The Definitive Dwiggins no. 142—The New Colophon
The Colophon was conceived in 1928 but Part 1 was not issued until February 1930. The first series ended with Part 20 in March 1935. It was succeeded by The Colophon New Series which ran from Summer 1935 (vol. 1, no. 1) to December 1938 (vol. 3, no. 4). The third iteration of the journal, titled The Colophon New Graphic Series lasted for four issues from March 1939 to February 1940. At that point, Elmer Adler, its founder and guiding spirit, announced that, “…The Colophon arrives at a pause, a hiatus, a caesura, a semi-colon—not, its editors hope and trust, at a full stop.” It was resurrected after World War II when Duschnes-Crawford, Inc. acquired the rights to the name from Adler.  The New Colophon made its debut in January 1948.
Each number of The New Colophon was designed by a different person. Fred Anthoensen (1882–1969) of The Anthoensen Press in Portland, Maine was in charge of the first one as well as being the printer for all four issues that made up volume one. The January 1948 issue was set in Baskerville with Goudy Modern for headings. The colophon included a new device for the Press (TAP monogram within an oval draped with laurel leaves) designed by W.A. Dwiggins, who noted tongue-in-cheek that it was intended “fit in with the A.D. 1800 English thing the Press is noted for”.  The mark did not last for the full four issues. Volume I, part 4 (October 1948), designed by Rudolph Ruzicka (1883–1978), and set in his Fairfield type, had a new mark of his devising. 
Dwiggins became more involved with The New Colophon with volume II, part 8 (February 1950). He handled the typography (using his own Caledonia typeface for body copy along with Bulmer for headings), replaced T.M. Cleland’s headpieces with ones of his own, and redesigned the title page. The latter included a revision of the illustration Rockwell Kent (1882–1971) had made for the first issue—a reprise of Dwiggins’ actions with The Colophon New Series in 1935.
Kent’s illustration of a woman (in 1940s garb) standing against a pile of boulders reading a book was a variation on the illustration of a muscled, nude man building a cairn that graced the title pages of the first series of The Colophon. With The Colophon New Series, Dwiggins streamlined Kent’s illustration. But for The New Colophon Dwiggins gave the woman a more chaste appearance—is she wearing pants under her shift?—with a more absorbed gaze. His rocks are more scumbled and his ground devoid of vegetation. Whereas it could be argued that Dwiggins’ revision of Kent’s illustration for The Colophon was an improvement, even if a slight one, it is hard to make that claim for this reinterpretation.
Just as he had done for The Colophon New Series in 1935, Dwiggins designed a set of headpieces for The New Colophon along with ornaments for the back-of-the-book columns. Refreshingly, the five new headpieces are not a reprise of the older ones. For one thing, they are larger. Otherwise, they are less exciting. Two are fairly ordinary illustrations (one of a rocky scene with a few straggling plants and the other of a monkey crouched on a branch, open book in hand), while the other three are Pillement-style chinoiserie (in one a monkey sits cross-legged reading a book with a pagoda in the background; in another a seated Chinese scribe is guarded [menaced?] by a sword-wielding warrior; and third seems to be a stylized tree branch dripping with icicles).
Dwiggins had been introduced to the work of Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728–1808) by Daniel Berkeley Updike in 1907. Over the intervening four decades he had returned often to the work of the French artist for inspiration, most recently in his design of a special edition of Java Head by Joseph Hergesheimer (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946).  But with these two headpieces Dwiggins went beyond copying Pillement. He distilled and streamlined the Frenchman’s style and melded it with stencil-based elements wholly his own. The New Colophon headpieces are sharper and stronger, less gauzy. They are also more compact.
Dwiggins had already moved in this direction several decades earlier when he used hand-carved wooden stamps to create an Oriental vignette for “The Pageant of Color: Cafe,” one of a series of inserts for the Old Hampshire Bond paper range produced by Hampshire Paper Co. of South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts. However, The New Colophon headpieces, made with celluloid stencils as well as pen-and-ink, are not only more virile designs, they show more imagination. The one with the seated monkey is an especially bizarre mix of elements.
For the columns “Marginalia” and “The Court of Appeals” Dwiggins created four decorative ornaments which he used as pairs of bookends in the same manner as he had done for the columns in Harper’s Magazine in the 1920s.  These ornaments are looser and more organic than the ones used for Harper’s. Only one of them, the left one from “Marginalia,” has any visual connection to the headpieces designed by Dwiggins for The New Colophon. Its tiny mansion is a nod to Pillement’s chinoiserie which is replete with pagodas, gazebos, huts, and houses “floating” within exotic floral landscapes (see the example below the Dwiggins ornaments).
The elements of Dwiggins’ design of The New Colophon vol. II, part 8 , despite the recurring Pillement theme, do not fully cohere. Not only are they uneven in their inventiveness, but they the headpieces seem to be independent of the ornaments and both bear little relationship to the title page. It seems as if Dwiggins was more interested in finding as many outlets for his fertile imagination as he could than in designing a harmonious whole. While some of the elements are extremely engaging individually, his work on The New Colophon is not as satisfying as what he accomplished for The Colophon New Series in 1935.
1. See The New Colophon vol. I, part 1 (January 1948), p. 104; and 14 February 1940 announcement in Subject Files 18, Overbrook Press, Frank Altschul Papers, Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
2. The New Colophon vol. I, part 1 (January 1948), p. 100.
3. T.M. Cleland designed vol. I, part 2 (April 1948) which was set in Janson. I have been unable to identify the designer of vol. I, part 3 (July 1948) which was set in Caslon. Cleland’s design included headpieces that remained in place through vol. II, part 7 (April 1949).
4. The earliest design by W.A. Dwiggins in the Pillement mode is a frame on a bookplate for Katherine Ward Lane (1907) printed by The Merrymount Press.
5. See The Definitive Dwiggins no. 50 and The Definitive Dwiggins no. 53. Original artwork for the four ornaments is in private hands: the left and right ornaments for “Marginalia” and the left one for “The Court of Appeals” are in the collection of Thomas Boss; and the right ornament for “The Court of Appeals” is in the collection of Charles Nix. Boss has told me that he also owns the artwork for the headpiece for “The Poet and the Pirate.”