About Silver Buckle Press


Silver Buckle Press is a working museum of letterpress printing dedicated to preserving the craft of fine printing through educational programming, publications, exhibitions and tours. The Silver Buckle Press collection of books, wood and metal type, presses, and printing equipment is part of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries.

For students, scholars, and the general public Silver Buckle Press offers opportunities for studying the history of the book and the cultural heritage of printing. Our staff is available to answer questions about printing history and practice, and to give talks and hands-on demonstrations. We provide intensive training to students on staff, and conduct tours for University classes and community groups.



The original collection was put together by Robert Shaftoe (1921-1972). Shaftoe was an art director at the Ford Motor Company, and a hobby printer. He named his press “Silver Buckle” after the nursery rhyme, Bobby Shaftoe. It begins “Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea, silver buckles on his knee.”

In 1973 the Silver Buckle Press was purchased from Robert Shaftoe’s estate by the University of Wisconsin libraries, upon the urging of Professor Walter Hamady (now retired) of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Art Department.

When the Silver Buckle Press came to UW-Madison, it was set up by the libraries as a working museum. The museum part of that description refers to the preservation of the Press’s distinguished holdings of type and printing equipment; the working designation describes its role in preserving the practice of printing through use of the equipment for publications and demonstrations.