Professor Ethan Berry Donates Historic Hand Press to Cape Ann Museum

October 28, 2022

Montserrat Professor Ethan Berry recently donated an iron hand press to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, although the press’ latest trip across the North Shore might be better understood as a homecoming.

Ethan Berry has held onto the press for nearly 20 years, but “Mary,” as she’s been nicknamed, had a long career even before then. It’s named for its most prominent owner, and the woman who made it remarkable: Mary (Magna) Maletskos.
Maletskos was one of the Folly Cove Designers, a group of mid-20th century block printing artists from Gloucester, Massachusetts and led by Virginia Lee Burton. Mary first used the iron hand-press which now bears her name to print linoleum blocks for her Folly Cove design work. She continued to use it even after the group’s dissolution, happy to experiment with “anything she could put under a press.”

After Maletskos’ passing in 1993, her family gave the press to Montserrat College of Art. It was installed in the Digital Design lab to serve as an example of an earlier form of graphic production. It was moved to the letterpress shop in 2002 where it was used for proofing type and printing broadsides, before coming into Ethan Berry’s hands in 2006 when the college no longer had room.

In 2021, Ethan Berry felt that the press needed a new home. Inquiries lead him to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, which holds the largest collection of work by Folly Cove Designers. After thoroughly cleaning and refurbishing the press, Berry oversaw the press’ installation at the museum this October. Back on Cape Ann for the first time in decades, the press is featured prominently in the new exhibition Designed & Hand-Blocked by the Folly Cove Designers (Oct 8, 2022 – March 19, 2023). Once the show is over, “Mary” will be reinstalled in the CAM Studio, where it will serve as a usable piece of printmaking equipment for future workshops and classes, fueling the creativity for decades of artists to come, just as it did for Mary.