Research

Research consists of unintended or accidental discoveries that I have made during the course of my research into other topics. They are posted here in the belief that others may find the information equally fascinating. Some items are meant to challenge or question existing scholarship on a specific topic. And others are intended to alert scholars to material that may be relevant to their own pursuits or to new opportunities of research.

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 17—The Mystery of Dwiggins and Grassby

Moving announcement from The Occasional Bulletin of the White Elephant (1915). Map designed by W.A. Dwiggins.
The week before Thanksgiving in 1914 W.A. Dwiggins moved into a new studio—with “Chinese tea-paper walls—at 26 Lime Street in Boston. Dwiggins announced his move in January 1915 via the publication of the first (and only) issue of The Occasional Bulletin of the White Elephant which contained a map showing both his old address at 69 Cornhill and the new one at 26 Lime Street. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 19—Untrustworthy sources

In researching W.A. Dwiggins for over thirty years I have come across many untrustworthy sources, including Dorothy Abbe, the executor of his estate, and even Dwiggins himself. I was reminded of this yesterday when, at the Thomas J. Watson Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I came across the New York Times obituary for Dwiggins. Although it was not new to me, I had not read it in several decades and thus had forgotten how many mistakes it contained.
The …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 18—L’Afficheur

“L’Afficheur” by Edmé Bouchardon
W.A. Dwiggins was not always an original illustrator or ornamentalist. He copied the work of Pillement, Flaxman, Choffard, Callot and Bouchardon among others. Not only did his clients—most notably Daniel Berkeley Updike—ask him to copy the work of these artists and illustrators of the past, but sometimes he did so on his own initiative. One such instance is a paper sample insert designed for International Covers*, a Chemical Paper Company brand.
The insert, titled “Old Fashioned Advertising & …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 16—A snowy visit to Boston, part II: Diagrams and maps

During my Boston trip Elizabeth Resnick and I  had appointments to see the archives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was there to research the work of Muriel Cooper and Jacqueline Casey for the next Codex book I am editing while I was there to see what documents might exist about three projects that Dwiggins did for MIT: the design of a book on electrical engineering, the design of Technology Review magazine, and the design of second number of Footnotes: …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 16—A snowy visit to Boston, part I: A tiny surprise

In early February I made a trip to Boston and the surrounding area to attend a Society of Printers dinner and research two aspects of Dwiggins’ career: his work for paper companies and his work for Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I was fortunate to make my visit in a lull between the relentless series of snowstorms that pummeled Boston this past winter.
Despite the mounds of snow piled everywhere the highways were clear enough drive out to the suburbs to look …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 14—Looking for Goddard (sp?)

Tracking down the ephemeral work of W.A. Dwiggins is a painstaking endeavor that often involves wrong turns and dead ends. An instance of this is my search for “Border, music title, Goddard Collection”, an April 9, 1907 entry in Dwiggins’ account books. The job was for D.B. Updike of The Merrymount Press which suggested the ultimate client was G. Schirmer, the large New York music publisher. For many years Schirmer, and its subsidiary Boston Music Co., commissioned The Merrymount Press …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 13—Duo-Art

W.A. Dwiggins did a small number of jobs for music companies between 1917 and 1924. They were done via printing companies in Philadelphia (Franklin Printing) and Cleveland (The Caxton Company). Trying to find examples of the work has been extremely difficult as the references I have are partial and the material clearly ephemeral. But this morning I hit the jackpot. I found two 8-page booklets for the Duo-Art online that Dwiggins worked on: The World’s Supreme Artists and What Possession …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 12—Tracking down an advertisement for Tiffany’s

For the past nine years I have been trying to track down the ephemeral advertising jobs that W.A. Dwiggins did in the years between 1906 and 1930. One that has been particularly elusive and vexing was an apparent advertisement for Tiffany’s.
There are three references in Dwiggins’ account books for such a job: May 14, 1909—“D.B.U. Border for Tiffany adv.”;  July 1910 (no specific date)—“Johnson Printing Art Border lettering & initial Tiffany adv.” and August 3, 1910—“The Printing Art: border, lettering and …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 3 addendum to an addendum continued—The Significance of the “Memento of a Catalogue Clinic”

