Island Treasures: Petroglyph Press – Downtown Hilo

Island-Made Products and Where to Find Them

Petroglyph Press is Hilo’s family-owned hometown book publisher, with more than 50 Hawai‘i-focused titles published over the company’s 55 years.

Click the cover to see this story in our digital magazine.

Click the cover to see this story in our digital magazine.

Harvard-trained engineer Stephen Reed came to Hilo to work for Hilo Sugar Co. and C. Brewer. Following entrepreneurial instincts that were cultivated on his family farm in Pennsylvania before making his way to Hawai‘i, he bought a printing press in Honolulu, shipped it over and set up a commercial printing company in September 1962 on the corner of Haili Street and Kamehameha Avenue in Downtown Hilo.

Stephen’s wife Frances was a librarian at Hilo Library from 1958-68, when she became aware of important books about Hawai‘i that had gone out of print. Petroglyph Press began to reprint them. Eventually, original works by local authors were added to the press’ repertoire.

Stephen and Frances’ son, David Reed, was active in the business from the beginning and took over in 1974. David grew up in Hilo and was immersed in the printing trade, learning on equipment ranging from an old-style platen press, to offset printing, and into the digital machines of today.

David’s wife Christine came to Hilo from San Francisco, and they married here in 1976. Her voracious reading and inquiring mind, as well as her training in photography, art, and graphics, have made her the proofreader and editor for the press. Her responsibilities include marketing, management, purchasing, and community outreach.

Through the years, the duo has expanded what was once a small printing operation into a publishing enterprise and a popular retail bookstore—Basically Books, which will be 32 years old in November. David and Christine’s daughter Stacey is also working with Petroglyph Press now, making it a three-generation family business.

As interest in the history and culture of Hawai‘i has grown, Petroglyph Press books have continued to fulfill the need for local readers and scholars, as well as inquiring visitors. In June, one of their books won the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association’s Ka Palapala Po’okela Award of Excellence in Children’s Literature: ‘Iwa, The Hawaiian Legend by Dietrich Varez.

Petroglyph Press’ two most recent projects combined Dietrich’s contemporary art with the century-old writings of folklorist William Westervelt. The depiction of historical and mythological characters in Dietrich’s signature block prints and oil paintings have been inspired by research into writings of early scholars, including Westervelt. This is the fifth of Dietrich’s books they’ve published, and a newly established relationship with the Westervelt ‘ohana will help return more of his historical writings to print.

In addition to book publishing, Petroglyph Press continues to operate as a commercial printing service, with copy, fax and email services. From design through printing, binding, and distribution, all books are produced entirely at the facility in Hilo—still in the original location.

Petroglyph Press books are available on Hawai‘i Island at Basically Books, Kona Stories, Bell Book and Candle, Sweet Wind, Big Island Book Buyers, and Hilo Bay and Kona Bay Books, as well as book and gift stores throughout Hawai‘i. ❖

Petroglyph Press
160 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo

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