Nelson Adams

Nelson Adams grew up in Montreal and studied ancient Greek at the University of New Brunswick. By 1968 he was in Toronto, hanging around Rochdale College. Nelson soon met Stan Bevington, and by spring 1969 was employed at Coach House Press.

His early days at Coach House were not glamorous. Nelson swept the floor and worked in the bindery. He soon graduated to working with handset type on the Vandercook SP15, doing reproproofs of linotyping, handsetting titles and covers, and printing posters, cards, and ephemera. He even set and printed complete books, using linotype and handset type. Three hundred copies of Michael Ondaatje's The Man with Seven Toes (1969) were produced this way.

As Coach House began to embrace digital technology, so did Nelson. By the mid-1980s he was an expert with UNIX and SGML, working especially with Kate Hamilton. In 1989, Adams and Hamilton left Coach House to work on a three-year contract, half time, setting up an in-house SGML-based typesetting system for McClelland & Stewart. At the same time he did freelance typesetting, especially for SoftQuad. From 1992 through 1996 Adams worked in-house for SoftQuad, until being laid off.

It wasn't long before Nelson Adams was in Denver, and later Fort Worth, under the umbrella of the Thomson Corporation, working on XML tagging and HTML applications. Thomson was interested in setting up Web-based training courses, and Adams helped to perfect software for typesetting, editing, and proofing. In 2009 he retired, and moved back to Toronto.

In 2012, Nelson joined the college presses at the Robertson Davies Library at Massey College. His duties as College Printer included supervising the Bibliography Room and caring for a teaching collection of nineteenth-century iron hand presses, type, and ornaments.

He passed away September of 2019 at the age of 77.

The Devil's Artisan would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

Nelson Adams Magnify

Nelson Adams

Credit: Don McLeod