The Grabhorn brothers, Robert and Edwin, began printing in their hometown of Indianapolis around 1912. Their Indiana efforts never attracted much notice, but in 1919 they moved to San Francisco and opened the Grabhorn Press, which at first focused on advertising and other job printing. Their handiwork attracted the interest of the Book Club of California, an organization devoted to artistic bookmaking. Through commissions for the Book Club, the Grabhorn brothers turned their attention to the printing of fine limited editions. The 1920s marked a period in American culture when there was growing interest in books as a luxury product and the Grabhorn Press became an integral part of the fine press movement.

The Grabhorn Press published many titles themselves but did most of their printing on commission for other publishers, especially the Book Club of California. Grabhorn books tend to be large and flamboyant, but also fairly conservative, with an emphasis on recovering older ideas in book design and typography.

The Lear Center for Special Collections & Archives owns 32 works of the press, many of which are recent gifts of Tess Peterson.