The Definitive Dwiggins no. 184—The Phillips Brooks Calendar

Cover of The Phillips Brooks Calendar 1908. Design and calligraphy by W.A. Dwiggins; published by Alfred Bartlett. Image courtesy of Dartmouth College, Rauner Library.

Alfred Bartlett (1879–1926) was, along with Daniel Berkeley Updike of The Merrymount Press, the most important client that W.A. Dwiggins had in the early stages of his career. [1] For him Dwiggins designed greeting cards, motto cards, dodgers, letter leaflets, postcards, and stationery. He also contributed illustrations, ornament, and lettering to various small books, the second incarnation of The Cornhill Booklet, and several calendars. Among the latter were The Symphony Calendar, A Calendar of Prayers by Robert Louis Stevenson, A Calendar of Inspiration, The Calendar of Right Thinking, The Thumb-Nail Calendar, The Guide-post Calendar, The Phillips Brooks Calendar, The Louis XVI Calendar, and The Watteau Calendar. Most of these were collective efforts involving T.B. Hapgood, H.B. Ames, Herbert Gregson, and Frederic W. Goudy as well as Dwiggins. However, the last three were entirely designed by him. [2] Of those, The Phillips Brooks Calendar stands apart as the most ambitious of the Bartlett calendars involving Dwiggins. [3] Although unillustrated, it rivals A Stenciled Calendar for 1904 by Edward Penfield and The Beatitudes Calendar (1905) by R. Anning Bell as a one-man production.

In his 1906 catalogue, Bartlett emphasized Dwiggins’ role in The Phillips Brooks Calendar:

[The Phillips Brooks Calendar] has been designed in its entirety by Mr. Will Dwiggins, no type having been employed. The text has been lettered in black after the manner of the thirteenth century illuminated manuscript, and each selection is embellished by a monastic initial letter drawn in minium and lapis lazuli. [4]

The Phillips Brooks Calendar consists of thirteen loose sheets (a cover and one page for each month) tied together with gold tassels. It was shipped in a box labeled in black “The Brooks Calendar.” The sheets are printed in blue, red and black. The cover sheet says “THE / Phillips / Brooks / Calendar / 1907 /Alfred Bartlett / Boston.” The remaining sheets contain a quotation from Brooks above a boxed-in monthly calendar. At 8 inches x 13 inches in size The Phillips Brooks Calendar was the second largest calendar published by Bartlett. [5]

Phillips Brooks (1835–1893) was the Rector of Trinity Church in Boston from 1869 to 1891 and then the Bishop of Massachusetts for the remaining years of his life. Although he is best remembered today as the composer of the Christmas carol  “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” in his day he was equally famous for his sermons, the bulk of which were published in a series of eight volumes after his death. [6]

June page from The Phillips Brooks Calendar 1907. Design and calligraphy by W.A. Dwiggins; published by Alfred Bartlett.

The Phillips Brooks Calendar is medieval in appearance. As Bartlett indicated in his catalogue description, the entire calendar was hand-lettered by Dwiggins. No type was used. On the monthly pages the initial letter of each Brooks quotation is in blue surrounded by red decoration with the remainder of the text in black textura; the month is in red versals, the days in black versals, and the dates in black. The versals are drawn while the textura and the numerals are calligraphic. [7]

The decorated versals are different from those used for the months of the year and days of the week. Although E.G. Gress, the longtime editor of The American Printer, thought the decorated versals were inspired by “the style of initial and decoration found on the famous Psalter of Fust and Schoeffer,” the connection is superficial. [8] Dwiggins may have taken his blue-and-red color scheme from the 1457 Mainz Psalter, but nothing more. Several of the large blue versals (I, P, S, T) are modeled directly on letters from Plate 48 (“a MS. English. About 1400”) in the second edition of Alphabets Old and New by Lewis F. Day, while their red decoration seems loosely derived from it. A few of the blue versals (A, M, R) have no clear model in Day or any other contemporary lettering book. [9]

Day’s Plate 48 is also the basis for the majority of the versal letters used by Dwiggins to compose the names of the months and the days of the week. A few letters (G, S, W) are derived from Day’s Plate 42 (“MSS. 14th Century”). He has not copied Day’s exemplars slavishly, but has made them a little bit lighter and crisper overall. Sometimes he has dropped the ball terminals. More importantly, he has adjusted their proportions (HL, M) and extenders in order to make them function successfully as word units. He slightly altered V from Day’s Plate 42 (“Psalter. 13th Century”) and seriously modified J from Plate 48. Dwiggins’ Y varies greatly from word to word, but each version can ultimately be traced back to Plate 42.

Plate 64 (double page spread) from Alphabets Old and New by Lewis F. Day (London: B.T. Batsford and New York: Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1906).

Plate 59 from Alphabets Old and New by Lewis F. Day (London: B.T. Batsford and New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906).

Composite showing of names of months from The Phillips Brooks Calendar 1907. Calligraphy by W.A. Dwiggins. Note the variant forms of Y.

