The Definitive Dwiggins no. 28—The Humanists’ Library

The Humanists’ Library was published by The Merrymount Press in two series, the first from 1906 to 1908 and the second from 1912 to 1914. There were four books in each series, a total of eight titles in all. The titles in the first series of The Humanists’ Library were, in order of publication:

Thoughts on Art and Life by Leonardo Da Vinci; translated by Maurice Baring and edited by Lewis Einstein (1906); vol. I [Smith 247]
Against War by Erasmus; edited by J.W. Mackail (1907); vol. II [Smith 282]
Petrarch and the Ancient World by Pierre de Nolhac (1907); vol. III [Smith 286]
The Defence of Poesie: A Letter to Q. Elizabeth and A Defence of Leicester by Sir Philip Sidney; edited by G.E. Woodberry (1908); vol. IV [Smith 302]

The titles of the second series, in order of publication, were [1]:

The Correspondence of Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet edited by William Aspenwall Bradley (1912); vol. V [Smith 379]
Records of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries by Albrecht Dürer; edited by Roger Fry (1913); vol. VI [Smith 394]
A Platonick Discourse upon Love by Pico della Mirandola; edited by Edmund G. Gardner (1914); vol. VII [Smith 399]
A Renaissance Courtesy Book: Galateo of Manners & Behaviours by Giovanni della Casa; with an introduction by J.E. Spingarn (1914); vol. VIII [Smith 408]

The series editor was Lewis Einstein (1877–1967), a diplomat and historian. The books were set in Montallegro, a typeface designed specifically for Updike by architect, art collector and art historian Herbert Horne (1864–1916). Montallegro was modelled on an early Florentine font and cut by Edward Prince. It was first used in Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti by Ascanio Condivi (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1904) before being employed for The Humanists’ Library. In Printing Types, Updike says of Montallegro that, like the other types designed by Horne, it “attacked the problem of what a fine type for commercial printing should be—elegant, yet readable from a present day standpoint.” [2] Horne also designed the initials and the colophon device used in The Humanists’ Library books.

Title page for Thoughts on Art & Life by Leonardo da Vinci (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1906). Frame design by T.M. Cleland.

Title page of Thoughts on Art & Life by Leonardo da Vinci (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1906). Frame design by Herbert P. Horne.

But Horne was not the only artist to work on the books in the series. Thomas Maitland Cleland (1880–1964) and W.A. Dwiggins (1880–1956) also contributed to several of them, both in ways that have been publicly acknowledged and in ways that have not. The true story of their contributions reveals tangled histories of not only the productions of some of the volumes, but also of the relationships among the two men and Updike.

The books are all distinguished by title pages sporting frames and classical illustrations in red. With the exception of the last book in the series, the designs are not signed. The colophons for the da Vinci, Erasmus and Petrarch all state that they were made “with types & decorations by Herbert P. Horne” implying that the title pages were Horne’s work. The colophons for the other titles explicitly credit Dwiggins and Cleland for their title page designs: Dwiggins for The Defence of Poesie, The Correspondence of Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet, and the Dürer; and Cleland for A Platonick Discourse upon Love and A Renaissance Courtesy Book.

Title page of Petrarch and the Ancient World (Boston: The Merrymount Press, )

Title page of Petrarch and the Ancient World by Pierre de Nolhac (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907). Frame by Herbert P. Horne. “Petrarch” by W.A. Dwiggins.

There is no mention in the colophons or in Smith’s bibliography of the label designs on the bindings. Although Thoughts on Art and Life was published in December 1906, Dwiggins wrote to Updike in April of 1907 that he was sending a drawing for “the Leonardo cover”. [3] There is no other record for this drawing that I have been able to locate, and the timing of it is peculiar. But it may refer to the label on the spine of the book.

Several months earlier, Updike had asked Cleland to do a title for the da Vinci book and sent him the Petrarch as a guide. “Of course,” he wrote, “it is important that the lettering be kept as uniform in spacing as is possible. The label can be a little longer than this if desired; but should be no shorter.” [4] Cleland sent him the lettering on November 26, 1906. That is the last reference between the two men about the label. Presumably, the label as printed bears Cleland’s lettering and Dwiggins was not asked to revise it—but, based on the history of other books in the series, such a possibility cannot be ruled out entirely.

