The Definitive Dwiggins no. 173—The Hound & Horn

Cover of The Hound & Horn: A Harvard Miscellany (Spring 1929). Design and illustration by Rockwell kent.

The Hound & Horn: A Harvard Miscellany began life in 1927 as a literary quarterly dedicated to life at Harvard University with contributions by its students and alumni. The magazine was founded (and funded) by Lincoln Kirstein (1907–1996) and Varian Fry (1907–1967). The subtitle A Harvard Miscellany was dropped in 1929 when Kirstein prevailed over Fry in a dispute over whether or not to broaden the magazine’s focus and contributors beyond Harvard. Fry left the magazine and in 1930 Kirstein, having graduated the summer before, moved it to New York City from Cambridge. It was at this moment of transition that W.A. Dwiggins was asked to redesign the magazine.

The masthead and cover design of The Hound & Horn: A Harvard Miscellany was by Rockwell Kent. It depicted a stag being hunted by a hound, a literal interpretation of the Ezra Pound poem “The White Stag” which had given the magazine its name —”Tis the white stag, Fame, we’re a hunting, bid the world’s hounds come to horn.” [1] Dwiggins’ design of the magazine cover dispensed with the full-size illustration, replacing it with strap lines listing each issue’s contents set in ATF Bodoni. A mark by Kent, showing a hound leaping through the coils of a hunting horn and over the initials “H & H”, was the only imagery. The nameplate was hand-lettered by Dwiggins as was the date and price. The mark, date and price changed color with each issue while the nameplate and contents remained in black. [2]

Cover of The Hound & Horn (Spring 1930). Design and lettering by W.A. Dwiggins; mark by Rockwell Kent.

Cover of Hound & Horn (April–June 1932). Designer unknown.

Dwiggins’ design included four abstract geometric stencil ornaments used as tailpieces. His version of The Hound & Horn lasted for thirteen issues, from the fall of 1929 to the winter of 1931, before being replaced by a radically more modern one. (The name was also truncated to Hound & Horn.) [3] The magazine ceased publication in 1934.

There are several possible explanations for how Kirstein came to hire Dwiggins to revise the cover and nameplate of The Hound & Horn. Kirstein himself never explained how the two men met., though he did say years later, “Rockwell Kent, whom I then admired as a latter-day William Blake, made decorations for us at what he called ‘children’s prices’; later, W.A. Dwiggins drew some printers’ ‘flowers,’ which I thought very pretty and other editors thought very silly.” [4] The first possibility is that he saw Dwiggins’ work in the spring and fall of 1929 for Clothes, a quarterly “shopping guide” published by Wm. Filene’s Sons Company, the Boston department store. [5] His father, Louis E. Kirstein (1867–1942), who had bankrolled The Hound & Horn from its inception, was the chairman of the store at that time. The second is that Philip Hofer (1898–1984) put the two men in touch. Hofer was a Dwiggins collector while a graduate student at Harvard. He was a partner with George Parker Winship (assistant librarian in charge of Harvard’s collection of rare books and manuscripts) in The Cygnet Press which had been established in 1928. Dwiggins designed the Press’ mark. Winship was an advisor to The Hound & Horn and Hofer contributed an article (“Notes on Printing: Modern Book Illustrating” to the April–June 1929 issue). Hofer was also a trustee of The Harvard Society of Contemporary Art, Inc. which Kirstein, with Edward M.M. Warburg and John Walker III, founded in 1929 as a gallery devoted to showing avant-garde art. [6] A third explanation is that Kirstein discovered the designer through Dwiggins: A Characterization of the Designer of the Mark of the Cygnet Press by Paul Hollister (Cambridge: The Cygnet Press, 1929). [7] Or he may simply have been aware of Dwiggins due to the many visible projects the designer did in 1928, ranging from his own books Layout in Advertising and Paraphs to those he made for Crosby Gaige, The Merrymount Press, and The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge. Most likely there is no single explanation. All of these influences probably coalesced between spring and summer of 1929 and impelled Kirstein to, at least partially, throw over Kent for Dwiggins.

