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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bruce Rogers book prospectus

Back in June, I wrote about a 1957 Book Club of California prospectus for a forthcoming book that year about Mark Twain. This prospectus was one item in a batch of ephemera that Bill Holman gave to me for my ephemera collection.

For this post, I've gone back to that folder of ephemera and have selected another prospectus from the Book Club of California: BR: A Panel Discussion of the Bruce Rogers Centenary held at Purdue University by Harry Duncan, K.K. Merker and Ward Ritchie (1981).


There's more, but I'm still organizing and studying what I have, as time permits. I'm also acquiring similar ephemera directly from the Book Club of California, as I am now a member thanks to Mr. Holman's recommendation and sponsorship. The ephemera from this club have become quite collectible over the years, such as announcements, prospectuses, invitations, and other pieces, which are themselves beautiful examples of design and fine printing.


One of the greatest book designers, if not the greatest (which many will contend), of the twentieth century was Bruce Rogers, an Indiana native who lived from 1870 to 1957. He was graduated from Purdue University, where a centennial conference was held in 1970 to commemorate his life and work with typography, printing, and book design.

Among his many accomplishments highlighted in the book's prospectus above were his design of the Centaur font, the Lectern Bible he designed for the Oxford Press, and his design work for the Riverside Press.

The Purdue conference included a panel discussion between Harry Duncan, K.K. Merker, and Ward Ritchie, all accomplished and recognized printers in their own right. Ward Ritchie actually knew Bruce Rogers, so he was able to contribute personal memories to the discussion.

A decade later, the Book Club of California, according to the prospectus for BR, found the transcribed discussion so interesting that they arranged for its publication in book format. The prospectus continues with a brief biography of the panelists and information about the publication of the book. The book was designed by Ward Ritchie and ran over 64 pages with several illustrations of Bruce Rogers' designs. Limited to 600 copies, the book was priced at $20.


What is interesting and ironic about this prospectus for a book that pays tribute to a revered giant of the book arts is the lack of print quality. To the casual eye, it might not be noticeable upon first glance. "Casual eye" does not apply to expert printer and designer, Bill Holman, who of course caught the flawed type and was puzzled about the poor presswork of this piece. He noted his observation in pencil in the upper right corner of the front of the piece:
See interior. Very poor presswork or was this a proof copy or? WRH 5/12/81

See for yourself below.

Click on image to enlarge

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