The Definitive Dwiggins no. 44—A Short Note on Notes

"Proper Prefaces" from Ordinary and Canon of the Mass… (New York: H.W. Gray Co., 1913). Printed by The Merrymount Press. Notes by W.A. Dwiggins.

“Proper Prefaces” from Ordinary and Canon of the Mass… (New York: H.W. Gray Co., 1913). Printed by The Merrymount Press. Musical notation by W.A. Dwiggins.

Ordinary and Canon of the Mass: Together with the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion and the Holy Chant by Rev. Maurice W. Britton and Charles Winfred Douglas (New York: H.W. Gray Co., 1913), despite being a slim book of 76 pages, took three years to complete. The book was commissioned on March 18, 1910 by Rev. Maurice W. Britton of St. Clement’s Church in New York City. (Merrymount Press job ticket no. 6185). But no activity seems to have occurred on it until the fall of 1912 when D.B. Updike asked W.A. Dwiggins to write out lines of music: 112 lines on October 1, another eight lines on October 3, and one more line on an unspecified date. Dwiggins was paid 25¢ per line for his efforts. (See entry for job no. 6185 in the Merrymount Press Job Book no. 14, Huntington Library.) There are more than 121 lines of music in Ordinary and Canon of the Mass. The discrepancy is explained by the repetition of lines.

Why did Updike feel it necessary to hire Dwiggins to write out musical notation? There is no clue in the correspondence between the two men. I think that Updike, a devout Episcopalian, wanted this particular musical text to return visually to its Ambrosian roots. According to John Hobson Matthews, a contemporary of Updike’s, “…a ceremony which, in the earlier Middle Ages, was a striking feature of the beginning of the eucharitic rite, has in the lapse of time been reduced to very modest proportions.” [1] One way to visually emphasize the Ambrosian aspect of the Ordinary of the Mass is to use the squarish neumes that preceded modern musical notation. Such music type was not available from American Type Founders in 1912, thus forcing Updike to hire someone like Dwiggins to render it by hand.

[1] The Mass and Its Folklore by John Hobson Matthews (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1903), p. 65.