Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) was an American sculptor, printer, and engraver. Through his artwork and teaching he played a central role in the reestablishment of fine press printing in the United States in the postwar era. As a student at the Yale Art School, Baskin happened upon the work of William Blake, a poet, artist, and printer, and was inspired to follow in Blake's footsteps by creating his own books. He began working with the manager of the printing press at Jonathan Edwards College (one of three presses in various residential colleges at Yale).
By the early 1950s, Baskin had relocated to Northampton, Mass., teaching in the art department at Smith College. It was in Northampton where Baskin transformed his fascination with printing into the Gehenna Press, punning on a line from Paradise Lost, "And black Gehenna call'd, the type of Hell." For a half century the Gehenna Press turned out finely printed works, frequently illustrated with woodcuts, etching, or lithographs by Baskin or his friends.
The press published a wide range of texts, giving Baskin an opportunity to explore his favored artistic subjects: portraiture, the Hebrew Bible, Greek mythology, and birds of prey. The Lear Center has a wide range of examples of Leonard Baskin's printing projects. This includes books and prospectuses from the Gehenna Press, as well as illustrating projects Baskin did for other presses, posters and broadsides, cards and other ephemera. The collection is the gift of Kenneth Nesheim.