William Drenttel | Essays

Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography

What becomes of most legends — or of their libraries? After his death in 1996, many of Paul Rand's books were donated by his widow, Marion, to the Arts of the Book collection at Yale University. What Yale turned down is the stuff of its own legend, a legend steeped in rumor, mystery and conjecture.

In early May of this year, we found ourselves at the Lame Duck Bookshop in Boston, whereupon we came upon a small stack of volumes "from the Rand library." Further inquiry directed us around the corner to the Brattle Street Bookshop, where we discovered an odd assortment of nonfiction and art titles, many bearing the kind of cryptic marginalia that were the inimitable trademark of Rand's unusually penetrating mind. Legend (and history) tell us that he was a voracious reader and indeed, some three hours later, we had unearthed several dozen of Rand's books, shelved not only in design but in sections as diverse as film, psychology and Judaica.

We found books in philosophy and religion: a Jewish history designed by Louis Danziger and a small book on the writings of Emmanuel Kant. A visit upstairs to the rare book room revealed Rand's own copies of Frederick Goudy and Bruce Rogers. There were books on Swiss design, hand lettering, advertising and graffiti; catalogs on Piet Mondrian, Ellsworth Kelly, Dorothea Hoffman and John Maeda. Bookmarks in the form of odd, often design-related ephemera added another layer of personalized history to our findings. His own mark varied too — from a handwritten signature on an inside cover to a set of initials, a name stamp, or an ex-libris bookplate. An illustrated Russian book on Sergei Eisenstein, inscribed from Milton Glaser to Paul Rand in 1962, was one of several treasures which bore inscriptions from notable friends and colleagues.

This bibliography is a record of our findings. As an anthropolgical study, it is not only revealing about Paul Rand as a human being, but is suggestive, too, of the degree to which this designer was an engaged reader with a deeper intellectual life. This is bibliography as biography, and a posthumous testament to the considerable scope — and ongoing life — of one designer's mind.

A Selected Bibliography of Books from the Collection of Paul Rand

Altschul, Charles. The Influence of Technology on Graphic Design. New Haven: Yale University, 1988. [A unique book, probably from an edition of 3-5 copies, submitted as a thesis for the Master's of Fine Arts Program at the School of Art, Yale University. Rand was Altschul's thesis advisor. Perhaps the first book written and published on the Macintosh: the colophon credits Quark Xpress 1.10, Adobe Illustrator 1.1 and MacPaint 1.5 software.]

Biggs, John R. An Approach to Type. London: Blandford, 1961. [Paul Rand Ex Libris bookplate on front end-paper.]

Buddensieg, Tilmann and Henning Rogge. Translated by Iain Boyd Whyte. Industriekultur: Peter Behrens and the AEG, 1907-1914. Designed by Donna Schenkel. Boston: MIT Press, 1984. [Paul Rand Ex Libris bookplate loosely inserted on front end-paper.]

Castellón, Rolando. Aesthetics of Graffiti. Designed by Jane Walsh. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1978.

Frutiger, Adrian. Der Prophet Jona. Koniz: Konizer Gallery, 1988.
[Slim octavo. Four thin concertinaed booklets enclosed in a wrap-round jacket, featuring illustrations by this leading type designer. One of 500 copies, this inscribed in the colophon, "To Paul Rand with my best wishes Adrian Frutiger."]

Goossen, E.C. Ellsworth Kelly. Designed by Carl Lannes. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1973. [Inserted into book is an article from The New Yorker: "The Art World: Dogma and Talent" by Harold Rosenberg. Hand-written note dates article October 15, 1973. Extensive underlining in ink, including this passage: "Kelly's 'reality' is a reality that bears a resemblance to art." A single passage is highlighted in the book: "This lateral pressure against the edge, supported by incipient pressure in the lower left, increases the whole 'surfacing' of the picture so that the sensuousness of the colors and the line is analogized again in the literal touching of the limiting edge." Next to this passage, in Rand's handwriting, is written: "WOW!."]

