The Master Typographer
by Nicholas Fabian
Bruce Rogers was born in Lafayette, Indiana on May 14, 1870. He attended Purdue University where he studied art and from his earliest works it was obvious that he was a gifted, natural born lettering artist. Early in his professional career, he worked for J.M. Bowles who produced a magazine called "Modern Art." In 1896 he became the designer and art director of Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., where he stayed for the next sixteen years. It was there, in 1909, that Rogers produced through rubbing a bolder and different version of the Caslon face by using an electro-deposition method to produce a font that was to become "Riverside Caslon." From 1912 on, he became a freelance graphic designer/typographer with clients such as Alfred Knopf, Pynson Press, Merrymount Press, Lakeside Press, and other well respected firms.
Bruce Rogers designed his first typeface called, Montaigne, in 1902 for the Riverside Press. Montaigne was a Jenson ‘revival' and was cut by Robert Wiebking in 16 pt size only as a foundry type. In 1914 Rogers designed Centaur for the New York Metropolitan Museum, a typeface that was introduced for machine composition by Monotype in (1929) with a matching Arrighi italic, designed by Frederic Warde. Centaur was based on an earlier model of Jenson's classic face, so, it is not just a revised and more polished version of Montaigne, the type he designed a dozen years earlier. In 1916 Rogers went to England to join Emery Walker at Mall Press, where Rogers personally composed and printed 318 exquisite collector copies of Dürer's "On the just shaping of letters" for the Grolier Club, a challenging task that was completed early 1917.
Later that year, based on Sydney Cockerell's recommendation Rogers became the typographical adviser to Cambridge University Press. It is most likely it was his curiosity during his stay, and the direct exposure to the highest quality of English printing, that resulted in his revival of the Baskerville fonts. After Rogers had seen Baskerville's magnificent folio Bible, it is easy to understand his enthusiasm. During his stay at Cambridge, Rogers also designed a poster type for Meynell's Pelican Press, which was never properly cut for commercial use because the war created shortages for professional craftsman.
In 1919, Rogers returned from England and spent much of his time designing books, mostly for William E. Rudge, at Mount Vernon. One can say with great certainty that Bruce Rogers' most important achievements in book design were T.E. Lawrence's translation of Homer's Odyssey, Stanley Morison's Fra Luca de Pacioli, and his final masterpiece, the Oxford Lectern Bible. In 1763, John Baskerville produced his beautiful folio Bible for Cambridge University. Interestingly, in 1935 Bruce Rogers designed the "Oxford Lectern Bible" which became the greatest folio Bible since Baskerville's masterpiece of 1763.¹ Through such superb accomplishments, Bruce Rogers became one of America's great book designer and typographer of the 20th century. He died in 1957.
Some of Bruce Rogers' typeface designs:
Montaigne (1902), Centaur foundry (1914), Centaur Monotype (1929), Poster (1918-19), Goudy Bible (-1947) designed with the collaboration of Sol Hess for Lanston Monotype. [Definitely not Rogers' calibre or style. The caps "Q" and "Z" are poorly conceived and the numerals need greater harmony with the text.]
¹ During the intervening years, in terms of design and typography, only two other bibles stand out. The Emery Walker & Cobden-Sanderson Doves Bible from 1903, and Eric Gill's Four Gospels, published by the Golden Cockerell Press in 1931.
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