One of the highly influential photographic books created by Ed Ruscha in the 1960s, Royal Road Test documents the wreckage of a typewriter thrown from a speeding car. The book is presented in the manner of a forensic investigation with numerous offset printed black and white photos and terse captions documenting the depicted aspect of the incident. The text details the date, time, place, weather, and speed of the test, and the photos show the Royal (Model “X”) Typewriter before and after the toss. The 1963 Buick Le Sabre used for the test is also shown.
This project was the result of a spontaneous action as Ruscha and his friends Mason Williams and Patrick Blackwell drove along a highway near Las Vegas. Ruscha is credited as the driver, Williams as the thrower, and Blackwell as the photographer. Preceding the documentation is a cryptic statement: “It was too directly bound to its own anguish to be anything other than a cry of negation; carrying within itself, the seeds of its own destruction.” This is a quotation taken from an Encyclopedia Britannica entry on the Dada movement, and it accentuates the dry humor of the piece.
A slim volume, this book is spiral bound with white-coated metal wire. On the cover, the title is printed using the Royal Typewriter logo. The first edition of this book was printed in 1000 copies, and after that three more editions were produced. This copy is from the first edition and is one of the few signed by the artist on the title page. A distributor’s sticker is on the verso of last page.