There is very little in the way of correspondence between Dwiggins and Kirstein to elucidate their relationship. The sole surviving letter is from Dwiggins to Kirstein dated January 4, 1930, sent after The Hound & Horn had been given its new livery. There is no discussion of the design. “I like to see H & H interested in the way literature is presented, as well as in literature,” Dwiggins writes. “I couldn’t go with Hitchcock in his liking for Didot because I like the English lay letter—Bulmer, e.g.—but that’s all personal stuff I imagine.” [8] The reference is apparently to “The Decline of Architecture” by Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Jr., the article that marked his debut as an architectural critic. [9]

The cover design that Dwiggins fashioned for The Hound & Horn is not particularly notable. The title is awkwardly split up with “THE” floating unmoored at the upper left. Despite claiming that he preferred Bulmer to Didot, Dwiggins’ lettering of “Hound & Horn” is more in the French manner than the English. It goes well with the Bodoni for the contents—though there is no harmony with the interior typography. Kent’s mark seems cluttered with an unnecessary bit of landscape at the lower left and the redundant “H&H” at the right. The design that replaces Dwiggins’ at the beginning of 1932 is much more powerful. [10]

Page from The Hound & Horn with tailpiece ornament by W.A. Dwiggins; the typeface is Caslon.

It is the four stenciled tailpieces that Dwiggins created for The Hound & Horn, replacing ones that kent had designed, that are the most interesting aspect of his work for the magazine. They gave the publication a more “moderne” or Art Deco look, in keeping with its roster of modern writers and artists (among them James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Eugene O’Neill, Herbert Read, Picasso, and Charles Sheeler); though they were at odds with the Caslon type. The stencils are part of a larger group of abstract, primarily geometric, ornaments that Dwiggins had been working on since sometime in 1927. This group includes the cover of Attitudes (July 1927), two designs for Veni Creator!, ten for Good Morning, America by Carl Sandburg, thirty for a box of S.D. Warren & Co. paper samples, two for the Fall 1929 issue of Clothes, two for the catalogue of The Architect and the Industrial Arts exhibition, and the binding of 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals (1929). [11]

Beatrice Warde was one of the first to notice Dwiggins’ innovative stencil designs, including those done for The Hound & Horn. In Penrose’s Annual for 1929, she wrote:

Considerable attention has been aroused of late in American publishing circles by the experiments of Mr. W.A. Dwiggins, in the use of stencil for the decoration of books. Mr. Dwiggins cuts patterns with a scalpel on thin celluloid, and arranges them much as type ornaments would be arranged, but of course with a greatly increased flexibility, as he is not bound to the foursquare rigidity of the printer’s flower. A line block is made of the assembled whole. The units he employs are startlingly modernistic. Mr. Dwiggins has also experimented in the use of flat colour, both for the paper companies (whose policy of issuing magnificent specimens cannot be too highly commended), and for printed books such as Milton Waldman’s America conquers death, as recently issued by W.E. Rudge of New York. The “pochoir” process, as it is called in France, allows, of course, of a peculiar intensity of colour, but this can be fairly imitated on zinc or lino and with pigments which are less fugitive than those of water-colour. [12]

Here are the four stenciled tailpieces in the order on which they appeared in The Hound & Horn. [13]

Ornament 1 from The Hound & Horn. Design by W.A. Dwiggins.

Ornament 2 from The Hound & Horn. Design by W.A. Dwigigns,

Ornament 3 from The Hound & Horn. Design by W.A. Dwiggins.

Ornament 4 from The Hound & Horn. Design by W.A. Dwiggins.