The versals of The Philips Brooks Calendar, created in 1906, show how quickly Dwiggins’ calligraphy had matured. The same Plate 48 in Day had been his model for versals used in a calligraphic broadside he created as a Christmas present for his mother several years earlier. [10] The earlier versals are heavier, rougher, and generally clumsier. Some letters (e.g. S in “BECAUSE”) show the lingering influence of Frederic W. Goudy, Dwiggins’ mentor. The most notable aspect of his versals, however, is how Dwiggins has ligatured the letters to fuse each word together. The source of that idea, if there was one, is unknown.

Detail of broadside poem “To Be Glad” by Henry Van Dyke. Design, rubrication and calligraphy by W.A. Dwiggins (c.1902–1903). Image courtesy of Special Collections, Boston Public Library.

Detail of November page for The Phillips Brooks Calendar 1907. Design and calligraphy by W.A. Dwiggins; published by Alfred Bartlett.

The body of each Phillips Brooks quotation was written out by Dwiggins in a texture with versus for capitals. The textura is one that Dwiggins employed often in the roughly eight years that he carried out commissions for Bartlett. It is a pleasant hand that is marked by supplenesss, rather than the severe rigidity often associated with Northern European medieval scripts, and by easy legibility. To achieve the latter Dwiggins not only eschewed complex textura capitals, but he also avoided spiky ornamentation and interlaced flourishing with the minuscules. His textura is pen-made with only a few twiddles (e.g. the slightly thickened endings of a few ascenders and of the descender of p). He has broken wth tradition and used a rotunda s, kept h on the baseline (and sometimes f also), made v, w, and y with diagonal strokes. [11] I have been unable to identify a specific model for Dwiggins’ textura. It is certainly not derived from any of Goudy’s texturas. [12]

Dwiggins’ textura lacks the expressive power of Rudolf Koch’s textura (which was just coming into its own in 1906), but is significantly better than that of his American and British contemporaries (e.g. Edward Johnston, Graily Hewitt, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, Ralph Fletcher Seymour, Adrian Iorio, E.B. Bird, T.B. Hapgood, George Wolfe Plank, Harry Lawrence Gage, Jay Chambers, Will Bradley, and T.M. Cleland). Only Goudy challenged him.

Masthead design (calligraphy and border decoration) and initial letter by Frederic W. Goudy for The Inland Printer vol. XX, no. 5 (February 1898).

Ttle page [cropped] of The Book of Ruth (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1904). Design, ornament and calligraphy by Ralph Fletcher Seymour.

Title page of Klassische Schriften by Rudolf Koch (Dresden: Verlag von Gerhard Rühtmann, 1906). Design and calligraphy by Rudolf Koch.

The Phillips Brooks Calendar was not only Dwiggins’ first commission for Bartlett, but it was his first substantial job for any Boston client. It cemented his relationship with Bartlett and displayed his abilities to others. Updike was among those who took notice. In early 1907, he wrote to Bartlett:

Have you any over sheets of the Phillips Brooks’ Calendar? I want to get a few as samples of lettering to send to a poor person who desires to see good models, and if you have one or two damaged copies of this calendar, they would be good enough for my purpose. I would be glad to pay you for them. [13]

The versals and textura that Dwiggins displayed in The Phillips Brooks Calendar became staples of his subsequent work for Bartlett over the following half dozen years, deployed for motto cards, dodgers, Christmas cards, and more.

