The Definitive Dwiggins no. 168—Teuerdank

Title page from Teuerdank by Maximilian I and Melchior Pfintzing (Nuremberg: Johannes Schoensperger, 1517).

Page from Teuerdank by Maximilian I and Melchior Pfintzing (Nuremberg: Johannes Schoensperger, 1517). Illustration by Albrecht Dürer.

In the 1974 Dwiggins Collection at the Boston Public Library there is a scrap of paper with some outlined bâtarde-like letters drawn on it. [1]No captions, no date. I have traced the letters to the Teuerdank, the book commissioned by Maximilian I as an epic retelling of his own life. [2] With a few exceptions (notably the y and z) the letters drawn by Dwiggins match those of the book. But where did Dwiggins see the book or pages from it? None are reproduced in the lettering books of the time (presunably before 1914 and maybe as early as 1900) such as those by Frank Chouteau Brown or Lewis F. Day. And none are in contemporary books on Albrecht Dürer, though there are pages from the Gebetbuch, the prayer book (book of hours) that Maximilian I commissioned several years before the Teuerdank. The only guess I can make is that Dwiggins saw the 1884 English facsimile of the Teuerdank in a copy at the Boston Athenaeum or the Boston Public Library. [3] Harvard also owned a copy along with a facsimile made in Vienna. But access to its holdings would have been difficult for him—unless he made the drawings while teaching for its Business School in the mid-teens.

Another possibility is that Daniel Berkeley Updike, as part of the research that led to Printing Types, owned a copy and loaned it to Dwiggins. [4] But it is clear that Dwiggins did not copy the Teuerdank sample reproduced in Updike’s magisterial book since the scrap of paper contains capitals not found in it. [5]

Lettering by W.A. Dwiggins, undated. From small scrapbook, Box 80pb, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.

An assemblage of the characters used in the Teuerdank (1517).

1. The sheet is in a small scrapbook in Box 80pb, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
2. The letters, especially the capitals, do not match those of the Gebetbuch (1514).
3. The Adventures and a Portion of the Story of the Praiseworthy, Valiant, and High-Renowned Hero and Knight, Lord Tewrdannckh: A Reproduction of the Edition Printed at Augsburg, in 1519.
London: Printed for the Holbein Society, by Wyman & Sons, 1884. This is a facsimile reprint the second edition of Die Geuerlicheiten und eins Teils der Geschichten des loblichen Streytparen und hochberümbten Helds und Ritters Tewrdannckhs, known as Teuerdank. The first edition was published in 1517. The Boston Public Library apparently acquired its copy upon publication. It is unclear when the Boston Athenaeum and Harvard University purchased their copies. There was also a facsimile of the Teuerdank published in Vienna but no copies entered Boston institutions. See Der Theuerdank: durch photolithographische Hochätzung hergestellte Facsimile-Reproduction nach der ersten Auflage vom Jahre 1517 [Wien: A. Holzhausen, 1888].
4. During the years 1906 to 1913 that Updike was Dwiggins’ primary client he often loaned him books and other reference material. However, there is no copy of the 1884 facsimile in the Updike Collection at the Providence Public Library.
5. See Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use: A Study in Survivals by Daniel Berkeley Updike (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1922), vol. I, fig. 74 between pp. 140 and 141.