The Definitive Dwiggins no. 181—Three Folksongs from the Coast of Northern France
Work from early in the career of W.A. Dwiggins frequently looks very different from what casual observers envision as “the Dwiggins look.” This post is about one such instance, a set of five ornaments designed to fill out several lines of typography on the title page of some sheet music.
On New Year’s day, 1910 Daniel Berkeley Updike—not resting on the holiday—commissioned Dwiggins to design “line endings typographical.” (Elsewhere in his account books Dwiggins entered the job as “line endings Grasset.”)  Updike wanted the ornaments to fill out his design of the title page of Three Folksongs from the Coast of Northern France: The Piano Accompaniment by Francisque Darcieux and Paul Ladmirault (Boston: The Boston Music Company, 1910).
In his dummy of the title page Updike pasted down several iterations of an unidentified flower-and-leaf ornament design to take up the empty space in the box containing the title and author information. He hired Dwiggins to make designs that would fit more organically into his layout.
Dwiggins created five flowing Art Nouveau floral ornaments: a large corner piece that tucked into the title space, two smaller pieces that fitted with the author names and vocal description; and two middle-size pieces that bracketed the publisher information. Despite the reference to Eugène Grasset, there is no overt indication of his influence in Dwiggins’ designs.  If Dwiggins had any specific Art Nouveau source it is likely to have been the work of George Auriol (1863–1938) who designed a large suite of plant-based typographic decorations for Fonderie G. Peignot et Fils. It is very likely that Dwiggins used “Grasset” as a generic term for Art Nouveau.
Dwiggins’ five ornaments are nos. 321–323 and 325–326 in The Merrymount Press Book of Designs I.  I am unaware of any other use of them by Updike.
1. See account book entry for 1 January 1910 in Boston Public Library 1974 Dwiggins Collection, Box 81(1), Folder 2; and the order book entry for 2 February 1910 in Box 81(1), Folder 1. For Updike’s side of the commission see the Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Business Records, Job Book no. 14 (January 1910–13 January 1911), job no. 6069 dated 8 January 1910 which includes “W.A. Dwiggins Typographical ornaments: end of lines 1 00.” The 6069 job ticket at the Boston Athenaeum makes no mention of Dwiggins’ contribution, but it does include a proof dated 7 February 1910.
2. Eugène Grasset (1845–1917) was a Swiss-born French commercial artist known for his Art Nouveau poster designs and his texts on ornamentation. An examination of both Plants and Their Application to Ornament edited by Eugène Grasset (London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd. ) and the second volume of Méthode de Composition Ornementale by Eugène Grasset (Paris: Librairie Centrale des Beaux-Arts, 1905) reveals no designs close to those of Dwiggins. Furthermore, the only typographical ornaments designed by Grasset that I have been able to locate are more stylized and severe than Dwiggins’ work. See Manuel Français de Typographie Moderne by F. Thibaudeau (Paris: Bureau de l’Édition, 1924), p. 167.
3. The note at the bottom of the proof, from someone at either The Boston Music Company or its parent G. Schirmer, reads, “It was understood by Mr. Updike that this was to be a two-colour title. Will you please show corrected proof with colour scheme before tonight, and have your boy wait to take it back, as we are in a hurry to bring out these songs.” There is no indication of the identity of the illustrator.
4. The Merrymount Press Book of Designs I is in the Providence Public Library, Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection on the History of Printing.