Label from spine of Thoughts on Art and Life by Leonardo da Vinci (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1906). Lettering by T.M. Cleland.

Label from spine of Thoughts on Art and Life by Leonardo da Vinci (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1906). Lettering by T.M. Cleland.

The Updike/Cleland correspondence implies that the Petrarch was in preparation at the same time as the da Vinci title, yet nearly a year later Updike commissioned Dwiggins to design a new “label-back” for the book. [5] “Also do you remember,” he wrote Dwiggins on October 17, 1907, “that you were to draw the name ‘Petrarch’ in a larger size of lettering from the Montallegro type?” He needed the author’s name drawn larger since the Montallegro type was only available in one size. [6]

Label on spine of Petrarch and the Ancient World by Pierre de Nolhac (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

Label on spine of Petrarch and the Ancient World by Pierre de Nolhac (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

The lettering on the Petrarch label is different from that of the da Vinci (note the R especially) which suggests that the latter is Cleland’s work and not Dwiggins’. One aspect of the Petrarch label that is interesting is the use of ligatures and nested letters, as well as hyphenation. The latter would become a hallmark of Dwiggins’ spine lettering for Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. decades later.

Title page of Against War by Erasmus (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907). Frame by W.A. Dwiggins.

Title page of Against War by Erasmus (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907). Decoration by Herbert Horne with lettering within ribbons by T.M. Cleland; title lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

On January 24, 1907 Updike sent Cleland a drawing for the title page of the Erasmus and asked him, “Will you redraw for me the motto for the scroll, and also the words ‘Erasmus Against War’ in a letter which shall conform more to the general spirit of the [Montallegro] type itself,—a fine Italian capital which you know how to make.” [7] Cleland replied that he was “…in the midst of an unaccountable rush of small work—several things for McClure’s…” and could not get to work on the title page immediately. There is no indication that Cleland had yet begun to work for McClure’s as art director and so the work must have been freelance. Either way, he was further hampered by being called to jury duty in early February. But on February 17, he sent Updike drawings of lettering for the title and the motto of Against War. [8]

Only Cleland’s lettering for the motto ended up being used. In March, for some unknown reason, Updike asked Dwiggins to work on the title of Against War. Dwiggins sent lettering for it on March 21, but did not receive a response from Updike until several months later. On June 7, he told Dwiggins that he thought the “Erasmus against War lettering… is still pretty weak.” Two weeks later, he reiterated his dislike of Dwiggins’ work: “I do not altogether like the lettering for the Erasmus title-page, because it does not match my type closely enough.” Furthermore, he wanted “Desiderius” deleted. [9] In the end, Dwiggins satisfied Updike, achieving lettering of the author and title that is astonishingly close to that of Montallegro. The only tell-tale signs are the width of the M and the overall scale of the letters.

Label for spine of Against War by Erasmus (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

Label for spine of Against War by Erasmus (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

In the same letter in which he complained about the fidelity of Dwiggins’ lettering to the Montallegro type, Updike opposed the breaking of “Against” on the label which Dwiggins was working on simultaneously. Apparently, he did not mind the hyphenation of “Erasmus” or “Mackail”. [10] He also did not insist that the lettering match the Montallegro type.

The Defence of Poesie, the fourth book in The Humanists’ Library, was entirely Dwiggins’ design, at least as far as the title page and label went. Neither Horne nor Cleland was involved. I believe that by this time Cleland had taken on his position as Art Director at McClure’s and was thus too busy to be the ‘go-to’ artist for Updike that he had been for the previous three years. When Dwiggins took over the Erasmus title page assignment, he also supplanted Cleland as the preferred artist for The Merrymount Press. [11]

As soon as Petrarch and Erasmus were published in November 1907, Updike asked Dwiggins to design the title page of The Defence of Poesie. Dwiggins got to work on the assignment in December and on January 4, 1908 sent off a sketch to Updike for his critique. In the accompanying letter, he wrote,

