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Rob Roy Kelly collection

Identifier: CSC-0098

Scope and Contents

The collection contains the personal design papers, wood type specimens, and personal ephemera of former Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Rob Roy Kelly. Mr. Kelly was the author of the book American Woodtype, 1828-1900.

The collection is divided into four series. Series I. Personal Papers contains Kelly's personal correspondence, his educational career, and his notes and research pertaining to his personal collections of burl, trivets, and woodtype. Series II. Higher Education contains his correspondence and essays related to universities that he was involved with, namely Arizona State University, Kansas City Art Institute, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Rochester Institute of Technology. Series III. Pedagogy contains his writings on graphic design and it's place in academia. Series IV. Teaching includes his sample curricula as well as teaching aids employed by Kelly in his classroom.


  • Creation: 1925-2004


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Rob Roy Kelly (1925-2004) is best known for his investigations into the history, design, and manufacture of nineteenth-century wood type. He was also a highly respected design educator whose interest in the pedagogy of teaching a creative discipline led to an immensely valuable body of writings on the subject.

Born in Nebraska in 1925, Kelly attended the University of Nebraska on the GI Bill where he studied design, followed by additional coursework at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1948. He did his graduate work at Yale during a period when New Haven was the place to be for learning about graphic design. There, Lester Beall, Alexey Brodovitch, Alvin Eisenman, and Alvin Lustig, and especially Josef Albers provided Modernist inspiration to Kelly, though he later confessed that it was years before he successfully assimilated his experiences at Yale. Inspired by the new field of graphic design, Kelly went on to teach in as well as administer graphic design programs at many prominent institutions, including Carnegie Mellon University, Kansas City Art Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, and finally at Arizona State University. The recollections of former students sketch an indelible portrait of a teacher whose enthusiasm for design, especially as represented in the unabashed and forceful exuberance of nineteenth-century wood type, came through in every class and critique (see As a collector of wood type and other objects, ranging improbably from trivets to tree burls, he was passionate, single-minded, and deeply educated. He is most famous for his exhaustively researched book American Wood Type, 1828-1900 (1969), based on an astonishingly large personal collection now housed at the University of Texas. -- DP


15 Linear Feet




The Rob Roy Kelly collection contains the personal papers, wood type specimens, awards and certificates belonging to the graphic designer.

Physical Location

Graphic Design Archives, Cary Collection Annex

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by May Helen Kelly in 2004. Accession number(s): 2004:003

Processing Information

Finding aid encoded by Lisa Witt, October 2015. Finding aid updated by Lauren Alberque, March 2017.

Rob Roy Kelly collection
Cary Graphic Design Archives
Ready To Publish
Lauren Alberque
6 October 2015
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection Repository

Rochester NY 14623 US
(585) 475-2408