“A Memento of a Catalogue Clinic” is more than an amusing illustration by W.A. Dwiggins.  It is a key document in understanding the transformation of American printing in the first two decades of the 20th century as well as the growth of Dwiggins himself from a commercial artist to a graphic designer.
The catalogue clinic was sponsored by The Society of Printers, an organization founded in 1905 as part of the spread of the English Arts & Crafts movement. It was …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 11—Woman’s Home Companion (December 1932)

At the second Heller Fili book sale (see my earlier post) I was astonished at the range of magazines they have collected. Along with the obvious titles (copies of Print, Eye, Fortune, Fact, etc.), there was also  Modern Priscilla, Youth’s Companion, The Delineator, Woman’s Home Companion and much more. When I saw these titles I picked through the issues in the wild hope that I might find an issue with work by W.A. Dwiggins in it. No such luck with the first three titles, but …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 10—D.B. Updike and W.A. Dwiggins

The current issue of Parenthesis : The Journal of the Fine Press Book Association (Autumn 2014) includes my article “Dwiggins and Updike: Pupil and Mentor over a Few Years in the Early 20th Century” (pp. 11–17). It is the text for my talk at [R]Evolution in Print: New Work in Printing History & Practice, the 2005 annual conference of the American Printing History Association that was held at Mills College in Oakland, California. It is a condensed version of the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 3 addendum to the addendum—Memento of a Catalogue Clinic, 1917

In the addendum to The Definitive Dwiggins no. 3 post I included “Memento of a Catalogue Clinic”, a drawing that W.A. Dwiggins (under his alias of Hermann Püterschein) made in 1917 as a keepsake for The Society of Printers. It is one of the Society’s most famous pieces of ephemera and there has always been curiosity as to who the various people are. The reproduction of it in The Printing Art simply referred to those present as “leading members of the Society.” [1] …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 3 addendum—Who was Charles Fulton Whitmarsh?

In The Definitive Dwiggins no. 3 post I included one (possibly two) uncredited designs by W.A. Dwiggins reproduced on a page of “trade-marks” from Applied Art by Pedro J. Lemos (1920), a book I stumbled across earlier this year while in the Bay Area to do research at the Letterform Archive. But I found the book while rummaging around at Black Oak Books in Berkeley with Stephen Coles. The title caught my eye as I am constantly trying …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 3—My Long Pursuit of WAD 1978–1980

Within a month or two of moving to New York  I joined several groups in New York dedicated to calligraphy, typography, printing and the book arts: the Society of Scribes, Ltd., the American Printing History Association and the Typophiles. At a meeting of one of the two latter organizations I met Susan Otis Thompson (1931–2008), a professor in the now defunct School of Library Service at Columbia University, who told me—much to my consternation—that she had just completed a book on …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 7—Dwiggins vs. Rand

Kenneth FitzGerald recently posted a blog about the new edition of Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014) which is not only illuminating about the subtle and undisclosed changes from the original 1947 edition, but is also of interest for its comparison of Rand to W.A. Dwiggins. In sections 8 and 9 of his post, he pairs Thoughts on Design with the second edition (1948) of Layout in Advertising, finding the latter to be “an authentic …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 2—My Long Pursuit of WAD 1966–1977

I first became aware of W.A. Dwiggins at the age of eleven or twelve when my great aunt gave me two volumes of Erik Lindegren’s marvelous ABC of Lettering and Printing Types (New York: Museum Books, 1965)—books which I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog posts. Volume A (Lettering), p. 91 reproduced the opening page of The History of Susanna (New York: Archway Press, 1947), a small book entirely hand lettered by Dwiggins. [1] It did not make much of …
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