Visit the Cary Graphic Arts Collection in Rochester, New York

Location: Rochester Institute of Technology
Author(s): Frederick Ghoudy, Ismar David, Hermann Zapf.
Hours: Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–12 p.m., 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Other times by appointment
Focus: Book Design, Graphic Design, Typeface Design, Bookbinding, printer’s manuals, typography, typeface specimens, calligraphy, great books of the printer’s art
Terms: A call ahead is preferred

The Cary Collection is one of the U.S.’s premier libraries on graphic communication history and practices. The original collection of 2,300 volumes was assembled by the New York City businessman Melbert B. Cary, Jr. during the 1920s and 1930s. Cary was director of Continental Type Founders Association (a type-importing agency), a former president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and proprietor of the private Press of the Woolly Whale.  His professional and personal interests in printing led him to collect printer’s manuals and type specimens, as well as great books of the printer’s art.  In 1969, the Cary Collection was presented to RIT by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust as a memorial to Mr. Cary, together with funds to support the use and growth of the collection. Today the library houses some 40,000 volumes and a growing number of manuscripts and correspondence collections.

While the collection’s original strengths continue to be an important focus, other aspects of graphic arts history have also been developed. For example, the Cary Collection is committed to building comprehensive primary and secondary resources on the development of the alphabet and writing systems, early book formats and manuscripts, calligraphy, the development of typefaces and their manufacturing technologies, the history and practice of papermaking, typography and book design, printing and illustration processes, bookbinding, posters, and artists’ books.

Though many of the volumes in the library are rare, the Cary Collection has maintained, from the beginning, a policy of liberal access for all students and especially those enrolled in the RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.

The Cary Collection also manages the Graphic Design Archive, comprised of some 36 archives documenting the work of important 20th-century Modernist graphic designers, and has been aggressively acquiring examples of avant-garde book typography.

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