Can the matter to go in the panels be set up to see how big they will need to be? It was necessary to shorten the lily ornament, —does this make it too squatty? Can any way be managed to get more vertical room for the ornament, e.g. by putting a line of type-matter on the ground behind the vase? Are the moldings too heavy? They will need to be rather open, will they not, to go with the previous title designs? [12]

Updike provided his critique eleven days later, a lengthy description of how Dwiggins could fix the design. Among other things, he complained that “the moldings look a little like Cleland’s things.” He concluded the letter by apologizing: “I am sorry to be so fussy.” [13] Dwiggins took Updike’s comments to heart and completed the design by the end of the month. The label for the spine presented little trouble as Updike allowed the title to be simplified to The Defence of Poesie, etc. and neither it nor the author’s name required any shortening.

The Defence of Poesie by Sir Philip Sidney (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1908). Title page design by W.A. Dwiggins.

Title page of The Defence of Poesie… by Sir Philip Sidney (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1908). Title page design by W.A. Dwiggins.

Label for spine of The Defence of Poesie, etc. by Sir Philip Sidney (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1908). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

Label for spine of The Defence of Poesie, etc. by Sir Philip Sidney (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1908). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

When Updike resumed The Humanists’ Library in 1912, he turned to both Dwiggins and Cleland for title page designs. But who was to do which books in the new series was not entirely clear. In August he assigned The Correspondence of Philip Sidney and Hubert Longuet to Dwiggins and then wrote to Cleland inviting him to contribute to the series. In his letter of August 19, he said, “Dwiggins has drawn a very nice one [title page]: and I thought that it would be a good thing if you did one too.” [14] Dwiggins had sent a sketch for the Sidney and Languet design earlier in the month, noting that “the detail of moldings etc. is coarse but I think I can ease them up” and asking Updike, as usual, for his opinion. [15]

The Correspondence of Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1912).

Title page of The Correspondence of Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1912). Frame designed by W.A. Dwiggins.

Cleland agreed to contribute to the new series and surprisingly, given his previous struggles with Updike over payment, said that price did not matter. “Whatever it has been customary for you to pay for the other like designs,” he told Updike, “will be entirely acceptable to me.” The one thing he did want to insist on, however, was the inclusion of his name in the colophon. [16]  ”I had hoped that you could do the Durer [sic],” Updike wrote back on August 26, “but I ought to have this finished and approved by the 1st of October.” He went on to say, “The design, of course, should accord with the type and not be too elaborately heavy. I am sending you a specimen page of the ‘Languet Sidney’ that you may see the scheme of typography.” As for the fee, Updike disingenuously told Cleland,

I dislike to ask you to accept any sum which would not be adequate for what you were to do, but the title page that Dwiggins did for me, he charged $20.00. for. It is necessary to keep down expenses; but if you do not think you could do this for this sum I had much rather you would not undertake it, than to do it, and think the reward beggarly. [17]

Cleland accepted the $20 fee, but told Updike that, due to the press of other work, he could not begin work until the second week of October. Although he wanted to do the Dürer, he was going to choose one of the other titles in order not to disrupt Updike’s publication schedule. In response, Updike urged him to do the Pico della Mirandola, which Cleland accepted. [18] He began work on the Pico della Mirandola title page at the end of October and sent two pencil sketches to Updike on November 12. [19]

On November 14, Updike sent a lengthy reply to Cleland about the two sketches:

The one with the little altar and flames upon it I like immensely and very gladly accept. The other one seems to me a little too ‘sugary’ if I may say so; but I do not see any reason why we cannot use it for the fourth volume of the series which has the title which I enclose, if you are willing to make a few modifications in it, which would be in the nature of simplifications in all cases. For instance the ornament at the sides of the tablet does not seem sufficiently severe. It is a little flowery and a good many points I think could be suppressed with advantage. Then again the little people who hold up the standard;—I think it would be much more effective if they held up the trophies on poles and not fronded stalks, and again if you made your center bowl into a fountain with jets of water ascending I think it would be improved. You may say that I am pulling everything to pieces but I like the design in many ways so much and it is so well adapted for what I want for the fourth volume that I think it would be too bad to have the time which has been put into it wasted. [20]

The first design, the one that Updike liked immensely, became the title page frame for A Platonick Discourse upon Love while the latter became the subject of an extended back-and-forth between the two men. Cleland agreed to revise the second drawing according to the points raised by Updike and several weeks later Updike returned the drawing to him with extensive annotations. [21]

Title page of A Platonick Discourse upon Love by Pico della Mirandola (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1913). Frame by T.M. Cleland.

