Jim Rimmer Passes Away January 8, 2010
Jim Rimmer was a multi-talented type designer, graphic artist, bookbinder, printer, letterer, technician, and a most generous teacher. He was never glory-seeking and turned down most speaking engagements offered to him, not out of vanity or indifference, but rather thinking that he was not worthy of being given a spotlight. Jim offered free typecasting instruction to anyone who asked and came to visit him in his studio in New Westminster BC. He took as much time as needed and was generous to a fault. Anyone who took him up on this open invitation can attest to the intense and elegant chaos of his studio and work habits.
I was fortunate enough to know Jim but for only a few years. What started as a business arrangement grew into a mutual respect and ongoing correspondence that I can only describe as life changing for me. His kindness and generosity were exceptional and his diplomacy even when given the opportunity to speak ill of anyone else was measured and kind. Jim’s dedication to the craft of type design and related arts was beyond most if not all contemporaries. After his “retirement” from his professional life as a graphic artist and illustrator, he tirelessly worked on type designs for book projects where all aspects of his skills were applied.
His book Leaves from the Pie Tree (I encouraged him to change the title from his original plan to call it Droppings from the Pie Tree ,… a truly self-effacing Jim Rimmerism) is the best single tome that summarizes his life and work. He designed the book’s typeface in Ikarus (as he had with the 200+ other type design he created), cut the matrices and cast the type, wrote the text using an autobiographical introduction and continued to explain the process he used to cut pantographic matrices for his metal typefaces. The multi colored lino cut illustrations, book design, individual tipped in sheets and attention to press work and binding would be impressive for one specialist to complete on each component. The fact that Jim did all of this himself is awe inspiring. A trade edition of this book has been printed by Gaspereau press but does not hint at the grandeur of the beautiful book that is Pie Tree. Jim’s follow up of his edition of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer (set in his Hannibal Oldstyle font designed for and fitted onto on a Monotype composition caster) was recently completed and is equally if not more imposing as a fine press book, but with a sympathetic humor and humanity that would knock the stuffing of any other fine press attempt at the same material.
Almost two years ago I visited Jim for a week and filmed footage for a documentary on his cutting of the Stern typeface. For various reasons the finishing of the film has been delayed. I truly regret that Jim could not see the finished version. With the film and his Pie Tree book, Jim generously conveys information on making metal type that has otherwise been largely lost and previously limited to a now defunct protective guild system. It was his wish that the information and craft be kept alive.
Jim’s last email to me was in classic Jim form hinting at his tireless dedication to his work: details of a new type family for a new book.
He was one of the great ones. He will be missed.
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