The Definitive Dwiggins no. 55—Mary Elizabeth Church
In 1909 W.A. Dwiggins designed a bookplate for Mary Elizabeth Church, the proprietor of Miss Church’s School for Girls on Beacon Street in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. It is not a significant design visually, but the correspondence surrounding it is of some interest. 
The origins of the project are murky. Despite the voluminous correspondence between Dwiggins and Daniel Berkeley Updike that survives, there are no letters from the latter commissioning the bookplate. The commission may have been an oral one as Updike often requested that Dwiggins, who was still working out of his home in Hingham, visit him at the Merrymount Press in Boston to discuss jobs. Perhaps the bookplate design was requested in mid-April when Updike asked Dwiggins to see him about a music cover design.  Yet there is no mention of such a job in the thirty letters that follow that meeting. Instead they are filled with a plethora of other jobs: seals for the Groton School and Harvard University, an advertisement for Tiffany & Co., at least six music titles for G. Schirmer, and illustrations, endpapers and a title page for Christmas Builders for the New York publisher T.Y. Crowell Co.
An entry for the bookplate for Mary Elizabeth Church appears in the Merrymount Press account books on May 14, 1909.  But there is no correspondence concerning the design until nearly two weeks later when Updike writes the following letter to Dwiggins:
May 26, 1909
My dear Dwiggins:—
Mary Elizabeth Church does not like this book-plate, but Mary Elizabeth Church wishes a book-plate which shall bear her name inscribed between two torches. Mary Elizabeth Church is a school teacher and the two torches represent the sweetness and light which proceed from Mary Elizabeth Church’s school. I see pencilled upon the proof “color violet.” I do not know whether this is a suggestion for printing ink or whether it suggests the shrinking disposition of Mary Elizabeth Church.
However, you can do design the book-plate as if it were to be black and Mary Elizabeth Church can decide in what color she wishes it printed after she approves the design.
The drawing should be simple and should not cost at the outside more than $8. or $10. as Mary Elizabeth Church is not rich.*
Very truly yours,
*Please submit finished sketch. 
Updike’s letter implies that Mary Elizabeth Church has rejected a design previously made by Dwiggins. But the first mention of the job in Dwiggins’ account books is on May 27, 1909. 
What makes Updike’s letter so fascinating is its tone, its sing-song repetition of Mary Elizabeth Church’s full name in a mocking manner. This is very unusual. Throughout the voluminous correspondence with Dwiggins, Updike tends to be very businesslike in discussing clients and their needs. On several occasions he complains to Dwiggins about the unreasonable demands some of them make or their inability to know what it is they want, but it is done in a tone of frustration rather than one of derision.
Updike was a life-long bachelor but I doubt that he was a misogynist. There is no evidence of disparagement of women elsewhere in the correspondence that I have read. His mockery of Miss Church must have been a response to her personality and/or her specific requests regarding the bookplate. Perhaps Updike felt that Miss Church was treating the Merrymount Press, which prided itself on its design abilities, as just an ordinary printer. I am sure that he believed that he knew better than she how to design a bookplate.
After the May 26 letter to Dwiggins, the bookplate job seemed to lag. Most likely due to the sheer amount of other, more important and pressing jobs that Dwiggins was executing for Updike combined with an inclination not to worry about a job for a client considered to be an annoyance.
Over the next five weeks Dwiggins continued to work on Christmas Builders. For Updike he also lettered diplomas for the Bradford Academy, designed seven music titles for G. Schirmer, and began to plan out a major job for a school in Wickford, Rhode Island (more on that in a future post). And he did some work for Curtis Publishing in Philadelphia. It was not until July 5 that the bookplate for Miss Church resurfaced.
That day Updike—before discussing three of the Schirmer jobs—wrote to Dwiggins, “I enclose your sketch and also a copy of the suggestion which Miss Church makes. Will you let me know what your price for the drawing will be?”  Unfortunately, neither Dwiggins’ sketch nor Miss Church’s suggestion has survived.
Five days later Updike asked Dwiggins for the sketch back.  Much of that letter is unreadable so I do not know what prompted Updike’s request.
In an undated letter (probably August 6 or 7) Dwiggins told Updike that he was going to “finish the Mary Elizabeth Church book-plate at once.”  He sent the drawing to John Bianchi, Updike’s business partner, on August 10 with this comment, “If Mary Elizabeth could be brought to the opinion I should agree with her that the block would look better if it were yet smaller than my sketch.”  The tortured syntax is typical of Dwiggins who often used such phrasing in order to conceal his feelings about a client’s opinion.
A month later the Mary Elizabeth Church bookplate job was apparently not finished. On September 15 Updike wrote to Dwiggins inquiring what had happened to the design.  Eight days later he asked Dwiggins again: “I am writing to find out about the Mary Elizabeth Church bookplate, which I think is in your hands. What is the status of it? I find it on my list of work and do not quite know where we are in the matter.”  There are no surviving letters from Dwiggins in response to Updike’s repeated requests for information about the Mary Elizabeth Church bookplate. But his account books for September 23, 1909 record payment of $10 for the job. 
The entry is a bit odd since Updike did not signal his approval of Dwiggins’ design until the following day. In the postscript to a letter to Dwiggins devoted to a monogram for a book about E.W. Dennison, Updike wrote, “The Church bookplate has just come and I think will turn out all right.”  This note marked the end of the strange saga of the bookplate for Mary Elizabeth Church. In the end the bookplate looks very much as Miss Church wanted it to look according to that first letter from Updike with “her name inscribed between two torches”. However, it was printed in black rather than violet. At least in that Updike prevailed.
 For comparison see the correspondence surrounding the design of the title page of the sheet music for From the West by Edwin H. Lemare (New York: G. Schirmer, 1909) (The Definitive Dwiggins no. 51).
 See D.B. Updike to W.A. Dwiggins 15 April 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:309.
 See the entry for Job no. 5684 (14 May 1909) in Merrymount Press 1908–1909 Small Jobs Account Books 5480–5966. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection.
 D.B. Updike to W.A. Dwiggins 26 May 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:339.
 See the entry for 27 May 1909. Boston Public Library, 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Box 81(1), Folder 2.
 D.B. Updike to W.A. Dwiggins 5 July 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:359.
 D.B. Updike to W.A. Dwiggins 10 July 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:360. Updike’s letters to Dwiggins survive as carbons and many of them are faded, some to the point of being unreadable even after undergoing various Photoshop filters.
 W.A. Dwiggins to D.B. Updike n.d. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:367. Throughout his life Dwiggins was casual about dating letters. Many have no date and others simply have notations such as “Monday P.M.”
 W.A. Dwiggins to John Bianchi 10 August 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:369.
 D.B. Updike to W.A. Dwiggins 15 September 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:382.
 D.B. Updike to W.A. Dwiggins 23 September 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:385.
 See the entry for September 23, 1909. Boston Public Library, 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Box 81(2), Folder 2.
 D.B. Updike to W.A. Dwiggins 24 September 1909. Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 69, 108:386.