Bruce Rogers has been called the greatest of all book designers. His most famous design is the "Centaur" typeface, which is based on that used in 1470 by the Venetian printer Nicholas Jenson in the De Evangelica Praeparatione of Eusebius. Rogers first designed "Centaur" for the book of the same name by Maurice de Guerin.
Throughout his long career, Rogers moved between England and the United States, working with university and fine presses in both countries. Though born and bred in Indiana, Rogers was attracted to the more cosmopolitan east coast; after completing college at Purdue in 1890, he followed his acquaintance John Bowles, the editor of Modern Art for whom he had done design work, to Boston. In 1895 he was hired by George M. Mifflin of Houghton Mifflin to design fine editions for their Riverside Press.
Rogers designed the "Centaur" typeface while working freelance, between 1912 and 1916. From 1917 to 1919, Rogers worked for the Cambridge University Press. In 1919 Rogers met the printer William Edwin Rudge, and for the next decade he worked at Rudge's Printing House in Mount Vernon, New York, designing some of his most important works, including Tory's Champ Fleury. During the 1920s Rogers also worked for Harvard University Press, until in 1928 he returned to England. There he was associated with the Oxford University Press where he worked on three masterpieces, which Rogers himself considered his most successful designs: The Odyssey of Homer, Fra Luca de Pacioli, and The Oxford Lectern Bible. He also designed several books for the Limited Editions Club, including Aesop's Fables, The Wind in the Willows, and the Complete Poems of Robert Frost.
Between 1935 and his death in 1957, Rogers lived and worked at October House, his home near New Fairfield, Connecticut. He worked until his final days, and at the time of his passing he had just begun a new series of books, to be called "October House Classics" of which only one had been completed.
The Rare Book & Special Collections Division contains two distinct collections with material relating to Bruce Rogers: The Pforzheimer-Rogers and the Shapiro-Rogers Collections.
The unique materials of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, now totaling over 1 million items, include books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, prints, posters, photographs, and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. At the center is Thomas Jefferson's book collection, which was sold to Congress in 1815. The Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room is modeled after Philadelphia's Independence Hall. This room is home to the divisional catalogs, reference collection, and reference staff. Collections are stored in temperature and humidity controlled vaults.