The Definitive Dwiggins no. 62—Medway

In several other Definitive Dwiggins posts I have documented the scut work that W.A. Dwiggins did for Daniel Berkeley Updike and The Merrymount Press. Now I have discovered a similar menial job he did for his close friend Carl Purington Rollins (1880–1960), Printer to Yale University. [1] In Dwiggins’ account books there is this entry for November 6, 1921: “Yale Press trim up word ‘Medway’”. [2]

Medway (Japan Paper Company). Promotion designed and printed by Carl Purington Rollins; lettering and illustration by W.A. Dwiggins.

Medway (Japan Paper Company) paper promotion designed and printed by Carl Purington Rollins (1922). Lettering and illustration by W.A. Dwiggins. The latter is redrawn from a woodcut by Jost Amman.

It took me several years to figure out what Medway was. I initially assumed it was either the name of a book or a reference to one since most of the work that Dwiggins did for Rollins involved books issued by the Yale University Press. While searching for examples of Dwiggins’ work for paper companies I stumbled upon Medway as the name of a handmade English paper imported to the United States by the Japan Paper Company. [3] It was named after the River Medway near Maidstone, a major papermaking area in Kent, England, but which of the many mills located there made it I do not know. [4] Sorting through the samples in the Japan Paper Company boxes within the Arthur Allen Collection at Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library, I finally located a promotion for Medway. [5]

Once I found the Medway promotion I was puzzled as to what exactly Dwiggins had meant by the phrase “trim up the word ‘Medway.’” The heading looked to me like Tudor Black, a typeface originally issued by Miller & Richard in Scotland, but one which was copied by American typefounders as early as 1889. [6] But close inspection revealed that it differed subtly from the typeface. Mainly, its curves were more elegant, the diagonal stroke of d had been thinned at the lower right, and the “foot” at the left of the M had been shortened. Nothing seems to have been changed in “Japan Paper Company,” also set in Tudor Black. Most likely Rollins asked Dwiggins to draw (or redraw) Tudor Black for “Medway” because he did not have the typeface in that larger size.

Tudor Black 36 pt (Miller & Richard, Edinburgh).

Tudor Black 36 pt (Miller & Richard, Edinburgh).

Tudor Black, although used by American printers in the 1910s, was an old-fashioned typeface by 1921. The only reason I can think of for why Rollins had it in stock at the Yale University Press would be because universities, even today, have used blackletter typefaces (principally texturas) for diplomas and other ceremonial printing as a reminder of the medieval origins of the university as an educational institution. Rollins’ decision to use it for the Medway paper promotion was probably inspired by a desire to suggest “olde England.” (The other typeface on the cover of the paper promotion is Goudy Modern [1918].)

Recently, I included the Medway paper promotion in a talk I gave to The Society of Printers in Boston on Dwiggins and his work for the paper industry. While preparing it I decided to verify my assumption that the image was a woodcut from the famous Das Ständenbuch (The Book of Trades) (1566) by Hans Sachs with illustrations by Jost Amman (1539–1591). [7] But when I searched for Amman’s woodcut of a papermaker, I was surprised to discover that his design was much busier than the illustration on the Medway cover. Clearly Dwiggins had completely redrawn Amman, in the same way that he had redrawn an old woodcut of a printing press for Updike eight years earlier. [8]

The Papermaker from the book of trades by Jost Amman.

“Chartarius. Der Papyrer” (The Papermaker) from the book of trades by Jost Amman.

Like that printing press, the impetus for redrawing an old woodcut lay principally in trying to insure that the image would print more cleanly than a photoengraved copy of the original would have. To create his simplified version of Amman’s papermaker, I suspect that Dwiggins traced over a photostat or salt print of the original. Oddly, there is no entry in his account book for his work on the Amman woodcut, even though that must have taken him far more time than drawing “Medway”. Perhaps he undertook the work for free, as a favor to his friend Rollins.

1. Dwiggins met Rollins in 1905 or 1906 when the latter was working for the Heintzemann Press in Boston. The two men became life-long friends. Between 1918 and 1928 Rollins hired Dwiggins to work on many Yale University Press books and other Yale University projects. The Carl Purington Rollins Papers AOB 9 at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections, Yale University is an invaluable source for material and information on Dwiggins’ career from the 1910s through the 1920s. It includes extensive correspondence between the two men during those years.
2. See Box 81(1), W.A. Dwiggins Collection (1974), Boston Public Library.
3. See The Printing Art vol. XXXIX, no. 1 (March 1922), p. 83 which announces the importation of Tovil, Hayle and Medway papers by the Japan Paper Company. Despite its name, the Japan Paper Company imported papers from England and Europe (especially Fabriano) as well as Japan. It was established in New York in 1901 as an outgrowth of the Japanese paper importing firm of Flint, Eddy & American Trading Company. See The American Stationer vol. XLIX, no. 10 (March 9, 1901), p. 8. In 1939 the company added domestic papers to its lines and changed its name to Stevens-Nelson Paper Corporation. Dwiggins worked on a Fabriano paper promotion for the Japan Paper Company in 1916.
4. For more on English papermaking history see Papermaking in Britain 1488–1988: A Short History by Richard Leslie Hills (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
5. Arthur Allen was a salesman for the Philip Ruxton Company, a maker of printing inks in New York. A major promotor of the Munsell Color System, he instigated A Grammar of Color (1921), the ground-breaking book on color theory and use published by the Strathmore Paper Co. There is a partial biography of Allen in The American Printer vol. 68, no. 12 (June 20, 1919), p. 20, but not much more is known about him. Dwiggins’ account books list one job for Allen (January 10, 1922) “Arthur Allen Camel Dates box” which I have been unable to locate. It is most likely a package design in whole or part (possibly just the lettering).
6. For some background on Tudor Black which was designed sometime in the 1870s, see The Type Heritage Chapel. It was a popular typeface in the United States from the 1889 through World War I. See American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century 2nd rev. ed. by Mac McGrew (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Books, 1993), pp. 314–315 who shows a version from Barnhart Brothers, Spindler & Co. Not every version was identical to the original from Miller & Richards. Rollins may have inherited Tudor Black when he joined the Yale University Press in 1918.
7. Wikipedia has a basic biography of Jost Amman along with a showing of the complete set of woodcuts for The Book of Trades at Wikimedia Commons.
8. See The Definitive Dwiggins no. 37.