Blue Pencil

Blue Pencil is a “slog”: a slow blog. It does not get updated daily or even on a regular schedule. Instead, it gets updated when there is something of value to be posted. Postings often take a long time to prepare and appear at intervals of a few weeks or even months. Sometimes there is a flurry of postings within the span of a few days. Blue Pencil may be unpredictable in its frequency, but not in its purpose. Blue Pencil is fiercely dedicated to the 3Rs: research, reading and writing.

Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 3—Strathmore Quality and the Origins of the Thistle

This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Alexandra Japan sample book (Mittineague Paper Co., 1910). Designer unknown. Photograph by Vince Giordano.
The Strathmore name and its thistle mark predate the company name. Company accounts …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 61—W.A. Dwiggins and George F. Trenholm

In several Definitive Dwiggins posts I have investigated the sources where W.A. Dwiggins got his illustration, decoration and lettering ideas. But, as much as he copied other people, other people copied him. One of the most persistent Dwiggins imitators was George F. Trenholm (1886–1958), a contemporary colleague and rival. [1] He is barely remembered today, except as a type designer—and even then his typefaces (such as Cornell and Waverly) are not household names. But before he began designing typefaces …
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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) paper promotion designed and printed by Carl Purington Rollins (1922). …
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Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 2—A Tale of Two Mills 1892–1911 (Part III)

This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Alexis Cover Papers sample book from Mittineague Paper Co. (c.1899). Designer unknown. The title is set in Bradley Text. Photograph by Vincent Giordano.
Fairfield Parchment sample …
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Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 2—A Tale of Two Mills 1892–1911 (Part II)

This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
The Colonial Book of the Towle Mfg. Co. (Newburyport, Massachusetts: Towle Mfg. Co., 1898). Title page design by Will Bradley.
Bradley’s designs for Mittineague were very different …
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Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 1—Preface

This is the first blog post in a series intended to accompany Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design by Paul Shaw. Catalogue title page design by Jennifer …
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Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 2—A Tale of Two Mills 1892–1911 (Part I)

This is the second blog post to accompany Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Cover of The Inland Printer vol. XIII, no. 5 (August 1894). Design by Will Bradley.
Cover of The Inland Printer vol. XIV, no. 6 (March 1895). Design by Will Bradley.
Will …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 58—Seven Famous Novels of H.G. Wells

Throughout his life W.A. Dwiggins was enthralled by the writings of H.G. Wells (1866–1946). He was constantly looking for opportunities to design and illustrate his tales of fantasy and science fiction. In the two part Bulletin No. I of the Transactions  of the Society of Calligraphers (January 1, 1924), Dwiggins, in the guise of his alter ego Hermann Püterschein, presented studies for book page designs of two books by Wells: When the Sleeper Awakes (Part I) and The …
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More about AIGA Medalists

Three years ago I wrote a long post about the history and demographics of the AIGA medalists. Three of the overlooked names I listed are being honored this year: Nancy Skolos (with her husband and partner Tom Wedell), Art Chantry and Lance Wyman. This is a positive step, though I wish that among the six honorees there were some from the past as there was in 2014. At the top of my list would be Oswald Cooper, Helen Dryden …
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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. [1]
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 …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 53—Harper’s Magazine continued

W.A. Dwiggins’ work for Harper’s Magazine did not end with the appearance of tailpiece no. 7 in the August 1926 issue. In the November 1930 issue a new series of decorative elements—headpieces, tailpieces and column frames—began to appear. They are abstract rather than pictorial or floral like the first series. Although there is no documentation about their origin, I have some speculative ideas about how they came to be.
At the time that Dwiggins was redesigning Harper’s Magazine in 1925 a …
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Junk Type

Cover of Junk Type by Bill Rose (New York: Universe Books, 2016).
Junk Type: Typography · Lettering · Badges · Logos
captured by Bill Rose
New York: Universe Books, 2016
Note: I was recently asked by Gregory Cerio, editor of The Magazine Antiques to review Junk Type. Gregory decided that the review I had submitted was not right for his audience and, after several discussions about how to revise it, we mutually agreed to cancel it entirely. He then very kindly suggested that …
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The Definitive Dwiggins No. 51—What Is the West?

Between early 1907 and the end of 1912 W.A. Dwiggins did roughly 75 jobs for either G. Schirmer or its affiliate the Boston Music Co. through The Merrymount Press and its proprietor Daniel Berkeley Updike. [1] The great majority were done in 1909, including the subject of this post: From the West: Symphonic Poem for the Organ (Op. 60) by Edwin H. Lemare (New York: G. Schirmer and Boston: Boston Music Co., 1909).
From the West: Symphonic Poem for the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins No. 50—Harpers Magazine

Cover of the June 1925 issue of Harpers Magazine.
W.A. Dwiggins worked in a wide range of graphic design sub-disciplines. One that is often overlooked is periodical design. Over the course of his career he redesigned mastheads or entire formats for a wide range of magazines, house organs and journals: The Alghieri (1911), Advertising & Selling (1912), Happyland (1913), The New England Printer (1914), The Cornhill Booklet (1914), Granite Marble & Bronze (1917), The Modern Priscilla (1918), The Lever Standard (1920), The …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 52—Paulus Franck

Schatzkammer, Allerhand Versalien Lateinisch  vnnd Teutsch allen Cantzleyen Schreibstuben Notarien vnd denen so sich des zierlichen schreibens  befleissigen zudienst  und Wohlgefallen von neüen in Druckh also verferttiget  is the longwinded title of the 1601 writing manual by Paulus Franck of Nuremberg. The book is best known for Franck’s astoundingly intricate set of large fraktur initials (see below). [1]
Ornamental fraktur F by Paulus Franck (1601).
But my interest in Franck’s manual is not in the decorative fraktur capitals, but in …
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Typophillics No. 1 update and addendum

The mystery of the origins of Frederic W. Goudy’s comment on letterspacing type has gotten a little bit murkier.
This morning I received an email from Renata Vickrey, university archivist and special collections librarian at the Elihu Burritt Library at Central Connecticut State University, home to the only known copy of Dinner in Honor of Mr. Frederic W. Goudy by the New York Press Association and Syracuse University held in Syracuse 1936. She tells me that the 6 page booklet includes …
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