Title page of A Platonick Discourse upon Love by Pico della Mirandola (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1913). Frame by T.M. Cleland.

Pen and ink sketch for proposed frame for The Humanists' Library title. 1912?

Pen and ink sketch by T.M. Cleland for frame for an unspecified title in The Humanists’ Library. November 1912.

Here are Updike’s comments on Cleland’s sketch (as best as I can transcribe them):

at the top: “Simplify here. See A or else omit[;] raise panel higher / omit cherub / hang lathe from moulding”
at the left: “omit[;] trophy [to be?] on a staff / All this center may be a fountain. I do not mind the space for type”
at the right: “no dolphin just simple scroll. See A to touch moulding. / omit this altogether [referring to the scrollwork at the bottom of the title frame] / omit[;] trophy [to be?] a staff / Stiffen the leafy accents here. Also on other ‘gent.’”
at the bottom: “Simplify knot”

Despite his avowed willingness to revise the sketch according to Updike’s extensive criticisms, Cleland must have been miffed. The design lay fallow for over a year.

Meanwhile, Dwiggins completed the title page for the Dürer in August 1913—long after Updike indicated he needed it. He also designed the spine label at some point between then and December when the book was published. Updike paid him $15 for the title page design. [22]

Title page of Records

Title page of Records of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries by Albrecht Dürer (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1913). Design by W.A. Dwiggins.

Label for Records of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries by Albrecht Dürer (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1913). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

Label for Records of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries by Albrecht Dürer (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1913). Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

On the last day of 1913, Updike wrote to Cleland, asking him what had happened to the title page design for the Galateo. He was willing to use the second design that he had so heavily marked up if Cleland did not have time to revise it as he had promised. Cleland quickly replied that he did not like the old design and did not have time to fix it as requested. Instead he offered to make a new, simple design that he hoped Updike would like. On January 9, 1914 he sent it out. Three days later, Updike told him that he was “delighted” with the design for the Galateo title page. [23] Cleland’s frame for the title page of A Renaissance Courtesy-Book is the only design in The Humanists’ Library that is signed—see the small C in the bottom center.

With Updike’s terse but contented response The Humanists’ Library project came to a close. And with it, the sometimes tangled relationship between Dwiggins and Cleland. [24]

Title page for Galateo in Humanists" Library. Design by T.M. Cleland 1914. Printed by The Merrymount Press.

Title page of A Renaissance Courtesy Book: Galateo of Manners and Behaviours by Giovanni della Casa (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1914. Frame design by T.M. Cleland.

A final note. Who was responsible for the frame used on the prospectus for The Humanists’ Library? Dwiggins’ account books includes a January 4, 1907 entry for “Redrawing border Humanist circ.” This implies that the original frame or border that was circulated in 1906 was done by someone else, most likely Horne. The border that I have seen is from 1917 and may be Dwiggins’ design, though its mechanically precise lines seem alien to his usual work. [25]

Cover of circular for The Humanists' Library (1917).

Cover of circular for The Humanists’ Library (1917).

