RBS Mourns the Passing of Jay T. Last

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Jay T. Last, friend and benefactor of Rare Book School. He died in Los Angeles on 11 November 2021; he was 92.

As a physicist and entrepreneur, Jay Last is renowned as one of the founders of the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation, the origin of Silicon Valley. As an art collector, publisher, scholar, author, and philanthropist, Jay’s legacy of support for the arts, art history, and education will endure for many years to come. A collector of West and Central African Art, Jay, along with his wife Deborah, donated more than 600 items to the Fowler Museum at UCLA; in 2016, the couple pledged up to $14 million in support of the museum. In 1980, Jay founded the Archaeological Conservancy, and in 1982 he established Hillcrest Press, a publisher of art books over which he presided through 2010. Jay also developed a collection of more than 100,000 lithographic prints, color plate books, citrus box labels, and other ephemera, which he donated to the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. In 2005, the Ephemera Society of America awarded him the Maurice Rickards Award in recognition of his contributions to the field of ephemera studies. One of his many books, The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography (Hillcrest Press, 2006) received the American Historical Print Collectors Society’s 2006 Ewell L. Newman Book Award for outstanding publications enhancing appreciation of American prints at least 100 years old. Jay and Deborah have been longtime benefactors of the Antiquarian American Society, establishing fellowships for research using the Society’s collections of graphic materials and for support of performing artists and authors.

In March 2016, Jay Last donated $1 million to be used by RBS through 2020 to “strengthen the School for the future.” Jay’s gift, at that time the largest single donation in the School’s history, improved and expanded RBS programs, and increased the School’s visibility, sustainability, and impact over the long term.

“Jay was such a great friend to our School,” reflected RBS Executive Director Michael Suarez. “He was so generous, not only with his philanthropy, but also with his time and advice. I benefited tremendously from our wide-ranging conversations and his remarkable intelligence. The world of books and collecting is much diminished by the loss of this extraordinary man.”

You can read his full obituary here.