The RRK, or Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection is a collection of over 150 nineteenth-century American wood type specimens assembled by design educator, collector, and historian Rob Roy Kelly. Kelly began collecting wood type from local printers in the late 1950s for use by his students at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and continued adding to the collection over the next decade. He started researching the history and manufacture of American wood type partly in response to his students’ questions about it.
Over time, the RRK collection made its way to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and then to the Humanities Research Center—now known as the Harry Ransom Center (HRC)—at The University of Texas at Austin. In 1993, the collection was to transferred to the Design Division of the Department of Art and Art History in the College of Fine Arts, where it resides today and is used by students, scholars, and practitioners of the printing arts.
The Design Division houses historic RRK collection, along with the Lee Collection (metal type used to print the first Chinese newspaper in Houston, the Southwest Chinese Journal) and several working presses, including a restored and operational Columbian press, which was invented by George Clymer in about 1813. Designed to allow a whole newspaper page to be printed in a single pull, the press worked by a lever system. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Eagle’ press due to the characteristic bald eagle counterweight which usually sits on the top lever.
Learn more about the collection and see examples of the typefaces at the Rob Roy Kelly Collection website.
You can read more about this collection as well as others in The Collections: The University of Texas at Austin, edited by Andrée Bober. A digital edition of the book can be downloaded at http://thecollections.utexas.edu
You can also find a beautiful print copy, published by the University of Texas Press, at https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/bober-the-collections