- Cultural Record KeepersBruce Rogers Book Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries
Throughout his long and fruitful career as a typographer, book designer, and printing advisor, Bruce Rogers never lost sight of the fact that type was first and foremost a functional medium that was meant to be read, not merely admired. This bookplate, designed by Rogers in 1944 forH. Stanley Marcus, co-owner of the Neiman Marcus department store chain, clearly demonstrates the simple elegance that is the hallmark of its creator, with the clean, smooth lines of the lettering and its easy readability.
The illustrations above the type also reflect the characteristics of their master. What is most striking about Rogers's art is his keen sense of balance and order. The bird in the upper left corner is balanced by the star. [End Page 102] The cactus in the center is balanced by the jackrabbit beside it, which was an intentional reference to Marcus's Texan heritage. Even the dust cloud, perhaps a reference to the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s, leaves the viewer with a sense of pleasant symmetry. The sparse openness of dry desert plains in this work stands in marked contrast to the image of opulence and plenty that many associate with the Neiman Marcus empire.
A native of Linwood, Indiana (now part of Lafayette), Rogers received a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University in 1890. He went on to design more than five hundred books, perhaps the most famous being his Oxford Lectern Bible in 1935. The Oxford Bible was printed in Centaur type, which Rogers himself created and which is still widely used today. Before his death in 1957 Rogers had received honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale as well as his alma mater. Rogers donated much of his personal library of his published works to Purdue in 1932, adding new items as they were produced. During the years after Rogers's death the libraries continued to add to the base collection of his works and also included pieces on fine printing, typography, and bookmaking in general. Today, the Bruce Rogers Book Collection of the Archives and Special Collections Library is one of the most comprehensive assemblages of its kind relating to the life and works of the famous designer. The library also possesses an archival collection of Bruce Rogers's papers, including correspondence, samples of his work, photographs, printed materials, and ephemera.
Stanley Marcus himself was an avid book collector who was especially fond of the work of Bruce Rogers. At one point he even offered to underwrite the cost of a new series of works to be designed by Rogers. Marcus eventually amassed one of the largest Rogers collections in private hands, which was no mean feat given that most of the books Rogers designed did not bear his name. However, Marcus was proud of the bookplate that the seventy-four-year-old legend created for him, although, perhaps ironically, Rogers forgot to include his trademark initials, "BR," before the final printing. Today, Marcus's collection of Rogers-designed books is part of the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University.
Although it is not clear when the first archival material was first collected at Purdue, it is known that major manuscript collections were acquired as early as 1940, when George Putnam donated the papersof his wife, Amelia Earhart, to the university. It is likely that official Purdue University records, such as correspondence, reports, minutes, and photographs, were stored in administrators' offices and later transferred to the library over time as Purdue presidents and faculty members retired. The Rogers items themselves were probably part of [End Page 103] the general library holdings until 1967, when the first physical space was set aside and designated officially as a holding area for rare book and archival collections.
Among the holdings of Archives and Special Collections are many gems, including the papers of Nobel Prize–winning chemist Herbert C. Brown; manuscripts by authors George Ade and Charles Major; the working papers of time and motion study pioneers Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (best known for being documented in the book Cheaper by the Dozen...