Kay Amert (1947-2008)


Kay Amert, beloved teacher, master typographer and letterpress printer, and noted scholar of French Renaissance printing, joined the UI faculty in 1972.  She was the third director, after Caroll Coleman and Harry Duncan, of The University of Iowa Typography Laboratory. She held this position until her retirement in 2006, as professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The Type Lab was founded in 1945 as part of the Iowa School of Journalism.

Kay Amert came to the University of Iowa as a freshman in 1966 from Madison, South Dakota. A year later, while a student in Harry Duncan’s printing and typography class, she established her own private press imprint, the Seamark Press. The press’s first book, Holding Action, poems by Sam Hamod, was published in 1969. In all, the Seamark Press published fourteen books over sixteen years ­—all editions of the work of contemporary American poets. Many of the Seamark Press books are in the holdings of the University Libraries’ Special Collections, where they may be viewed.

Kay also designed and printed typographical posters announcing celebrated scholarly and artistic events, many of them held at The University of Iowa. Typeset and printed by hand in multiple colors, these posters also display the metal typefaces held by the Typography Laboratory. 

Kay never stopped printing, but from the middle 1980s her energies were directed more toward teaching and typographic scholarship.  She was a recipient of the Collegiate Teaching Award, and she presented her scholarship at meetings of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) and the Renaissance Society of America.  At the time of her death, she was researching and writing a study of the 16th-century French printer, Simon de Colines.