Long live Rob Roy Kelly: A dedication and mission statement

Portrait of Rob Roy Kelly (from the back flap of “American Wood Type: 1828–1900”, 1969 Van Nostrand Reinhold hardcover edition).

Portrait of Rob Roy Kelly (from the back flap of “American Wood Type: 1828–1900”, 1969 Van Nostrand Reinhold hardcover edition).

If I had to accredit any one person for inspiring me to begin a journal with such an arcane focus as “large and ornamented type and related matters”, it would be Rob Roy Kelly.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr Kelly before his passing in 2004, but his 1969 book American Wood Type: 1828–1900 influenced my initial interest in the topic more than anything else. The book is by far the most definitive source of information on wood type, and I find it hard to imagine anyone else surpassing Kelly’s level of dedication to such research.

Beyond his research and writing on wood type, Kelly is known for his role as a graphic design educator, among many other things. My goal here is not to write his biography though; I am by no means an authority on his life’s work. I only wish to acknowledge his influence on my own interests and endeavors. With that in mind, I’m dedicating this new journal to Rob Roy Kelly.

I’ll be using this platform to record thoughts and observations – both of my own and of others – on topics such as wood type, large-scale lettering, decorative typefounding, sign painting, penmanship, poster printing, engraving, etc. While these subjects are decidedly historic in nature and often lead to research-based projects, part of my goal in beginning this journal is to also frame these things in a contemporary context. The proverbial dust covering traditional graphic arts is being cleared away more and more by changes in technology and how people adapt and reinterpret obsolete design paradigms. As such, it only seems appropriate that this new journal is being published digitally.

Achieving anything even close to the work of Rob Roy Kelly is far beyond my goals; but to honor his memory I will attempt, in my own way, to at least begin to pick up where he left off.

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