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November 02, 2011

Thornwillow Press Goes to Washington

By Marnie Hanel | Books

Courtesy Bruce Buck / St. Regis D.C.

Thornwillow Press has always had strong ties to Washington, D.C., but the beloved purveyor of handmade books and fine stationery has been an honoree in absentia, sending meditations on the capital— Thomas Jefferson Illuminated, In Search of George Washington, Lincoln at Home—from its bookbindery and letterpress in Newburgh, New York. That changes on Tuesday evening, when the bespoke publisher launches a library and shop just two blocks north of the White House, in the St. Regis Washington, D.C.

This will be the second St. Regis outpost for Thornwillow, which opened its Manhattan library last October. (At that launch party, an artist painted literary allusions on live models. How will buttoned-up D.C. counter?) As in New York, Thornwillow Press will become a part the hotel’s quilt, displaying rare books and prints, acting as
an on-site historian and offering stationery and invitation design—as well as cocktails and nibbles.

“It all hangs on this idea of the word,” says founder Luke Ives Pontifell. He contends that handmade stationery and artful archives are of even greater importance in an age of impermanence. “Now you can delete a book with the swipe of a finger, hang up a telephone, throw out a magazine. As technology charges forward, what we do becomes more relevant."

For the D.C. launch, Pontifell has curated “Washington’s Notable Neighborhoods,” a letterpress correspondence collection that celebrates Capitol Hill, Adams Morgan and Georgetown. Each set opens with a broadside containing a brief history of the neighborhood and contains five cards selected to represent it. For Adams Morgan, that’s an after-hours mix of a lightning bolt, waning moon and barware. For Georgetown, it’s a gilded bicycle and bold peacock feather. And for Capitol Hill, there’s a stately series of presidential motifs destined to sell out before the holidays. The images are so detailed, they may be best seen through a loupe borrowed from the publisher’s pocket. Then one might fully appreciate the feathers of a bald eagle, the eaves of the White House windows, the rigging of a ship set for the New World. One might also wonder who commissioned these extraordinary designs. Considering Thornwillow’s past clients—George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama—it’s no question at all. Thornwillow at the St. Regis Washington, D.C. is at 923 16th. Washington’s Notable Neighborhoods 15-card stationery set, $85, thornwillow.com.