The World he got the building at the corner of Beatty and Pender that became the famous Sun Tower. A stylish man who entertained lavishly, Robert Cromie died tragically of a stroke in 1936 at the age of forty-nine. Two sons, Don and Sam, took over and published the Sun during the war years."

In his introduction to his re-issued version of Fraser Mines Vindicated (1949), often cited as the first book published in B.C. by a B.C. author, Reid wrote "There is another element, personality, without which a book is lost. It results from the designer imparting something of himself-his love for fine books, his consequent sincerity of purpose, his grasp of the elementals of the printing craft-into his books";.

Coinciding with Reid's 80th birthday, an evening celebrating six decades of work by typographer, designer and private press printer Robert R. Reid was held at Simon Fraser University - Harbour Centre in Vancouver on November 16, 2007. Called Reidfest, it included Charlie Mayrs, a student of Reid's at the Vancouver
School of Art from 1957 to 1961; Peter F. McNally, Professor, School of Information Studies at McGill University; Rollin Milroy, proprietor of Heavenly Monkey, who published Reid's Leaves: A Bibliography of Books from the Private Press of Robert R. Reid,published in Vancouver from 1949 to 1962 ... [2001]; and artist Takao Tanabe, who operated Periwinkle Press and collaborated with Robert R. Reid on numerous projects.


Reid, Robert R. (editor). The Front Page Story of World War II (D&M 1994).


Waddington, Alfred. The Fraser Mines Vindicated (The Private Press of Robert R. Reid, Vancouver, 1949).

Claudet, F.G. Gold (Robert Reid & Takao Tanabe, Vancouver, 1958).

Lee, Norman, The Journal of Norman Lee, 1898 (Robert and Felicity Reid, Vancouver, 1959).

Kuthan, George. Kuthan's Menagerid (The Nevermore Press, Vancouver, 1960).

Newlove, John. Grave Sirs: John Newlove's Poems (The Private Press of
Robert Reid and Takao Tanabe, Vancouver, 1962).

Watters, Reginald Eyre. British Columbia: A Centennial Anthology (McClelland and Stewart Limited, Toronto, 1958).

Ormsby, Margaret. British Columbia: A History (Macmillan, 1958).

Haig-Brown, Roderick. The Living Land: An Account of the Natural Resources of British Columbia (The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, Toronto, 1961).

Logan, Donna. Journalism in the New Millennium (Vancouver: Sing Tao School of
Journalism, University of British Columbia, 1998).

Hammerstein, Ingeburg von & William Shakespeare. Drawings of Nudes accompanied by the "Dark Lady" Sonnets (Privately Printed at Vancouver, 2004).

Takao Tanabe: Sometime Printer (Alcuin Society $185), a limited edition of Tanabe's work as a letterpress designer, edited by Robert Reid

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2007] "Journalism" "Publishing"