Archives & Libraries

Highlights from the Paul Rand Library

By Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Christina Endres June 14, 2012
Erinn Batykefer
Laura Damon-Moore
Christina Endres







Guest blogger Erinn Batykefer: Library as Incubator Project (Madison, WI)

Guest blogger Laura Damon-Moore: Library as Incubator Project (Madison, WI)

Guest blogger Christina Endres: Library as Incubator Project (Madison, WI)


10 Books from the Paul Rand Library

We welcome as guest bloggers the creators of Library as Incubator Project, an advocacy organization founded by Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Christina Endres—all recent graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies. The mission of their organization is to encourage artists and designers of all types to work with libraries in ways that inspire increased creativity. In this post Library as Incubator Project explores graphic designer Paul Rand’s (1914–96) personal library, now held by Yale University, where Rand taught design for 35 years. — SK

The Paul Rand Library is part of the Arts of the Book Collection at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library at Yale University. It resides in the Special Collections Reading Room, where it can be browsed by students and visitors looking to be inspired by the late iconic designer’s collection of books. “It was conceived of as a way for students to interact with Paul even though he is no longer here—as a kind of a snapshot of his intellectual process,” says librarian Jae Rossman, Assistant Director of Special Collections. So not only is this the personal library that likely helped to incubate the ideas of Paul Rand, it now also has the potential to inspire countless current and future designers as well.

Selection of books on type and letterforms from the Paul Rand Library, Yale University

Usually, items in special collections are housed in closed stacks and patrons need to request materials they’d like to see. When Yale acquired the Rand Library, a requirement of the acquisition was that all the materials be kept together. In order to make that physical stipulation meaningful to patrons, Rossman decided to create special shelving in a new reading room so the materials could be seen in context. “The ability to browse seemed very important,” she said. “If you’re going to bother to keep all these books together, the whole point is browsing. If they were tucked away in the special collection stacks, even if they were together physically, who cares?” In the Reading Room, patrons can browse the Rand Library, much in the way that Rand himself might have done at his home.

The Art of Color by Johannes Itten, from the Paul Rand Library, Yale University

Design students are a main audience for the Rand Library because professors in the design department at Yale often advise their students to visit the collection. The collection attracts scholars and designers from outside the Yale community as well—some of them Rand’s past students. While the current Yale students can appreciate the collection (“It’s almost like they’re browsing someone’s iPod to see what’s in there,” Rossman says), the older generation of patrons seems to have a different attitude about the library.

“They’re coming back to touch the things that Paul Rand touched...there’s definitely a more reverential quality,” observes Rossman.

Letter and Image by Robert Massin, from the Paul Rand Library, Yale University


The collection came to Yale in the late 1990s, after Rand passed away. His wife worked with his colleagues and students at Yale to commemorate his life, creating the Paul Rand Center at the School of Art. At the same time that his personal library went to the Arts of the Book Collection, his papers were donated to the Manuscript & Archives Department of Sterling Memorial Library, which documents Yale’s history. Since the time of their acquisition by Yale, Rand’s papers and library have been kept in separate spaces. Thanks to a collaboration between the two departments, however, the archive of papers will be moved to the Haas Family Arts Library, which means that for the first time the collections will be able to be viewed together.

At the time when the Rand Library was donated to Yale, the library’s policy was to avoid duplication in collections. As a result, any volumes already in the Yale system were not included. Away went the titles one would normally find in an art, architecture, design, and art history library collection. Much of what remained were the more obscure titles that Rand had collected over the years—an eclectic mix of books on film, writing, print culture, communication, and even some psychology. Among just a few examples are the typography books Letter and Image by Robert Massin and Factors in the Choice of Type Faces by Geoffrey Dowding; The Art of Color by Johannes Itten and Color Psychology and Color Therapy by Faber Birren; On Writing Well by William Zinsser; and The Film Sense by Sergei Eisenstein.

Books on film, writing, culture, and history in the Paul Rand Library include Film Form and The Film Sense by director Sergei Eisenstein, Writing to Learn and On Writing Well by William Zinsser, Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag, and Illuminations by Walter Benjamin

Rossman describes several points of interest about the Rand holdings:

“Paul Rand had a lot of books that were related to color, which we decided to retain even if they were already in the Faber Birren Collection of Books on Color, which is one of our other collections that’s really important. It’s interesting to see what a designer has on color. Rand had things like Max Lüscher’s The 4-Color Person, based on the personality test Lüscher developed using color choices in The Lüscher Color Test—things that seem kind of pop culture. He also had great texts like those by Le Corbusier, including Le Modulor and Aircraft.”

The 4-Color Person by Max Lüscher and Color Psychology and Color Therapy by Faber Birren, in the Paul Rand Library, Yale University

Books on art and architecture in the Paul Rand Library include Le Modulor by Le Corbusier, as well as the English version of the book and its sequel, Modulor 2

“There’s stuff that isn’t necessarily surprising but it’s interesting—like a copy of Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color. It’s kind of exciting that Rand’s copy is from the original 1963 silkscreen-printed edition by Yale University Press. There really isn’t anything that’s so unusual about that in and of itself, but what’s great about it is seeing it with everything else he had. I very much understand why the previous curator agreed to keep it all together. That’s really what’s amazing about it, seeing the things in juxtaposition, and seeing the breadth of his reading interests.”

One of the original silkscreen color plates from the 1963 limited edition of Interaction of Color by Josef Albers, in the Paul Rand Library, Yale University

The library is open to the public but has limited hours. Visitors wanting to examine the materials are required to register.

For information about viewing materials in the Paul Rand Library, visit the Yale Arts Library Special Collections access page:

Images courtesy of Jae Rossman.


View list of 10 Books Selected from the Paul Rand Library at Yale University

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