Jean Carl Hertzog Sr., typographer, book designer, and publisher, was born on February 8, 1902, in Lyons, France, to Carl Showalter and Margaret (McElroy) Hertzog, who were traveling abroad. His father was a professional violinist and amateur writer. The family returned to America in 1903, where his father was assistant headmaster of Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee. When it was discovered that he had contracted tuberculosis, the family departed for the dry climate of Albuquerque. There he joined the University of New Mexico faculty as a music instructor. When his health did not improve, they returned to his native Ohio, where he soon died. Hertzog's resourceful and energetic mother placed him in a foster home and sold books house-to-house until she got a better-paying job teaching school. Eventually his mother remarried. Hertzog's stepfather, Chester B. Story, taught English in Pittsburgh, where young Hertzog grew up. When the boy was ten, Story secured for him a small printing press. By the time Hertzog graduated from Wilkinsburg High School in May 1919, he qualified as a journeyman typesetter. After a brief, unhappy fling at the United States Naval Academy that fall, he returned to Pittsburgh and worked in a local printing plant, the Eddy Press Corporation, until 1921. A pair of older coworkers observed Hertzog's fascination with book design and urged him to pursue his interest at the Carnegie Institute of Technology School of Printing and Publishing. He entered in 1921 and remained only a year, lacking money to continue. He then met Porter Garnett, who had just arrived at Tech to establish his famous Laboratory Press, who became a principal influence in his early design work. Hertzog worked at the Owl Print Shop in Wheeling, West Virginia, from May 1922 until June 1923, when he responded to an ad in the Inland Printer for a layout man with the W. S. McMath Company in El Paso. He quickly advanced to the position of shop foreman. While at McMath he produced his first books: Gonzolo de la Parra's La Lepra Nacional (1923) and Owen White's Just Me and Other Poems (1924), the latter one of his most notable design achievements. On December 6, 1924, Hertzog and Vivian Boddeker used their lunch hour to get married. Eight years later they became parents of J. Carl Hertzog, Jr.
Hertzog left the McMath Company at the end of February 1926 to become advertising manager of the El Paso Sash and Door Company. For the next four years his printing output was limited to sales brochures and catalogues. In January 1930 he became manager of the Rocky Mountain Bank Note Company, where he had the opportunity to learn offset lithography. Again his output was limited to commercial work. By April 1932 his employers had wearied of his quest for perfection and encouraged his return to the McMath Company as vice president. Seeing little future in that role, Hertzog decided in May 1934 to open his own shop at 219 West San Antonio Street. For the next ten years his emphasis was on commercial printing. But meeting Tom Lea in October 1937 furnished the catalyst for reviving his interest in printing as a fine art. The first of their many collaborations was The Notebook of Nancy Lea (1937). Other major Hertzog achievements from this era were William Flato's tribute to the memory of Mary Smith Price (1938), George Catlin's Westward Bound a Hundred Years Ago (1939), Townsend Miller's A Letter from Texas (1939), Lea's Randado (1941), three books in the Range Life Series for the Texas Folklore Society, and two publications of the Texas State Historical Association: Martin Schwettman's Santa Rita (1943) and J. Evetts Haley's Charles Schreiner (1944).
In September 1944 Hertzog joined the El Paso entrepreneur Dale Resler in the commercial printing partnership of Hertzog and Resler. His intent was to make money, retire early, and print books of his choice in the style of his choice. But even while engaged in commercial endeavor, he maintained his interest in fine printing. During this phase of his career he produced Lea's Grizzly from the Coral Sea (1944), Peleliu Landing (1945), and A Calendar of Twelve Travelers Through the Pass of the North (1946). He followed these with Ross Calvin's River of the Sun and, for the Texas State Historical Association, J. A. R. Moseley's The Presbyterian Church in Jefferson, Texas (1946) and Walace E. Hawkins's El Sal del Rey (1947).
In July 1947 Hertzog and his partner had the opportunity to sell the business for a good profit. For the next year he turned to freelance design for diverse clients, most notably San Angelo publisher Houston Harte and the rare books collection of the University of Texas. In the fall of 1948 Hertzog became a half-time English instructor at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy (now the University of Texas at El Paso). He also established a college print shop and continued freelancing. In 1949 his design of Cleve Hallenback's The Journey of Fray Marcos de Niza for Southern Methodist University Press won a coveted Fifty Books of the Year award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts. The following year Hertzog designed another of his top books, Robert E. McKee's The Zia Company in Los Alamos and, for William Sloane and Company of New York, a handsome reprint of Charles Siringo's classic A Texas Cowboy.
In 1952 Hertzog launched the Texas Western Press with publication of Francis Fugate's The Spanish Heritage of the Southwest. The second book from the press was Bessie Lee Fitzhugh's Bells Over Texas, which came three years later. Tom Lea's The King Ranch was five years in production, but it won for him his second Fifty Books of the Year award from the AIGA in 1957. There were two editions of this book-a private edition for the ranch owners and a trade edition for Little, Brown and Company of Boston. A year later Hertzog brought forth a new edition of Sallie Reynolds Matthews's Interwoven, the book that was his sentimental favorite above all others. That same year he designed his first two books for Alfred A. Knopf of New York. His most noted work for Knopf was John Graves's Goodbye to a River (1960). In 1961 came another of Hertzog's design masterpieces, a catalogue of The Samuel H. Kress Collection for the El Paso Museum of Art.
In the last decade before his retirement the "Printer at the Pass" remained exceedingly busy, producing such major volumes as W. H. Timmons's Morelos of Mexico (1963), O. W. Williams's Pioneer Surveyor-Frontier Lawyer (1966), James Wilson Nichols's Now You Hear My Horn (1967), The McKee Collection of Paintings (1968) for the El Paso Museum of Art, Charles L. Sonnichsen's The Pass of the North (1968), and Val Lehman's Forgotten Legions (1969). Not until 1966 did Hertzog become a full-time employee of the university. He retired in 1971 but could not resist appeals to design still more books. In 1977 he produced his first miniature book, a reprint of Barbara Hofland's The Captive Boy for Stanley Marcus. On his deathbed he was at work on a volume of José Cisneros's artwork, Riders Across the Centuries (1984).
Hertzog was a fifty-year Rotarian and a Presbyterian. He belonged to a square dance club, the sheriff's posse, the stamp collectors' club, and the tennis club. He was a long-time member of the Texas Folklore Society and the Western History Association. From 1951 to 1955 he served on the executive council of the Texas State Historical Association. To each scholarly association he contributed his printing skills. He was awarded honorary doctorates in literature by Baylor University in 1967 and by Southern Methodist University in 1971. Hertzog died of emphysema at his El Paso home on July 24, 1984. His volumes were frequently recognized in the Western Books of the Los Angeles-based Rounce and Coffin Club and the Southern Books Competition sponsored by the Southeastern Library Association. As a designer Hertzog believed that printing should be both subtle and imaginative. Effective printing, he held, should help the reader focus on the content; it should never call attention to itself. He carefully selected the size and shape of the book, paper color and texture, style of type, and binding to suit the subject matter. Once the type was set he would rework it to avoid bad spacing and breaks at the end of lines and pages. Finally he would check the press run for variations in inking, all for the sake of enhancing the appearance of the printed page. He campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of and appreciation for printing.