Jim Rimmer Passes Away January 8, 2010

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News | Richard Kegler | January 9, 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&#8202,… 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.

A 3 part interview with Jim from 2008 was published on Flurry – A Journal Among The Printers.
RTF Stern – Interview with Jim Rimmer, an interview on The FontFeed, and a review of RTF Stern in Yves’ Bald Condensed column on Typographer.org.
The books by Jim Rimmer at Abe Books.

All photos: Anna Prior Photography

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  1. I couldn’t have said this better myself Richard.

    I knew Jim very well and was hoping to visit him at his home this week to say goodbye as we knew his time was short. No one expected his departure to happen this quickly and I’m gutted.

    Jim was a titan among giants in the design and typography fields, but he was a gentle, kind and generous man who I was fortunate to call a friend.

    I’m happy that GDC inducted Jim into their Fellowship as a FGDC when they did, and now there is the Jim Rimmer scholarship from Hemlock Printers. But in the end, these honours come almost too late for a man who I believe deserved to be awarded the Order of Canada while he was alive.

    I will personally mourn Jim’s loss for a long time.

    Posted by Mark Busse on Jan. 9, 2010
  2. I had the great pleasure of meeting Jim and receiving a tour of Pie Tree Press. He is absolutely everything you describe. A master of his craft with the most humble and generous demeanor. He will be truly missed by the Vancouver and global design community. May his legacy of craft, design and tireless dedication live on.

    Posted by Amanda Fetterly on Jan. 9, 2010
  3. Jim Rimmer’s life and work will spread across the world. He is already sitting in the lap of people who always have a huge appreciation of those who work behind the scenes of this multiply complex entertainment. Jim there will be more than you could have ever imagined who will mourn your loss, and continue learning from your work. God Bless and Thank You.

    Posted by Kitty Kelso on Jan. 9, 2010
  4. Gerald Giampa introduced Jim to me at a coffee shop in Vancouver more than 20 years ago. Jim had come prepared. He presented to me a beautiful broadside he had recently printed in his own types. It featured a colorful illustration of an apple. He titled it Appleogia … “Being an allucidation of the Press, its name, its printer, and his steadfast lack of direction.” Jim always seemed to have a few too many projects going at once. He loved to be busy. I appreciated his industriousness and self-deprecating humor, and enjoyed his wonderful generosity.

    Posted by John Downer on Jan. 11, 2010
  5. This is an unexpected bit of news. Jim was an important practitioner keeping hot metal secrets alive. His industrious and creative nature will be missed.

    Posted by interrobang on Jan. 11, 2010
  6. I too had the great privilege and pleasure of knowing Jim, albeit glancingly and some thirty years ago. What has stayed with me are memories of his extraordinary skill; his fierce dedication to what all about him then assured him were the lost causes of metal type, let alone Monotype; and his generosity. Because I so admired him as a craftsperson and a thoroughly decent human being, I was discomfited by his self-effacing nature: Surely, I thought, if this guy won’t blow his own horn, he could at least tap the bell. Now we who knew and admired him are obligated to help lift him, if only in memory, to the very highest ranks of typography.

    Posted by Scott Freutel on Jan. 23, 2010

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