Goudy, Frederic W. Typologia: Studies in Type Design & Type Making with Comments on the Invention of Typography, the First Types, Legibility and Fine Printing. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1940. [Paul Rand Ex Libris bookplate on front end-paper.]

Herberg, Will. Judaism and Modern Man: An Interpretation of Jewish Religion. Design by Louis Danziger. New York: Meridian Books, 1959.

(——). Hoffmanns Schriftatlas: Ausgewählte Alphabete und Anwendungen aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart Herausgegeben von Alfred Finsterer. Stuttgart: Verlag Julius Hoffmann, 1952. [Signature on front end-paper: Paul Rand.]

Kant, Immanuel. On the Old Saw: That May Be Right in Theory, But It Won't Work in Practice. Introduction by George Miller. Translated by E.B. Ashton. Designed by Cypher Associates. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974. [Inserted as a bookmark is a promotional brochure for Visuelle Kommunikation: Das Design-Handbuch by Anton Stankowski and Karl Duschek. Hand-written notes on this brochure: "mutual enrichment of (form + content)."]

Maeda, John. Design by Numbers. Forward by Paola Antonelli. Designed by John Maeda. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999. [Inscribed on end-paper: "Dear Marion (Rand), I thank you and Paul for providing the greatest inspiration to me. John Maeda." Inserted is an invitation to a talk by Maeda at the Art Director's Club in New York City, and an article on Maeda from The New York Times, July 27, 1999. Maeda's postscript dedication to Paul Rand on p.253 is flagged with a Post-It&tm; note.]

Meyer, Hs. Ed. Die Schriftentwicklung / The Development of Writing / Le développement de l'écriture. Zürich: Graphis Press, 1959.

Rogers, Bruce. Paragraphs on Printing Elicited from Bruce Rogers in Talks with James Hendrickson on the Functions of the Book Designer. New York: William E. Rudge's Sons, 1943. [Stamped: Ex Libris Paul Rand. Inserted as a bookmark is a printer's calendar page with June - August 1986 shown.]

Sérusier, Paul. ABC de la Peinture: Correspondance. Paris: Librairie Floury, 1950.

Shapiro, Meyer. Mondrian: On the Humanity of Abstract Painting. Designed by Lundquist Design. New York: Geroge Braziller, 1995. [Signature on front fly-leaf: Paul Rand, London 6/95. Hand-written notes on rear end-paper: "form and illusion; order, disorder, randomness; subtle, blatant, random, regular."]

Steadman, Philip. The Evolution of Designs: Biological Analogy in Architecture and the Applied Arts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979. [Inserted is a Booksmith Booksellers bookmark from Boca Raton, Florida. Pencil notations in the text highlight many passages, including one on primitive weapons as objects of symbolic purpose and one on how cultural structures mediate the relationship between observer and works of art. Hand-written notes on rear end-paper: "style," p.64; "skeuomorph (a decorative form deriving from structure)," p.112; "old forms," p.120; "phylogenetic origin - H.Balfour: the evolution of decorative art - homology-analogy," p.122; "The Wheelwright's Shop, George Stuart + The Modern System of Naval Architecture, J.S. Russell," p.234; "'inductive fallacy' - de facto rejection (out of hand) - The Architecture of Form, Lionel March (Cambridge '76 - p.1-40)," p.237.]

Tschanen, Armin and Walter Bangerter. Grafik einer Schweizer Stadt / Arts graphiques d'une ville suisse / Graphic art of a Swiss town. Designed by Walter Bangerter. Zürich: ABC Druckerei + Verlags AG, 1963.

Walker, John A. Design History and the History of Design. Designed by de facto. London: Pluto Press, 1989. [Inscribed on front end-paper: London, July 25, 1996.]