1. For a contemporary biography of Bartlett see “Alfred Bartlett—A Sketch” in Walden’s Stationer and Printer (February 10, 1908), p. 16. Also see The Romance of Greeting Cards: An Historical Account of the Origin, Evolution, and Development of the Christmas Card, Valentine, and Other Forms of Engraved or Printed Greetings from the Earliest Days to the Present Time by Ernest Dudley Chase (Boston: Ernest Dudley Chase [printed by University Press], 1926). Chase describes Bartlett as the first person “to take the greeting card out of the cheap, tawdry condition into which it had fallen after the English decline, and to give it a better standing in the publishing field.” p. 205
2. Dwiggins contributed the cover and six Celtic designs to The Calendar of Right Thinking (1907); a border design and prayer to A Calendar of Prayers by Robert Louis Stevenson (1907); at least one motto to The To-Day Calendar (1907) and The Friendship Calendar (1907); an unknown number of mottoes to A Calendar of Inspiration (1907); the cover and an unknown number of mottoes to The Thumb-Nail Calendar (1907); two mottoes to The Symphony Calendar (1909); and the cover (and possibly some interior designs) to The Guide-Post Calendar (1909). He designed all of The Phillip Brooks Calendar (1907), including a box; The Louis XVI Calendar (1909); and The Watteau Calendar (1914), including the a box. The latter two calendars shared a common design for the individual months. The 1907 Phillips Brooks Calendar was his first commission from Bartlett, being received January 5, 1906. See his account book in the Boston Public Library, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins collection, Box 81 (1), Folder 2.
3. The cover of The Phillips Brooks Calendar for 1907 and two complete copies (with one box) of the 1908 edition are in the Boston Public Library, Special Collections, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Box 40, Folder 11. A complete 1907 copy (without box, but with tassels) is in the Boston Public Library, Special Collections, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Box 5, Folder 25. Bartlett’s calendar should not be confused with one issued with the same name in the late 1890s by E.P. Dutton & Co.
4. Catalogue of the Publications of Alfred Bartlett (Boston: Alfred Bartlett, 1906), p. [7].
5. There is no printer listed on the box or the sheets. It was not The Merrymount Press. Although Updike printed a number of greeting cards and small books for Bartlett, none of the calendars appears in his business records or correspondence.
6. The January quotation comes from Essays and Addresses: Religious, Literary and Social vol. 3 by Phillips Brooks; ed. John Cotton Brooks (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1894), p. 383. The February quotation has been cobbled together from two quotations on character that do not seem to have been gathered into any of the Brooks collections, but which circulated in religious magazines such as Character and The Guidon. The March quotation on truth was taken, with some editing, from Life and Letters of Phillips Brooks edited by Alexander Viets Griswold Allen (E.P. Dutton and Company, 1901), p. 254. The April quotation comes from The More Abundant Life: Lenten Readings by Phillips Brooks; ed. W.M.L. Jay (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1898), pp. 103–104. The May and June quotations are from The Light of the World and Other Sermons by Phillips Brooks (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1891), p. 289 and p. 230 respectively. The July and October quotations can be found in New Starts in Life and Other Sermons by Phillips Brooks (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1896), p. 128 and p. 186 respectively. The August quotation was taken from Inspiration and Truth by Phillips Brooks (Boston: J.G. Cupples Company / The Back Bay Bookstore, 1892), pp. 56–57. The September quotation comes from Sermons [Sixth Series] by Phillips Brooks (New York: EP. Dutton and Company, 1893), p. 255. The November quotation can be found in Flowers from Phillips Brooks (Boston: DeWolfe & Fiske Co., 1906), n.p. It also circulated earlier in relgious magazines such as the Friends’ Intelligencer. The December quotation appears in Twenty Sermons by Phillips Brooks (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1887), p. 359 and in several later collections.
7. Versals are the rubricated or illuminated initials that start verses or paragraphs in medieval manuscripts. In form, they are a combination of roman capitals and uncials. They are often referred to colloquially as Lombardic initials, even though they are are not limited to manuscripts from Lombardy.
8. See The American Printer vol. XLV, no. 3 (November 1907), p. 440.
9. See Alphabets Old and New for the Use of Craftsmen by Lewis F. Day (London: B.T. Batsford, 1898), Plates 42 and 48. Dwiggins’ may have modified his M based on Plate 77 (“Spanish. Juan Yciar. First Half of the 16th Century.”) in Day. The images shown here are taken from Alphabets Old and New for the Use of Craftsmen (2nd ed. revised and enlarged) by Lewis F. Day (London: B.T. Batsford and New York: Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1906). The plates have been renumbered as Plate 59, Plate 64, and Plate 95 respectively. A few of the versals (e.g. B) for the month names and days of the week show a hint of influence from the Caxton Initials that Goudy designed for American Type Founders in 1905. Otherwise, there is no direct connection between the white-vine decorated Lombardic Initials Goudy designed in the late 1890s for The Inland Printer and Dwiggins’ versals. See The Inland Printer vol. XVII, no. 2 (May 1896), p. 202; vol. XVII, no. 3 (June 1896), p. 92; vol. XVII, no. 6 (September 1896), pp. 586–587; and The Inland Printer vol. XVIII, no. 1 (October 1896), p. 78.
10. “To Be Glad” is a poem by Henry Van Dyke written out by Dwiggins in a crude insular-influenced uncial hand. See the Boston Public Library, Special Collections, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Box 37pb, Folder 8. The rubricated broadside (“Written for Eva S. Dwiggins by her son”) is undated. Dorothy Abbe marked it as c.1900, but it was most likely created in late 1902, a few months before Dwiggins returned from Chicago to live with his mother in Cambridge, Ohio.
11. These comments do not apply to the textura used on the calendar cover. There, the minuscules were made through a combination of writing and drawing. This is obvious in the forked ascenders, the distorted forms of s, and the concave sides of the diamond-shaped feet. The cover tester is “fancier” than the quotation textura, but inferior in quality.
12. Goudy’s textura was always more typographic than Dwiggins’. He also used it sparingly (often combining it with classical Roman capitals), reserving it for titles, headings, and nameplates rather than for chunks of text. There is vitually no textura in Johnston’s classic text Writing & Illuminating, and Lettering (London: John Hogg, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1906). The only examples are on pp. 326, 334 (Cloister Black typeface), and 465. None are by him.
13. Daniel Berkeley Updike to Alfred Bartlett, 9 February 1907 (422:12) in Huntington Library, The Merrymount Press Collection, Box 114, Folder 422.


where did WAD get his model for the insular/carolingian letters? not Day, Brown or EJ