Nebraska Authors

Rob Roy Kelly

Born 1925-03-15 Lincoln, NE (USA)

Died 2004-01-22
Tempe, AZ

Rob Roy Kelly was a world renowned expert on wood typefaces, and an influential innovator in the development of graphic design curricula and teaching methods at American design schools.

Kelly's expertise was in part based on a huge personal collection of rare wooden type and printer's specimen books. That collection was considered the leading collection of its kind and was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art and transferred to the University of Texas for display and scholarly access in the late 1960s. Kelly's magnum opus was American Wood Type, 1828-1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period, 1977. It seems apparent that earlier versions or manuscripts leading up to that work circulated in the graphic arts community earlier beginning in the late 1950s. American Wood Type, published 1969, was one such version. Kelly also published 100 Wood Type Alphabets in the Dover Pictorial Archive Series of copyright free design books in 1977.

Kelly, a peripatetic scholar and artist and one-time William A. Kern professor of communications at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, was accorded a long obituary in the New York Times when he died in 2004.

The Rob Roy Kelly Collection is held as a study collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and has a on-line presence where examples of type and decoration can be viewed.

See also, printing and design related author Harry Duncan.


Author Of

  • Nonfiction


Wood Type; Typography; Graphic Design; Printing


Fine Arts, 1946-48, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Bachelor of Fine Arts, 1952, Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Master of Fine Arts, Yale University, 1955


Graphic Arts and Typography, Designer and Teacher

Places Worked

Military Service: U.S. Marine Corps 1943 – 1946 & 1950 – 1951.
Design work for the Walker Art Center and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, including the original Guthrie Theater pennant logo
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (1951-1952, 1955-1964), he founded the Printmaking and Graphic Design departments
Kansas City Art Institute (1964-1974) he founded the Graphic Design Department
Rochester Institute of Technology 1974– 1975, he served as Kern Institute Professor of Communications
University of Cincinnati in 1977
Carnegie Mellon University 1977 – 1983
Arizona State University 1983 – 1989 & 1998 – 2000
Established Graphic Design Program at Western Michigan University 1990 – 1992
Taught summer courses in drawing, watercolor and printmaking at the Town Hall Art Colony; Grand Marais, Minnesota from 1955 – 1964 & 1974
Taught summer school at the Vancouver School of Art, Vancouver, British Columbia


American Wood Type. 1969.
American Wood Type, 1828-1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period. 1977.
100 Wood Type Alphabets. 1977.

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Rob Roy Kelly

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