Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

For Participating Institutions

Rollo G. Silver papers (MS.2013.001)

Brown University Library

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: Manuscripts: 401-863-3723; University Archives: 401-863-2148
Email: Manuscripts: hay@brown.edu; University Archives: archives@brown.edu

Biographical/Historical note

Rollo G. Silver (1909–1989) was an American book collector and historian of American printing, typography, and publishing as created by white people in the European printing tradition. Rollo and Alice (Gindin) Silver also created a major collection of books and manuscripts relating to the poet Walt Whitman and the history of printing and typography.

Rollo Gabriel Silver was born on June 27, 1909 in New York. He graduated from Brown University in 1931 and received a Master's degree in English from Boston University in 1941 and a Bachelor's degree in Library Science from Simmons College in 1948. During the Depression, Mr. Silver was an assistant buyer at the B. Altman Company on Fifth Avenue in New York City. He left New York for Boston in 1934 where he managed the Better Service Garage in Brockton, MA. He entered the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps in 1943 where he was assigned to the Climatic Research Laboratory in Lawrence, MA. He participated in tests designed to simulate all climatic conditions to which soldiers and their clothing and equipment would be exposed. After the war, he continued to work with the Laboratory as the assistant director until 1947. Rollo Silver settled into his career as an educator and historian of printing history by 1950 when he became a professor of Library Science at Simmons College in Boston. He worked there until 1965 when he retired to pursue research on printing history.

His research interests in literature and printing began with Walt Whitman. He owned an extensive collection of Walt Whitman's poetry and began publishing essays about Whitman as early as 1930. His book collection and research interests also focused on the history of printing and typography. He was the author of numerous historical works on American printing and publishing including: Mathew Carey, 1760-1839 (1960); Typefounding in America, 1787-1825 (1965); The American Printer, 1787-1825 (1967).

He was a member of the Grolier Club, the Society of Printers, a founding member of the American Printing Historical Association (APHA), a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and an honorary member of the Bibliographical Society of America among other affiliations. He served as a trustee of Boston University and was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree by Brown in 1986.

He died on September 20, 1989.