1. The poem “The White Stag” was originally included in Personae by Era Pound (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909).
2. “Your new cover for the Hound and Horn is a knockout,” declared Bennett Cerf of Random House. Bennett Cerf to W.A. Dwiggins 4 October 1929 in Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Bennett Cerf Manuscript Collection, Box 165. The interior text remained set in Caslon.
3. The first issue to sport Dwiggins’ design was vol. III, no. 1 (Fall 1929) and the last was vol. IV, no. 4 (Fall 1931). I do not know who designed the post-Dwiggins covers of Hound & Horn. I suspect it might have been Clarence P. Hornung since the extreme simplification of the hound and horn resemble the modern logos then being developed in Germany by Wilhelm Deffke (1887–1950) and Karl Schulpig (1884–1948). Hornung was the one American designer who was paying attention to their innovations. See Trademarks Designed by Clarence P. Hornung (New York: Caxton Press, 1930), especially the marks for American Tag Company, Andrew Cone Agency, Book League of America, Cambray Clothes Makers, and Detroy Press, for designs in the German fashion. For more on Deffke see Wilhelm Deffke: Pioneer of the Modern Logo edited by the Bröhan Design Foundation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). For more on Schulpig see Pioneers of German Graphic Design by Jens Müller (Berlin: Callisto Publishers, 2017).
4. Quoted in the foreword to The Hound & Horn Letters edited by Mitzi Berger Hamovitch (Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1982), p. xviii. Kirstein also said, “I spent a considerable amount of care on format and decorations.” He was influenced by a course in book design by Winship which “made us conscious of the importance of the looks of a page of print.”
5. The first issue of Clothes to contain designs by Dwiggins is the Summer 1928 number (vol. 6, no. 2). For the Fall 1929 issue (vol. 7, no. 3) Dwiggins not only contributed some abstract geometric ornaments, but he designed a stunning cover that wrapped around the back in full Art Deco style using celluloid stencils. See the entry for 15 July 1929 in his account books at Boston Public Library, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Box 81(1), Folder 6.
6. “Notes on Printing: Modern Book Illustrating” by Philip Hofer in The Hound & Horn (April–June 1929), pp. 286–288. In the article Hofer cites Rockwell kent and Dwiggins as the only two Americans doing modern book illustration in which pictures are in harmony with the text and do not simply depict aspects of it. What he had in mind regarding Dwiggins is hard to fathom since at this point the only book designed by Dwiggins that contained illustrations was My Mortal Enemy by Willa cather (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926). Maybe he had in mind the abstract decorations that graced each item in Paraphs by Hermann Püterschein [pseud. W.A. Dwiggins] (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928). Regarding The Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, Inc. see “Lincoln Kirstein, Man of Letterheads” blog by Samantha Friedman 13 May 2019. The gallery closed in 1936.
7. Dwiggins: A Characterization of the Designer of the Mark of the Cygnet Press by Paul Hollister (Cambridge: The Cygnet Press, 1929) is a partial reprint of “Typographic Fly-Specks: A Starting Point for Decorative Printing” by Hollister in Direct Advertising vol. XIV, no. 3 (1928), pp. 27–32.
8. W.A. Dwiggins to Lincoln Kirstein 4 January 1930 in Yale University, Beinecke Library, Hound & Horn Correspondence. The most intriguing aspect of this letter is Dwiggins’ comment about his recently released Metroblack typeface: “We have tried a whack at the legibility problem, but it’s difficult in this kind of letter. I am anxious to see what the calligraphic sans serif does, as to legibility, set in mass—no proofs of it yet. This is the face you started, by asking why letters needed cerifs [sic]!” It should be noted that throughout his career designing books for Alfred A. Knopf, Dwiggins constantly used Bulmer for display on title pages.
9. “The Decline of Architecture” by Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Jr. in The Hound & Horn: A Harvard Miscellany vol. 1, no. 1 (September 1927), pp. 28-35.
10. It took three issues of The Hound & Horn for the details of the third iteration of the cover to be ironed out. For the October–December 1931 number the nameplate and contents were set in Tempo Light with Kent’s mark in orange superimposed on top of the latter. The design of the January-March 1932 number was more radical. The title (in a hand-lettered version of Futura medium capitals) runs across the top and then down the right side. This was changed for the April-June 1932 number with the ampersand moved to the upper right corner and “HORN” stacked vertically at the right. The position and lettering of the price is better integrated. In both versions the contents are set in Tempo Bold capitals. But what makes this last version of The Hound & Horn cover so marvelous is the simplified logo. It perfectly captures the modernist aspirations of the magazine.
11. Other stenciled ornaments by Dwiggins during this short period are more horticultural in nature. See The Architect and the Industrial Arts exhibition poster, wall labels, and catalogue, the 1928 and 1929 exhibition announcements for Charles Hovey Pepper, the title page of America Conquers Death (1928), an ornament inside Attitudes. The seven elaborate ornaments in Paraphs (1928) are a mix of geometrical and botanical elements. I have also left out of this survey the two large stencil illustrations in the fall 1929 issue of Clothes since they are not abstract.
12. “American Artists Tend to Study Graphic Technique” by Paul Beaujon [Beatrice Warde]on Penrose’s Annual: The Process Year Book and Review of the Graphic Arts vol. 31 (1929), p. 85. The article includes one of the ornaments for The Hound & Horn and one from Clothes (vol. VII, no. 3). By “modernistic” Warde meant Art Deco.
13. All four of the ornaments appeared in the first four issues sporting Dwiggins’ cover design, but they began to peter out in 1931 and the last issue with his cover (Fall 1931) has none. In the Fall 1929 issue of The Hound & Horn they can be found on pp. 44, 56, 82, and 105 respectively. Only no. 3 (used the least) lacks his WAD signature. It is unclear how much Dwiggins was paid for his work on The Hound & Horn (including changing the lettering for each issue’s date) since only one entry (for $100) appears in his account books and it does not specify the work done. See December 1929 in Boston Public Library, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Box 81(1), Folder 4.