A Chapbook in Honor of William Edwin Rudge by Karen Brummer, MALA 6000 student

William Rudge (1876–1931) was a second-generation commercial printer who worked in the early twentieth century. Rudge was himself a typophile; he was devoted to “the ideal of producing books and printed matter in the most beautiful form,” as he is quoted as saying in the book. Known for his demand for excellence, he employed the finest typesetters and “he was constantly critical of his own work and always experimenting with new methods and processes in the hope of achieving finer results”.

The book includes reproductions of historic photographs of his printing house, including the cylinder press room, which contained enormous printing presses that each required several pressmen.

The Typesetting and Composition Room, shown below, was the pre-press area. It housed numerous typefaces and printer’s ornaments. In this area, typesetters would design the book and determine its format; signatures to be printed would be laid out; and formes constructed.

The chapbook reproduces a variety of title pages of the books produced by Rudge’s printing house, including books designed by Bruce Rodgers, Frederick Goudy, and other prominent American typographers.

The Psalms of David, designed by Bruce Rogers, required the shaving and special placement of all the typographical information on the page due to French ornaments being cast on a different point system.
The perfect archway of printer’s ornaments used for The Presbyterian Child, also designed by Bruce Rogers, was heralded as a triumph over the mechanics of typesetting.
The “tails” (chapter endings) for The Champs Fleury (Bruce Rogers’s design) were set completely by hand, requiring incredible skill to maintain proper spacing, while also creating the tapered arrangement of the text.

The William Edwin Rudge chapbook is a tiny book filled with incomparable skills of bygone artisans, accompanying the story of a man who would settle for nothing but perfection.

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