Carl Purington Rollins was the University Printer at Yale University from 1920 to 1948, and left an imprint: when I arrived in 1986 as an undergraduate, his name was still on the lips of people involved with printing, letterpress, and the art of the book (a distinct concept inside of graphic design and book crafts), despite his passing in 1960. Though well known in his time and celebrated alongside other printers and designers, it's his contemporary Bruce Rogers, who designed both typefaces and a prodigious number of books, who is recalled best from that day.
I was looking up a detail about Rogers the other day, remembered Rollins, and found a bizarre little tome that intersects the two. It's called Bruce Rogers: America's Typographic Playboy. It's a tribute by Rollins to Rogers in 1927, printed in an edition of 500; I was able to purchased a slightly worn copy numbered 57.
The book is full of printer and typographic in-jokes so far in that they're indecipherable, plus reproductions of ridiculous work Rogers engaged in. It has not just a colophon—a description at the end of how the book was made—but also a pre-colophon. There are ridiculous devices (graphical elements used on a title page), printer's marks, and other carved ornaments.
But it's also a gorgeous little book. The stamped cover is a mess of design with a foil label on top. The paper is luscious and perfect after 90 years in whatever circumstances it found itself stored. There is not just one interesting watermark, but two distinct ones, making me wonder if they used two sheets made in two ways. (Rollins was a papermaker, too, and taught it.) The page retains its deckle, the untrimmed edge of the paper that results from being made sheet by sheet, as opposed to on a roll (a "web"). It's printed in black with an accent color of dark green so dark it's almost, but not quite, indistinguishable from black—another in joke in terms of how subtle that is.
I find the book inspirational for the kind of book I'll be making: a short edition, with interesting physical elements that makes it worthy of examination, while also being beautiful and well executed, full of stuff worth looking at and reading.
I'll take some better pictures later, but I'll share with you a few aspects of the book here, including some close-up shots.
I've set up this hidden blog on my site to keep you up to date on Hands On: the Original Digital as the project proceeds. I'll post updates, photos, and videos here for backers; some of this material will appear elsewhere in different form, but you'll get the full inside skinny.
(Note: I removed the password for this patrons-only blog because it didn't allow RSS to work properly. It's security-through-obscurity, so the blog remains secret so long as no one distributes the link or links to it. There's nothing classified here; it's just meant for patrons.)