The Black Cat Press-Remembering Norman W. Forgue (1904-1983)

Scan 26It was my pleasure to write an article for the Miniature Book Society Newsletter-March 2014 about my father that I would like to share with you.

Though some of you knew my father personally because he was involved with the MBS from the onset, most of you only know him through the miniature books you collect. I write this brief remembrance in thanksgiving for my father’s contribution to fine printing, miniature books, and for you, who share his passions.

When Horatio Alger wrote his books for young working class men…the rags to riches stories, NWF could have been a character in one of them. The Forgue’s were a large French Canadian Catholic family that found their way to Kankakee, IL. and eventually came to Chicago. He learned the printing trade aboard ship in the Navy. Though he never graduated high school, his intelligence, creativity, and endless hard work earned him a reputation as one of the finest printers in the mid-west. I doubt that anything brought him more pleasure during his career than the contribution he made to the Miniature Book World. His lovely little gems are readable interesting subjects, their production flawless.

It wasn’t until I was invited to attend an exhibition and opening program of Inland Printers: The Fine-Press Movement in Chicago, 1920-40, given by the Caxton Club of Chicago, that I fully realized my father’s achievements. Being honored were Norman W. Forgue and his Black Cat Press, along with many of the names of his mentors and friends I’d grown up hearing about. It was like stepping back in time, a child again in my father’s print shop where I lined up old type face on the floor, nearby, Norman working on a project – the very work that is collected and appreciated to this day. A brief explanation: The Caxton Club was founded January 26, 1895 by a group of bibliophiles, some of them business and civic leaders who made their fortunes in the exciting 1890’s in Chicago and shared their love of books. They chose the first English printer, William Caxton as the Club’s namesake. My father belonged to the Caxton Club. In the last years of Norman’s life, the little girl who accompanied him to the print shop helped him with the correspondence and distribution of his miniature books. I attended in his place the MBS San Diego meeting.

In the mystery of things, I hope that he knows that the MBS continues on, and that his name and work are still appreciated and sought after. He always told me that my mother and I were the reasons he made something of his life. His hard work and creativity provided all that we shared. I am forever grateful. Mark White, my youngest son, and Norman’s grandson, is the curator of my father’s personal collection of miniature books. He represents the BCP miniature books today. Mark White: Blackcatpress@comcast.net

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About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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3 Responses to The Black Cat Press-Remembering Norman W. Forgue (1904-1983)

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    Those tiny books look fun, but I would definitely need my glasses!

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Stepheny, it is fascinating to read about your father’s work and passion. I can picture you busy and happy as his little assistant.

  3. This is such a sweet remembrance. My dad repaired books at our local library for 25 years after he retired. I too embrace his love of books and reading. Thanks for sharing.

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