October 24

Writing from his home in New Fairfield, Connecticut on October 24, 1931, Bruce Rogers explained his attitude upon judging exhibitions to Thomas Wood Stevens:

“Regarding your very complimentary offer, of the principal jurorship for the Fifty Book Show:—I am sorry to disappoint you, or to seem indifferent to your kindness in thinking of me in connection with it; but my one and only experience in serving on a jury for a printing show, was so unfortunate and unpleasant (owing to there having been some of my own unexpectedly entered) that I then and there resolved never to attempt to serve in a like category, under any consideration—a resolve that I have faithfully kept.

“Aside from this personal prejudice, I am not sure that I am in favor of the jury system—in printing or in general shows. I realize that something of the kind is practically necessary—but the grounds for judging bookmaking are so many and varied that I don’t believe anyone should be empowered to say—by implication, at least—’This is good; that is bad’ (which is what the selective system amounts to) unless at the same time they are able to give detailed grounds to the public for their acceptance of one and rejection of the other—a thing manifestly impossible, unless theses were written about each book under consideration.

“I don’t know what the new basis of selection is, that they chose last week; but the latest News-Letter contained enough to prove that there was need of one—whether it will result in a better and fairer choice of books remains to be proved. In fact the whole question of whether ‘fine printing’ as such, has any real justification, is still (to my mind) an open one:—but as it would perhaps seem like burning the scaffolding on which my own work has been erected, I am not going to argue it. Time alone will sift out the real from the pretentious—I mean, amongst my own books as well as others. I have made many merely pretentious ones.

“So, my dear Mr. Stevens, I hope you will excuse me with a good grace; and let me remain outside the controversies and criticisms that are bound to arise; whatever the method, and whoever the jurors are. It is doubtless a selfish instinct, but I fear I value my own quietude of mind, as a workman, above any educative influence I might conceivably exert in serving on a jury. What mental energy I possess is, to my thinking, much more profitably employed in countering the many difficulties and perplexities inherent in the actual production of books. Their after-fate is on the knees of the gods—one of whom I have no aspirations or inspiration to be—even temporarily.”

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