The Book Undone: Thirty Years of Granary Books

History of the Press

Granary Books had its beginnings in Origin Books, the name of the Minneapolis bookstore that Steve Clay opened with Merce Dostale in 1981 after post-collegiate stints in Chicago and Boulder. Shortly thereafter, he became involved with Granary Books, then the literary fine press branch of the small press distributor Bookslinger. In late 1988 Steve Clay moved to Manhattan and opened a gallery on Broadway just below Bleecker.

Granary would publish works by many writers connected with small presses on the East and West Coasts, and come to participate in those scenes, but the press germinated in the avant-garde printing communities of the Midwest. The name Granary refers to the most visible distribution system in the Twin Cities, that is the wheat granaries (Pillsbury, Gold Medal) along the Mississippi River.

Important among Clay's influential predecessors were Jonathan Williams’ Jargon Society publications, Cid Corman’s Origin magazine after which the bookstore was named, Dick Higgins’ Fluxus-connected Something Else Press for whom he printed an early catalog, and Coracle Books founded by Simon Cutts.

The broadside pictured at the top of this page, made in Minneapolis, is one of the first pieces to bear the Granary name. Printed at the Bieler Press, it features text from San Francisco Renaissance poet Jack Spicer — foreshadowing Granary's long commitment to publishing poetry.

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