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Rollo Silver

From The APHA Letter No. 15, January-February, 1977

“In grateful recognition of his outstanding lifelong contribution to the.develop­ment and understanding of the history of printing, through his painstaking and impeccable research, through his lucid and authoritative authorship of numerous definitive books and even more numerous articles, monographs and lectures, through his leadership in organizations devoted to printing and its historic role, and through his enthusiastic support of other scholars in the field and students he has inspired to serve the cause, Rollo G. Silver is this day, January 29, 1977, presented the 1977 Award of the American Printing History Association by unanimous vote of the Association’s Board of Trustees.”

His laureate address, “Writing the History of American Printing,” provided a broad program for APHA in the area of historical scholarship. The audience’s enthusiastic response indicated how well Prof. Silver crystallized APHA’s goals.

“The History of American Printing seemingly has already been recorded,” he noted, “in the newspapers, books, pamphlets, manuscripts and artifacts scattered throughout the collections in this country and abroad. The information is there. But the point is that we have to organize it.”

“It must be one of our major concerns to find out more about such American geniuses as Samuel Nelson Dickinson,” Prof. Silver emphasized, in describing some of Dickinson’s wide-ranging and important (but too little known) activities. Other specific projects he suggested were the compilation of lists of printing presses with descriptions and details of their manufacture, a series of exact reproductions of early American type specimens; updating of bibliographies on printing history; study of local archival records of printing concerns; and inventories of presses and other equipment of every printing shop in a given town or neighborhood.

Prof. Silver advised printing historians to forget about the Colonial printer for now, and concentrate instead on the technical developments of the 19th century. To do this, it will be necessary for historians to work closely with engineers, he pointed out. APHA can foster such cooperation, and can help the scholar in other ways, set­tling for nothing less than the highest standards. Full documentation should be insis­ted upon, he remarked; “let the policy be, ‘all the footnotes fit to print.'” APHA should similarly encourage joint efforts with art historians in recording and analyzing the aesthetics of printing and the various styles. “Printers who recognized and worked with the best of current trends (of art) … deserve a place in our history.” Prof. Silver summarized his recommendations by remarking that “with scholars and technicians working together, and with all the necessary footnotes, the history of American print­ing can be organized.” APHA hopes to be able to publish Prof. Silver’s address in full and distribute it to the entire membership.