Richard Abel papers

Identifier: AbelR-RSCA-ORPR-US

Scope and Contents

These papers primarily contain documents and materials relating to the programs of the Richard Abel and Company, Inc., mostly from the 1970s. There are also some ephemera from the Timber Press and Abel’s other bibliographic and publishing activities.


  • 1925-2013 (dates based on creator's birth and death dates).


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Richard Abel (Reed College class of 1948) was born on July 7, 1925. He attended Reed College and was active as a student, organizing frequent recorded music programs in the Capehart Room, in printing and graphic design, in working at and then taking on the management of the Reed College Bookstore, ordering academic titles for Reed’s classes and faculty, and becoming the full-time manager after a foray into graduate school at U.C. Berkeley. He married Katherine Ferguson (Reed College class of 1948), who was a fellow student for the first two years; she left when they married and had children. Abel was one of the participating founders of Reed’s Champoeg Press, helping to print the first title, A day with the cow column in 1843 by Jesse Applegate, along with professors Lloyd Reynolds and Dorothy Johansen.

With university and college libraries requesting the acquisition of scholarly titles from domestic and foreign booksellers, Abel created the Richard Abel & Company, Inc. to act as a distributor of those titles. His company made ground-breaking advances with the approval plan concept, in centralized cataloging, computerization, and in turn-key libraries with a full card catalog in A/V format accessible from many locations.

After purchasing the imprint from Reed College, Abel continued to produce many titles under the Champoeg Press name until 1981. He also founded and ran several local Oregon presses until 1989, including the Timber Press which became known for its books about botany, the Amadeus Press for books on music and musicians, the Areopagitica Press for history imprints, and the Dioscorides Press for pure botany and materia medica titles. Abel served as a trustee and as the U.S. Editor for LOGOS: the Journal of the World Book Community as well as a member of Transaction Publishers’ Board of Directors. He was widely published in the bibliographic world on books and printing history, making a statement before Congress in 1971, writing regular essays for publishing newsletters, and authoring several books including The Gutenberg Revolution, 2011. He died April 17, 2013.


1.5 Linear Feet (3 manuscript boxes)




Richard Abel (1925-2013) was a bookman: a printer, publisher, and major distributor of scholarly titles to the academic world. As a Reed student in the Class of 1948, he was active in organizing music programs in the Capehart Room, in printing for the Champoeg Press, and as a manager of the Reed College Bookstore. He went on to form an early distribution company for academic libraries, making many novel improvements in the approval plan concept, centralized cataloging, and computerization of the field. Abel ran the Timber Press and started the Amadeus Press, the Dioscorides Press, and the Aeropagitica Press in Oregon. He wrote widely and was involved in many book-related publications and activities.

Physical Location

Archives Main Shelving (L014), Range F Section 2.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

An outright gift of Kit Abel Hawkins, Richard Abel’s daughter, in July of 2015 and later in 2015 and into 2016.

Processing Information

Processed by Gay Walker August 6, 2015; December 2015; February 2016.

Gay Walker
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Reed College Special Collections and Archives Repository

3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard
Portland Oregon 97202-8199 United States