November 30th, 2011
Recently, Professor Patricia Butz brought students in to Special Collections to see some books we recently purchased at her request. The books were by Father Edward Catich on calligraphy and handwriting. We are always happy to assist faculty in finding resources for their classes! And, this is an area that we may have been lacking in materials, so it helped our collection, also.
Father Edward Catich was a well known author and artist working in many fields. He was interested in history, liturgical art, photography, music, sculpture and stone cutting, but he is best known as a calligrapher. He was born in Stevensville, Montana. After he and his 3 brothers were orphaned, they were relocated to Illinois. While in an orphanage in Illinois, he undertook a sign-writing apprenticeship with Walter Heberling. He went on to work as a union sign-writer in Chicago and attended the Art Institute of Chicago for three-and-a-half years and then went to St. Ambrose in Iowa. He went on to receive a graduate degree from the University of Iowa, and then went to Rome in 1935 to study at Pontifical Gregorian University and also pursue an interest in paleography and epigraphy. It was there that he observed a relationship between the inscription letter-making of Imperial Rome and the Chicago sign writing he learned in his internship. After ordination, he returned to St. Ambrose College to teach art, music, and math. He founded the Art Department at St. Ambrose and taught there until his death in 1979.
He also founded his own press, the Catfish Press, which operated out of his studio at the University. He published several of his own books at the press. He was a prolific artist in many different formats from stone cutting to painting to calligraphy. St Ambrose University owns 5,000 pieces of the artist’s work and they are available in an online digital archive. Many of his paintings have calligraphic elements. He is also responsible for the designing of two typefaces: Petrarch and Catfish.
He created a number of alphabet stones, some in permanent collections of seven museums. St. Ambrose University house the largest collection of Father Catich’s work, some 5,000 pieces from sketchbooks and drawings to finished works in watercolor, ink, and slates. He also left his manuscripts and correspondence. St. Ambrose has digitized much of the artwork and is available at The Catich Collection: A Digital Archive of the Works of Fr. Edward Catich.