[1] The Smith number in brackets for each title in The Humanists’ Library refers to entries in ”Bibliographical List of Books Printed at the Press” by Julian Pearce Smith in Notes on the Merrymount Press & Its Work by Daniel Berkeley Updike (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1934). See pp. 124, 133, 134 and 138 for the first series; and pp. 160, 164, 166 and 168 for the second series.
[2] Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use: A Study in Survivals by Daniel Berkeley Updike (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1922), vol. II, pp. 214–215.
[3] Thoughts on Art and Life is announced as ready in an advertisement in the December 13, 1906 issue of The Nation (p. vi). Dwiggins to Updike 5 April 1907, Letter 108:48, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library.
[4] Updike to Cleland 22 November 1906 and Cleland to Updike 26 November 1906, Folder 1906 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[5] Entry for 19 November 1907, Dwiggins account book, Folder 2, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Updike to Dwiggins 19 November 1907, Letter 108:110, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library.
[6] Entry for 3 October 1907, Dwiggins account book, Folder 2, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Updike to Dwiggins 17 October 1907, Letter 108:97, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library.
[7] Updike to Cleland, 24 January 1907 and 26 January 1907, Folder–1907 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[8] Cleland to Updike, undated letter; Cleland to Updike, 8 February 1907; and Cleland to Updike, 17 February 1907, Folder–1907 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[9] Entry for 13 March 1907, Dwiggins account book, Folder 2, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Dwiggins to Updike, 21 March 1907, Letter 108:46; Updike to Dwiggins, 7 June 1907, Letter 108:67; Updike to Dwiggins, 22 June 1907, Letter 108:72, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library. A proof of the title with “Desiderius” survives in the Updike Collection, Providence Public Library.
[10] Entry for 12 June 1907, Dwiggins account book, Folder 2, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Dwiggins to Updike, 21 June 1907, Letter 108:71, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library.
[11] Cleland resigned his position as Art Director of McClure’s in November 1908. Cleland to Updike, 6 November 1908, Folder–1908 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Updike used Cleland after this, but not to the same extant he had before 1907 and far less than he used Dwiggins during the years 1907–1912.
[12] Entry for 27 November 1907, Dwiggins account book, Folder 1, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Dwiggins to Updike, 11 December 1907, Letter 108:117; Dwiggins to Updike, 4 January 1908, Letter 108:135, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library.
[13] Updike to Dwiggins, 15 January 1908, Letter 108:144, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library.
[14] Updike to Cleland, 19 August 1912, File–1908–1912 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[15] Dwiggins to Updike, 6 August 1912, Letter 108:487, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, The Huntington Library. There is no entry for the title page of The Correspondence of Philip Sidney and Hubert Longuet in Dwiggins’ account books due to a gap in the record between 3 January 1911 and 14 August 1912. For the label see the entries for 16 November 1912 and 22 November 1912, Dwiggins account book, Folder 2, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
[16] Cleland to Updike, 20 August 1912, File–1908–1912 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[17] Updike to Cleland, 26 August 1912, File–1908–1912 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. There is no surviving record as to what Dwiggins was paid for the Sidney and Languet title page. He received $5 for the design of the label.
[18] Cleland to Updike, 28 August 1912; Updike to Cleland, 3 September 1912, File–1908–1912 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[19] Cleland to Updike, 28 October 1912 and 12 November 1912, File–1908–1912 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[20] Updike to Cleland, 14 November 1912, File–1908–1912 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[21] Cleland to Updike, 18 November 1912; Updike to Cleland, 29 November 1912, File–1908–1912 Updike letters, Box 21, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. The drawing is loose in Folder—Updike: undated letters, notices and miscellaneous items, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[22] See the entries for 15 August 1913 and 16 November 1913, Dwiggins account book, Folder 2, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
[23] Updike to Cleland, 31 December 1913; Cleland to Updike, 3 January 1914; Cleland to Updike, 9 January 1914; Updike to Cleland, 12 January 1914, Folder 1913–1914 Updike letters, Thomas Maitland Cleland Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[24] I have not come across any documents regarding the labels for both the Pico della Mirandola and Giovanni della Casa titles, but the lettering appears to be that of Cleland based on the form of the R. Unfortunately, the labels I have seen are in poor condition.
[25] Entry for 4 January 1907, Dwiggins account book, Folder 2, Box 81(1), 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.

Label for A Platonick Discourse upon Love by Pico della Mirandola (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1914). Lettering probably by T.M. Cleland.

Label for A Platonick Discourse upon Love by Pico della Mirandola (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1914). Lettering probably by T.M. Cleland.

Label for A Renaissance Courtesy-Book: Galateo of Manners & Behaviours by Giovanni della Casa (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1914). Lettering probably by T.M. Cleland.

Label for A Renaissance Courtesy-Book: Galateo of Manners & Behaviours by Giovanni della Casa (Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1914). Lettering probably by T.M. Cleland.

I want to thank Martin Hutner for allowing me to scan his copies of The Humanists’ Library books. This was especially important since the labels have never been reproduced before.