John Fass' Collection of Bruce Rogers Ephemera
Graphic Designer Bruce Rogers:
The Greatest American Book Designer
Bruce Rogers is to U. S. book-designing and printing what Frank Lloyd Wright is to architecture, Edward Steichen to photography. (Time Magazine April 3, 1939.)
From 1923 to 1925 John Fass worked with Bruce Rogers, who is often considered the greatest American book designer. Both men were employed by the printer / publisher William Edwin Rudge, who ran one of the most respected printing houses in the country, located in Mount Vernon, a suburb of New York City. Rudge operated "the finest printing house in the United States" as Joseph Blumenthal described it.
Bruce Rogers was riding the crest of his fame and acclaim, while working at Mount Vernon, so John Fass and his co-workers basked in Bruce's glow. John Fass worked closely with Bruce Rogers at the Mount Vernon plant. John typeset many of the title pages designed by Bruce, and worked extensively on the text pages. At the Rudge printing house, Bruce Rogers was the undisputed master of the craft, and everyone else felt priveleged to be his presence.
Bruce Rogers had a huge impact on John's future book designs and graphic art. John Fass remains one of Bruce Rogers' best students, even though other printers / designers competed for that title, including the Grabhorn brothers of the Arion Press, who would always claim to be "the best students of Bruce Rogers." John referred to Bruce Rogers as "the greatest printer in the world."
Above: Galley proof of 1920s ornaments designed by Bruce Rogers
While John Fass was working with Bruce Rogers in the early 1920s John stashed away bits and pieces of printed ephemera designed by Bruce Rogers. John stored these papers in a box which he labelled only with two initials: B. R. Two initials were plenty, because everyone knew Bruce Rogers was B. R. For a century, and today, Bruce Roger's fame as a graphic designer preceded him. Everyone in the field of fine-press publishing knew of B. R. or wanted to be B. R. He was the F. D. R. of the printing press.
In 1938 Paul Bennett visited Bruce Rogers in New Fairfield, Connecticut. He saw Bruce's own collection of this B. R. ephemera, and described the collection in his Books and Bookmaking column for the April 1934 edition of Linotype News.
Paul Bennett wrote, Here are the B. R. ephemera--the circulars, bookplates, the little pieces of printing fashioned with superb skill, certain to be the despair of any collector who hopes to have anything reasonably complete in a B. R. collection. Fortunate will be the lucky individual who falls heir to them. That was no B. S.
Above: Bruce Rogers' pencilled instructions for the typesetter
The instructions are: hair-line, inner rule, a little lower, and center. Bruce Rogers was right. The design looks better that way. Perhaps the typesetter was John Fass, himself, who set some of Bruce's designs while they were co-workers at the Rudge plant.
Bruce Roger's Odyssey
"Among the Most Beautiful Books Ever Produced" (Joseph Blumenthal):
In 1932 Bruce Rogers printed and published a book which is considered one of the most beautiful fine-press books of the 20th century: Homer's Odyssey. The book had been newly translated by T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Rogers printed and published this book with Emery Walker and Wilfred Merton.
Emery Walker was a printer and historian who had inspired William Morris to create the Kelmscott Press. Later, Walker created the Doves Press, with bookbinder T. J. Cobden Sanderson.
When Bruce Rogers returned from England he brought with him an Albion tabletop printing press which had been owned by Emery Walker. John Fass soon became the owner of this same printing press, and used it to print his Hammer Creek books at the Bronx YMCA.
I believe the Bruce Rogers Odyssey is indisputably amongst the most beautiful books ever produced. It is difficult to describe a work of genius . In the Odyssey without tricks or accessory decoration, with a classic austerity akin to the timeless proportions of the Parthenon, with only type and paper and ink, with consummate skill, Rogers created a masterpiece. (Joseph Blumenthal quote)
In 1932 Bruce Roger's Odyssey was published in its first American trade edition. The text was set in Linotype's new 12-point Janson.
Linotype used this four-page brochure to promote their new Janson typeface. The title is: A brief showing of the new Linotype Janson.
Bruce Rogers won a 1933 AIGA book award for this American Odyssey, with Linotype's Janson. Two years later, in 1935, John Fass won his own AIGA book award with Linotype's Janson, for a 1934 edition of Virgil translated by Louis How, and designed, printed, and published by John at his Harbor Press.
Louis How was no Lawrence of Arabia, but at least they had the same classical aesthetic.
Pencil Sketch by Bruce Rogers for a Broadside:
Above: Bruce Roger's pencil sketch and instructions:
Instructions: Linotype border, light and heavy rule as here, Bodoni Roman and Italic mixed, and Bodoni Book Italic.
Broadside Text: We have endeavored, during the past 50 years, to uphold the traditions of the master printers and designers of Great Britain. This has been no small part of an ideal to create and execute work that will live.
In this broadside, William Edwin Rudge announces the use of aquatone for reproducing illustrations "on antique, hand-made papers."
Bruce Rogers: Master of the Dingbat:
Above: Bruce Rogers' dingbat thistles
Bruce Rogers was a master of designing with printers' ornaments, also known as dingbats or fleurons. In the 1920s he helped create a fashion trend for fleurons by designing title pages, page decorations, and other graphics made entirely with print ornaments.
John Fass' collection of Bruce Rogers' ephemera includes a collection of paper scraps printed with Bruce Rogers' fleuron designs. Rogers often used a thistle as his printer's mark.
Above: Paper scrap with a Bruce Rogers M in a field of fleurons.
