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Bill and Marie Watson Paradise Press Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Watson, William, 1917-2006.
Title: Bill and Marie Watson Paradise Press Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1950-2006
Bulk Dates: 1990-2006
Quantity: 2 linear ft.
Abstract: Bill Watson and his wife Marie were long-time "artists in residence" for Paradise Press, a small private press owned by Hal Leader in Buffalo, New York. The collection includes printed material from Paradise Press as well as a few items from Watson's previous press, Wm. J. Keller, Inc., a small amount of biographical material, an essay by Watson on Unitarian Universalism, and two books.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

William (Bill) Watson (1917-2006) attended the University of Buffalo where he earned a degree in business. Soon after graduation his love of books (he amassed at one time a substantial book collection that included a Kelmscott Chaucer) led him into the world of publishing when he and his brother acquired Wm J. Keller, Inc. in Buffalo, New York. Although the original arrangement was for Bill to handle the business end and his brother to do design work, they soon swapped roles. The press had a varied clientele including numerous college and university yearbooks, and was the first in western New York to do photo offset printing. In 1938 Marie Woods, a Syracuse University graduate in journalism, came to work for them, and in 1941 Marie and Bill were married.

In addition to his work with Keller Press, Bill was a member of the Salisbury Club of Buffalo, a group of bibliophiles whose namesake was the city's first printer. In 1954, Wm J. Keller, Inc. published The Story of the Salisbury Press, in the foreword to which Watson wrote, "This little book chronicles the story of Buffalo's first press and the newspaper that issued from it...From that far-off day until now, the printing industry has continued to flourish in the Niagara region...Here has been formed a mighty concentration of craftsmen, artists and men of business devoted to the graphic arts."

In 1951 Bill began publishing independently under a private imprint, Easy Hill Press (so named for its location at the top of a very steep incline), which produced letterpress work for Wm. J. Keller, Inc. and also collaborated with the University of Buffalo's rare books and manuscripts collections to publish many rare and collectible editions for the Salisbury Club. Among Easy Hill's works were James Joyce's Epiphanies, a posthumous work never before published, and a volume of Mark Twain's commentary On the Art of Writing. Bill's love of fine printing included artwork as well, particularly fine engravings. For the Joyce book, he had an engraving made of a Constantin Brancusi sketch of James Joyce found in the University of Buffalo collection; for the frontispiece of the Twain book, he commissioned noted wood engraver John DePol to create an original wood engraving of Twain's Delaware Avenue home. In a 2003 letter, DePol wrote of this piece, "It is one of my favorites!" Easy Hill Press editions may be found today in the rare book rooms of many major university libraries.

In the early 1980s Bill and Marie closed the Keller press and moved to Toronto. Toronto (and retirement) failed to satisfy them, and the Watsons soon returned to Buffalo where they met Hal Leader, the owner of Printing Prep. Leader had been a student of Emil Sahlin who in turn had trained with Roycroft's Elbert Hubbard and been one of Roycroft's best typographers. In 1973 Leader and Sahlin formed Paradise Press, a typesetting division of Printing Prep that produced fine printing and advertising copy with a hand-operated press and movable type. After Sahlin's death in 1983, Leader moved the Paradise Press equipment -- an antique Vandercook press and several founts of type -- to the back room at Printing Prep. According to Leader, the name originated from a conversation he had with Sahlin: "I told Emil, 'You're 78 years old now. If you don't feel good, you don't come to work. If you feel like working four hours, you work four hours, if you want to work eight hours, you work eight hours. If a customer comes in with a job and it's too rushed, you don't have to take it... And Emil said, 'My God, if I could do that, it would be paradise.' " ["Leader of the pack," Buffalo Business First, June 22, 2001]

Bill, whose love of fine printing had not faded with retirement, was happy to accept Leader's invitation to keep the Paradise Press equipment in use, and by 1990 he and Marie had settled into what would become a fifteen-year tradition of "Keepsakes ," semiannual mailings to friends and family. The trifold or quarterfold leaflets were usually themed and consist of a combination of artwork and quotations; the quotations were collected and chosen by Marie, the art selected by Bill. Production duties were also shared, with Bill handling the typesetting and layout while Marie was responsible for proofing and copyediting as well as pulling the copies (usually 100-250). Bill and Marie would accept no money for their work and no subscriptions. For both of them, the pieces were produced simply for the joy of the work; as Hal Leader recalled, "It was like they were always saying 'I love you' to each other when they were working."

