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San Francisco, California

Book Club of California

In this century-old literary safehouse, print is alive and well  

For over a hundred years the Book Club of California has been heralding the artistry of Western writers and printers, and their public clubhouse has become a bastion where print will never die.

The Book Club of California has been in San Francisco for over 100 years. In 1912, a poet, a book collector, a printer, and a book store owner got together and proposed to include an exhibition on fine printing for the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. But four enthusiastic guys aren’t always the best pitch team, and they were told that their proposition would be more convincing coming from an organization. Over lunch, the three men came up with a solution, and the Book Club was born—though the exhibition of fine books never actually took place (in 2015, to celebrate their centennial, the book club is finally going to display “the exhibition that never was”).

The Club devoted itself to championing printing and writing coming out of California and later, the West in general. As the organization grew, they established a “clubhouse” in San Francisco and appointed it like a literary version of an explorer’s club.

Today, over a century after its founding, the Book Club has published over 200 fine books, amassed a collection of rare books related to printing, the history of the book, and literature and history of the West, and continues to host public programs and exhibitions. The clubhouse, nestled in the heart of Union Square, is free and open to the public during office hours.

Walking into the club really feels like stumbling onto a secret and delightful world where books and letters are king. Anyone feeling a cold about the rise of the Kindle should visit the Book Club of California and rekindle their passion for books.

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