November 20

A Harvard man who for thirty years was notably connected with Yale University died upon this day in 1960 at the age of 80. Carl Purington Rollins, one of the very fine printers of our time, served as Printer to Yale from 1920 to his retirement in 1948, when he was named Printer Emeritus. A year later the University honored him with the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, a fitting acknowledgement of Rollins’ lifelong love of letters, particularly those in the printer’s typecase.

As a boy, living in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Carl Rollins became interested in printing. He acquired a Golding Press and at the age of fourteen produced a tiny periodical called The Stamp Journal. When he had completed his studies at Harvard, he followed up this early regard for the craft by serving an apprenticeship as a compositor with the famous Boston firm of Heintzemann. In 1903 Rollins established a small printing office in Montague, Massachusetts, five years later moving it into the lovely old Dyke Mill in the same town. The Montague Press was maintained until 1918, when Rollins joined Yale as a typographic designer. It was in the Dyke Mill that Rollins worked with Bruce Rogers in the production of Maurice Guerin’s The Centaur, from which is derived the name of the fine roman type designed by Rogers.

At Yale Rollins taught typography for thirty years. It is said of him that he redesigned or designed “almost every publication and piece of paper used at the University.” For the Printing-Office of Yale University he designed some two thousand books in the thirty year period, most of which were distinguished examples of American bookmaking, and many of which were selected by juries in the Fifty Books of the Year Exhibitions sponsored by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. In addition to the Yale books Rollins designed numerous volumes for other publishers, a number of which he hand-set himself.

Typographically, Rollins was a traditionalist, with a great respect for such types as Caslon and Baskerville. He had no interest at all in the American cuttings of Bodoni, although he did use them on occasion. Throughout his long career he argued against the dependence of modern printers on the machine. He was a long way from being the typical “hand press” printer, but he reasoned that the problems of maintaining full production for machines took valuable time away from the printer who could better have spent it in a continuous search for perfection in everything he produced.

Friend and confidant of all the great printing figures of his time, Rollins was raised to the same pedestal as such figures as Updike, Rogers, Goudy, and Cleland by being the recipient in 1941 of the renowned medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

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