George Rainbird, together initially with Ruari McLean, designed and produced accessible illustrated books for other publishers to sell. He was the first to do this and the standards set by the 'Rainbird book' were later copied by many of his clients. It enabled him to indulge his love of books and produce beautiful objects where text, illustrations and design were in harmony.
The companies spanned the years 1951 to 1982, when George Rainbird retired on his 77th birthday. Ruari McLean, his first partner, was a brilliant and influential typographer who pursued his career by setting up his own company. The Archive of Ruari McLean Associates is held at Reading University Library, it contains material produced at Rainbird, McLean. He has also written books on the subject of typography and many of these can be found in the Library here at Oxford Brookes.
The Archive consists of over 500 illustrated books covering many subjects including wine, cookery, art, antiques, religion (including Bibles), history, and natural history. The first book produced in 1951 was Thornton's Temple of Flora, a reprint was produced in 1972 in celebration of the Company's 21st birthday .
Rainbird sold books to 280 different publishers in 29 different countries and the Archive includes these, many of them foreign language editions. Some of the Rainbird titles went on to become best sellers and involved many well-known authors, designers and editors including J. B. Priestly, A. J. P. Taylor, Jane Grigson and Geoffrey Grigson. In 1985 George Rainbird published an autobiographical bibliography The Rainbird Archive, which was designed by Ruari McLean, copies are held with the Archive.
The Archive came to Oxford Brookes University in 2004 through former head of Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, Professor Paul Richardson.
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