In 2003 Marie suffered a stroke and grandson Jonathan Senchyne joined Bill to take over responsibility for pulling copies. Marie died in 2004; Bill continued to issue occasional mailers until he died in 2006. The last item printed by Paradise Press was a Keepsake "celebrating the love and spirit of Bill Watson."

[Portions of this biographical sketch provided by Jonathan Senchyne.]

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Bill and Marie Watson Paradise Press Collection is divided into Personal material, W. J. Keller, Inc., and Paradise Press.

Personal material includes clippings, the memorial broadside published on Bill Watson's death in 2006, some Unitarian Universalist Church material, and two books. The two books are Trial of the Masks, a book of poetry by Gene Magner, for which Watson did the type design and printing, and the inaugural issue of Living Forge, "the literary and arts journal of the rust belt," founded and co-edited by Watson's grandson Jonathan Senchyne. The latter is inscribed and signed by Senchyne to his grandparents. Living Forge includes a strike of the original DePol Twain house block, which was the one Bill had used when teaching Senchyne how to print blocks.

Four Wm. J. Keller, Inc. items date from Watson's early years: a type sample book and three Christmas items -- one for Wm. J. Keller, Inc. itself, one "published by the Niagara Frontier Transit System of Buffalo as their 1950 Christmas greeting to passengers," and one a Christmas greeting from Bill and Marie.

Paradise Press material consists primarily of the "Keepsakes" printed by Watson and his wife Marie under the Paradise Press imprint. The plentiful and beautiful artwork in the Keepsakes came from engravings from Watson's Easy Hill Press days and from his extensive collection of original woodcuts, including many by Thomas Bewick. Bewick was one of Watson's favorite illustrators and many of the Keepsakes feature his woodcuts (see for example the 2002 holiday issue). Other artists include John DePol (the 1999 holiday Keepsake features his wood engraving commissioned by Watson for the Easy Hill edition of Mark Twain's On the Art of Writing), Edward Gorey (1992 holiday, March 1999), and William Blake (2000 holiday). On some of the items Bill used letterhead nameplates designed for himself and Marie in the 1960s by well-known English engraver, designer, and typographer Reynolds Stone (Stone's work also appears in the 1997 and 2001 holiday issues, June 1999, spring 2005, and on Watson's business card).

The Watsons were members of the Shaw Festival and friends of the Festival's long-time artistic director Christopher Newton; as a consequence theatre is a frequent theme of the mailings. Other themes include sports, politics, travel, and writers and writing. Other Keepsakes of particular interest are summer 1995 (on the death of Mickey Mantle), a 1996 issue of Nixon quotes, spring 2003 (Bill's story of how he and Marie met), spring 2005 (biographical sketch of Roycroft typographer Emil Sahlin) and the holiday 1997 issue entirely on Reynolds Stone .

The Paradise Press material also contains an unfolded set of Keepsakes and a box of notes on index cards, primarily quotations.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Personal material is arranged alphabetically by type. Paradise Press Keepsakes are arranged chronologically; index cards are in the order received, with most being grouped by theme or topic. Wm. J. Keller, Inc. material is arranged alphabetically by type.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Watson, Marie, 1916-2004.
Watson, William, 1917-2006.

Corporate Bodies

Paradise Press (Buffalo, N.Y.)
Wm. J. Keller, Inc.


Publishers and publishing.
Small presses -- New York (State)

Genres and Forms

Broadsides (notices)
Manuscripts (document genre)
Quotations (texts)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Bill and Marie Watson Paradise Press Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Jonathan Senchyne.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 7 Feb 2008
Revision history:

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Personal material
Box 1 Living Forge (Senchyne) 2003
Box 1 Memorabilia 2006, undated - business card, clippings
Oversize 1 Memorabilia (oversize) 2006 - Bill Watson memorial "Keepsake"
Box 1 Trial of the Masks (Magner) 1950 - includes clipping about Magner
Unitarian Universalist Church
Box 1 Essay 1985
Box 1 Printed material 1987, undated
Paradise Press
Box 1 "Keepsakes" 1990-2006, undated (4 folders)
Oversize 1 "Keepsakes" (not folded) 1990-2006, undated
Oversize 2 Notes (on index cards)
Wm. J. Keller, Inc.
Box 1 Printed items 1950, undated
Box 1 Type sample book undated

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