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Yellow Barn Press Records

Identifier: MsC0487

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Scope and Contents

The records are organized (generally alphabetically) within each of the following seven series: I. General Files, II. Correspondence, III. John DePol, IV. Private Presses, V. Yellow Barn Press Publications, VI. Broadsides and VII. Finances.

The general (subject) and correspondence files relate in bulk to John DePol, wood engraving, fine printing, and broadsides. Major correspondents discussing their work are John Anderson, Carroll Coleman, John DePol, Alexander Lawson, Willie Morris, Michael Peich, William S. Peterson, Neil Shaver, Walter Shrewing, and Julian Symons. The private press file include folders for publishers such as, among many others, the Prairie Press, the Red Ozier Press, and the Stone House Press.

The bulk of the records concern books published by the Yellow Barn Press; files for each title typically include art work by John DePol or Paul Otero, galley and page proofs, correspondence, and publicity materials, and they are are organized to reflect the progressive stages that each manuscript went through to become a book. This series is arranged alphabetically by title of book.


  • Creation: 1950-1994


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Growing up in Long Beach, California, Neil Shaver developed an interest in printing. He took a printing class in junior high from R. V. Stutsman, whom Shaver names among the three printers who had the most influence upon him. (The other two are Harry Duncan and John Anderson.) After serving in the Merchant Marine during World War II, Shaver moved to Omaha, where the family owned a chain of grocery stores called Shavers. In 1957, he returned to printing as a hobby. His output in the 1960s and 1970s was mostly job work for the grocery stores done on off set presses, but it was during this period that he acquired an antique Washington hand press, which he did not know how to operate. In 1964 he made contact with an Iowa City fine press printer, Kim Merker of the Windhover Press, who showed him how to use the Washington press. He started his career in fine printing by taking a class from Harry Duncan in 1978 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, for whose class he produced Metonia, a book of poetry.

Most of his first books were poetry, because this is form adaptable for hand presses. But Shaver was uncomfortable with poetry. As he says in the Introduction to The Yellow Barn Press: A History and Bibliography, "I was uncomforable with poetry simply because I did not feel qualified to accept or reject material." (p. xii) So when he came across a copy of The Old Printing Office by Frank Luther Mott, he was in more familiar territory, and in 1985, he brought out his fine press edition of this book. Quoting again from The Yellow Barn Press: A History and Bibliography: "I made an interesting discovery with The Old Printing Office. It sold out almost at once. What I found out was that books about printing and books about books had a good market. From that time forward I have tried to stay with titles from that category. I have used other subjects a number of times, but I am always pleased when I find a title in the field of printing or books."

In 1966, Shaver and his wife Fran moved to rural Iowa, outside of Council Bluffs. On the property was a barn, which Shaver and Fran cleaned up and turned into his printing studio. Fran is credited with coming with the name Yellow Barn Press. In 1980, Shaver sold his grocery business and retired, turning his printing avocation into his vocation. He printed about two books a year. The first books were on the Washington pess, but after his sixth book, he began printing his books on a Vandercook, which is easier for one person to operate.

In 1983, he took a course from John Anderson at Fairleigh Dickinson Univeristy in New Jersey, and he and Anderson communicated from that point on until Anderson died in 1997. One of Shaver's books about printing is about Anderson's Pickering Press. Also during this trip, he met the engraver John DePol and they started a collaboration that lasted until DePol died in 2004.

Due to failing eyesight, Shaver closed the press in 2005, having brought out over thirty books.


18.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Private press in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Subject files, correspondence, mock-ups, etc.

Method of Acquisition

These papers were given to the University of Iowa Libraries by Neil Shaver in 1994 and 2006.

Related Materials

John DePol paperer at the University of Delaware

The John DePol Collection of American Wood Engravings and Related Material (Rutgers University)

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)