Yurenev, R., editor. Sergei Eisenstein: Notes of a Film Director. Translated by X. Danko. Designed by V. Noskov. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, (1946). [Inscribed on front end-paper: "For Paul—who gave me more to think about than Eisenstein. Milt(on Glaser) 1/30/62."]

Posted in: Graphic Design, History, Media, Obituaries, Typography

Comments [4]

I remember after Paul Rand died, I visited his widow Marion at their house and we talked about the library and the possibility of cataloguing the collection. There were two libraries really. A library which filled an entire room with the design classics and general reading. I remember in late 80s and early 90s, Rand had been critical of the younger generation of graphic designers who were incorporating post-modern thinking into their work, and I was curious to see if his criticism of their approach was because he was just being a dogmatic modernist. When I went through the stacks, I found that he had publications by Ellen Lupton and even books on Walter Benjamin—the stuff I was reading in university at the time. He clearly was up to date in his reading.
He also had another collection of rare books. It was the first time I saw an early edition of Tschichold's New Typography with its silver cover. It was an amazing library in an amazing house designed by Rand and his second wife. It's sad to see that Yale did this.

I was also lucky enough to get to the Brattle just after Rand's books came in, thanks to my eagle-eyed and bibliophilic father. (I also happened to run into Michael McPherson trolling for treasure.) I can add these titles to the list:

AIGA. Updike: American Printer and His Merrymount Press. New York: AIGA, 1947. [Bookplate: "Ex Libris Paul Rand" inside front cover]. Notes on the Merrymount Press by Updike and appreciations by Morison, Anderson, Cleland, Howe, Winship, Ruzicka, Pottinger, and Rollins.

Gill, Eric. Art and a Changing Civilization. London: John Lane The Bodley Head Ltd., 1934. [Bookplate: "Ex Libris Paul Rand" inside front cover; front endpaper inscribed: "London June 1989"; back endpaper notation: "theme p. 67" refers to the following sentence (actually found on p. 66: "All things made are works of art--that is the theme of this book."]

Hawkins, N. Self-Help Mechanical Drawing; an educational treatise. New York: Theo. Audel & Co., 1902. [stamped on front fly-leaf: "EX LIBRIS PAUL RAND"] This book is dedicated by the author "most kindly and respectfully to THE COMING MAN who at the present time is undoubtedly devoting a goodly share of his spare time to the study of drawing."

Hollister, Paul, ed. American Alphabets. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930: first edition. [Bookplate: "Ex Libris Paul Rand" inside front cover; signature on front endpaper partially torn away; dustjacket missing] Cover, spine, and title page designed by W. A. Dwiggins.

Johnston, Edward. Writing & Illuminating & Lettering; with diagrams & illustrations by the author & Noel Rooke. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd., 1932: seventeenth impression. [Bookplate: "Ex Libris Paul Rand" inside front cover; signature on first fly-leaf partially torn away]

Spencer, Herbert. Design in Business Printing. London: Sylvan Press, 1952. [Bookplate: "Ex Libris Paul Rand" inside front cover] Designed by Herbert Spencer.

Wolpe, Berthold, R.D.I., ed. and with introduction and notes. Vincent Figgins Type Specimens 1801 and 1815; reproduced in facsimile. London: Printing Historical Society, 1967. [Bookplate: "Ex Libris Paul Rand" inside front cover]

Yutang, Lin. The Chinese Theory of Art. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1967. [signature on front endpaper: "Paul Rand Dec 67"]


Best of luck with your new site! I hope to read more soon, particularly "Culture Is Not Always Popular."

Ned Batchelder writes about discovering two geometry books previously owned by Paul Rand at the same Boston bookstore.

Again, a nice account of Rand's handwritten notes, plus an inventory of random things left stuffed in the pages.
Michael Bierut

Almost two years later, another trip to Boston yielded another Paul Rand item from his library, with his bookplate: Industriekultur: Peter Behrens and the AEG. These books will probably be turning up for years.
William Drenttel

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