The History of Third & Elm Press

50 Years of Fine Printing

In 1965, Alexander and Ilse Buchert Nesbitt founded the Third & Elm Press at 29 Elm Street in Newport, Rhode Island. From the beginning, using only hand set type, the press printed and published limited edition books, note paper, and cards on an 1897 Golding platen press and original woodcuts on the 1830 Acorn hand press that inspired the press logo. At first, Third & Elm also printed letterheads, business cards, and invitations, however at present it no longer produces this type of work.

Calligrapher, historian of typography, and teacher, Alexander Nesbitt was born 1901 in Patterson, New Jersey. He worked for many years in New York City as a graphic designer and teacher. In 1950, he published “History and Technique of Lettering,” which became a classic in the field. Later, he taught at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, and at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Although he retired in 1972, he continued to produce fine lettering—titles, seals, testimonials, and other documents. He died in 1995.

Ilse was born in Frankfurt/Main, Germany in 1932. She grew up in Japan between 1936-1947, returning to Germany at the age of fifteen. In 1954 Ilse began to study fine art at the art academies of Hamburg and Berlin, focussing on lettering and typography through 1959. There, she completed her first woodcut prints.


Press Motto: “Whoever works joyfully and enjoys what has been done is fortunate” (Goethe). This applies to the shop. It is small, my tools and means are limited, and the absolute quality for which I incessantly strive may be hard to attain, but I enjoy what I do and so I am happy. Ilse Buchert Nesbitt