a special specimen

type specimens represent a whole category of book collecting. i have a few in my design library but i do not collect them per se. accidentally accumulate is more like it. surely designers roger black, jonathan hoefler and matthew carter have many, many fine examples. this particular type specimen comes from a special place and a unique person. i have had it for more than a dozen years. as a student at the yale school of art i became friends with one of my professors, paul rand. mr rand and i both collected all things written and designed by jan tschichold. on a particular visit to mr rand’s home he asked me to sit down, said he had something to show me. he went back to his library and returned with a completely tattered old book. the spine was broken and it was in a horrible state. of course i loved it.




many pages had been torn out and many pages had letters cut from them. (it was mr rand’s practice to cut letters and use them in his compositions. in a later post I will show you one such example.) he would also tear swatches from covers of art catalogs, books, whatever he fancied to use as a color reference for projects he was working on. i once saw a wonderful copy of typographishe monatsblätter with a three-inch chunk cut from it. i couldn’t bear to do this myself. anyway, mr rand turned page after page to reveal the most wonderful type specimens. however, since we usually spoke about tschichold, i did not understand what this book had to do with him. then mr rand closed the book and opened it from the beginning, revealing the inside front cover and the ex libris. it had belonged to none other than jan tschichold. my mouth fell open and mr rand smiled. enjoy, as I have.



22 Comments Leave us a comment

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  1. [...] images are amazing and the story behind them is even better.  Check out one of my new favorite blogs for [...]

    Pingback by Type Specimen « — 03/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  2. Fantastic. The best thing I read on the internet today.

    Comment by S.Lemon — 04/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  3. wow! great story…
    I guess Rand was above the law against Libracide!

    Comment by the golden smith — 04/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  4. This is the best.
    Thanks for the constant
    inspiration JP.


    Comment by ABBY — 04/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  5. Needed this today – thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Jose — 04/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  6. This is amazing! I love it. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Lucy Redoglia — 04/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  7. [...] This post was Twitted by DeanVipond – Real-url.org [...]

    Pingback by Twitted by DeanVipond — 05/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  8. Wow, JP what a great story. I can’t wait to see your follow up post on what Mr. Rand did with the clippings.

    Comment by Sheri L Koetting — 07/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  9. This book is absolutely amazing – thank you so much for sharing!

    Comment by Delicious Industries — 08/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  10. breathtaking!

    Comment by marvin — 10/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  11. A lovely story, and a lovely specimen book! I’ve only ever seen one other specimen from Roman Scherer, and it’s the one in the H&FJ collection:


    The tag inside claims there’s no copy either in the ATF collection or at St. Bride’s, so this marvelous gift is something very special — even without the Rand and Tschichold provenance, which makes it truly priceless.

    Thank you for sharing it with everyone!


    Comment by Jonathan Hoefler — 15/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  12. That’s a great story. I just wish you didn’t have some perverse desire to make reading it more difficult by not using any capital letters.

    Comment by Matt — 15/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  13. links for 2009-06-16…

    AMASSBLOG a special specimen (tags: typography Rand paulrand type)……

    Trackback by Lift blog — 16/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  14. Absolutely amazing, what a great story. And such beautiful type specimens! Thanks for sharing with all of us.

    Comment by Jason Alejandro — 17/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  15. Thanks. its great to be reminded that there are such beautiful things left in the world. your site is amazing ,thanks for sharing your collection.

    Comment by casey myers — 17/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  16. [...] A Special Specimen — A lovely post by James Phillips Williams at amassblog about Paul Rand, Jan Tschichold and a very special type specimen book. [...]

    Pingback by Something for the Weekend, June 19th, 2009 | The Casual Optimist — 19/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  17. Pretty cool post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

    Comment by Lacy — 23/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  18. [...] Nick Fashion Oddities return to portfolio a gift from mr. rand read more here about this special gift from paul rand to a fellow designer No [...]

    Pingback by afternoon delight: projects, interests + oddities — 30/06/2009 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  19. [...] funky, old type specimen book with an interesting story behind it… m / 27-07-2010 13:34 – tags: books, ephemera, inspiration, typography [...]

    Pingback by me studio » tattered old book — 27/07/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  20. [...] via amassblog [...]

    Pingback by a special specimen « this reminds me of you — 01/08/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  21. Thank you for such a lovely and entertaining blog. It’s nice to know there’s someone out there who, like me, collects collections. Yours is beautiful.
    -Ms. Donovan Beeson

    Comment by Donovan — 11/08/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

  22. [...] had many of Jan Tschichold’s books, as you can read on James Phillips Williams’ blog, A Special Specimen — he was one of his close students as well. Rand’s extensive library was donated to Yale [...]

    Pingback by iancul.com — 02/01/2011 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

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