Above: Mini galley proof of a Bruce Rogers fleuron design
In 1925 Bruce Rogers used a similar fountain design for the title page of the book The Green Hat: A Romance, printed at the William Rudge plant. The book was handset on special tinted hand-made paper, in an edition of 175 copies for sale. The book's price was $25.00. The book won an AIGA 50-books design award, as no surprise.
1925 was the year John Fass left William Rudge and his co-worker Bruce Rogers to start up the Harbor Press in Manhattan. But Bruce Rogers' high standards of craftsmanship never left John Fass.
Bookplates by Bruce Rogers:
Above: Bookplates by Bruce Rogers
In the 1920s Bruce Rogers made a big splash in the design world by showing typesetters how to create designs with print ornaments. Many of these bookplates by Rogers are examples of that work.
The bookplate of advertising executive William Reydel is the only bookplate, here, which is predominately Modernist in design. Bruce's work reflects his taste for the classical and the romantic. He created ornate, symmetrical designs, and seldom used Art Deco or sans serif typefaces. When he used the Modernist vocabulary, however, he excelled. The Reydel bookplate, with the skyscrapers and dirigible, is one the most remarkable bookplate of this lot.
Included are bookplates for the Sachs family, of the Goldman Sachs banking firm. Plus there are bookplates for Maurice Firuski, a bibliophile and bookseller who was an authority on Herman Melville. The jumping-antelope bookplate was for William A. Kittredge, director of design and typography for the Lakeside Press in Chicago.
Above: 1923 Christmas card by Bruce Rogers. The tree is made of printers' ornaments.
Bruce Rogers' Masterpiece. The 1935 Lectern Bible
"The most important and notable typographic achievement of the 20th century." (Joseph Blumenthal):
Above: Announcement for Bruce Rogers' 1935 Lectern Bible
The massive Oxford Lectern Bible is Bruce Roger's masterpiece. It was published in England by the Oxford University Press. The Bible was published for Britain's King George to present to the Memorial Church at Ypres.
Rogers designed more than 400 books, and this Bible is the most monumental of them all.
Above: A 1937 Dinner party souvenir designed by Bruce Rogers
Above: Proofs for bookplates of the Ella Sachs Plotz Memorial Library
Albrecht Dürer is the author of this title, which was first published in Nürnberg in 1525. Bruce Rogers produced this book in 1923, the same year John Fass began working with Rogers at the William Rudge printing house.
The book's primary text was handset in Centaur, a typeface designed by Rogers. The edition was limited to 350 copies for sale. The book won that year's AIGA 50-books award.
Above: Another Bruce Rogers design: A 1925 tribute to his employer William Edwin Rudge
Bruce Rogers, John Fass and other employees of the Rudge Printing House presented this "token of esteem" to William Rudge when he was preparing to sail to France for the 1925 Paris Exposition.
Rudge had been appointed by Herbert Hoover to represent the U. S. and the United Typothetae of America, a printers' association. The design features Rudge's pressmark and monogram in a Bruce Rogers medallion.
Above: 1925 Union League luncheon announcement designed by Bruce Rogers
It was a great honor for John's boss William Rudge to represent U. S. printers and publishers at the 1925 Paris Expo. Thomas Nast Fairbanks, an executive with the American Institute of Graphic Arts, threw a luncheon for Rudge to celebrate the prestigious appointment to Paris.
Bruce Rogers designed this luncheon announcement with type-metal dolphins, as Rudge would soon be sailing the Atlantic on his way to Paris.
The orb-and-cross printers' device was used by printers and publishers throughout Europe from the earliest era of the printing press. This mark was reclaimed by fine press printers who wanted to lay claim to the tradition of fine craftsmanship perfected by Renaissance European printers.
Above: Reception room of the Printing House of William Edwin Rudge
John Fass would have been quite familiar with this room, as he worked for Rudge from 1923 until 1925. This was one of the most respected printing and publishing houses in America. The firm employed some of the best printers and designers, including Bruce Rogers, who designed 80 books for Rudge in the 1920s and 30s.
Rogers was the master of the craft, while he was here, and was at the peak of his performance. He created some his finest books for Rudge, including Journal of Madam Knight, Pierrot of the Minute, Champ Fleury, and Boswell Papers.
In the mid 1920s, while John Fass was a printer here, the Rudge organization was at the peak of fame for fine book production. John Fass was at the right place at the right time. He learned much here at Rudge, and perfected his craft, working with Bruce Rogers.
Above: Galley proof of a Bruce Rogers design made from printers' rule bent over a hot pipe
Above: Like sand in an hourglass, made from printers' rule. Just because they wanted to be poetic with metal.
Above: Text included with a 1927 Christmas card sent to John Fass from his former Rudge coworkers
In 1927 John Fass had been operating his Harbor Press in Manhattan for two years, after leaving co-worker Bruce Rogers and the Willim Rudge printing house in 1925. But the influence of master craftsman Bruce Rogers would remain with John Fass for life
Above: Page proof from the 1936 Peter Piper's tongue-twister book, designed by Bruce Rogers
By 1936 John Fass had been operating his Harbor Press in Manhattan for 11 years, after leaving the Rudge firm.
That same year Bruce Rogers designed this Peter Piper book of tongue twisters for the Mergenthaler Linotye Company. The book featured page designs by the best American designers, typographers, and printers of the 1930s. Each designer was assigned one page.
John Fass was assigned the first page, to design the text for the letter A , as in "Andrew Airpump Asked his Aunt her Ailment." John Averill received the page for the letter P, as in "Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers."
John was in good company. Other pages in the book were created by the Grabhorn brothers, W. A. Dwiggins, Joseph Blumenthal, Helen Gentry, John Archer, Paul Bennett, etc. John Fass was definitely a contender.