The Definitive Dwiggins no. 209—22 Printers’ Marks and Seals (Part 1)

Rejected title page design for 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals, designed or redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (1928). Design, lettering, and decoration by W.A. Dwiggins. Original pen-and-ink artwork with retouching, paste-up, and specifications. Image courtesy of Special Collections, Boston Public Library.

22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929). This is item 29.02 in The Books of WAD by Dwight Agner who describes it thusly: binding of black paper over boards with blue cloth spine, stamped in gold on spine and cover; 52 pages; 6 3/8 x 8 7/8 page size; set in Bodoni with hand-lettered title page; printed in black and red; 350 copies. Agner credits Dwiggins with the typography, illustrations, and binding design. [1] What Agner’s bibliographic description leaves out is the odd nature of the book. The “illustrations” are reproductions of marks—not all of them printers’ marks despite the book’s title—designed or drawn by Dwiggins. Although Dwiggins is credited as the author of the book, there is no text—no introduction nor any explanation of the marks beyond short captions that are maddeningly vague. Given this, it is not surprising that this slim book has often been overlooked by those writing about W.A. Dwiggins specifically or about American graphic design in general. [2]

The Origins of 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals
Although there is very little surviving correspondence between William Edwin Rudge (or his firm) and Dwiggins, there is still ancillary material that provides a clue to the origins and development of 22 Printers’ Marks. [3] The idea for the book seems to have germinated in the summer of 1925 as an outgrowth of Elmer Adler’s desire to have Pynson Printers, his firm, produce a “Dwiggins book”. What he had in mind was a compendium of Dwiggins’ work that Dwiggins would design. From the outset, Dwiggins was against the idea, but Adler was persistent. [4] On July 27, 1925—in response to a negative letter from Dwiggins earlier that day—he sent the designer a copy of A Book of American Trade Marks and Devices by Joseph C. Sinel. [5]

Title page of A Book of American Trade-Marks & Devices compiled by Joseph Sinel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1924). Design and lettering by Joseph C. Sinel. Printing by The Pynson Printers.

Page 46 from A Book of American Trade-Marks & Devices compiled by Joseph Sinel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1924). Note the Westinghouse and Ditto marks.

Adler sent Dwiggins the Sinel book for two reasons: 1. to show him the type of book he had in mind in terms of content; and 2. to show him the quality of book that Pynson Printers was capable of producing. Despite being printed in an edition of two thousand and fifty copies (of which two thousand were for sale), A Book of American Trademarks was treated by Pynson Printers and its publisher Alfred A. Knopf as an example of fine printing. It had a colophon and each copy was hand numbered.

A Book of American Trademarks was highly received by the printing trade press and was even reviewed in The New York Times and newspapers as far-flung as The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Press-Tribune of Roseville, California. Edmund G. Gress, the influential editor of The American Printer, wrote:

American trademarks and devices have never been set forth so attractively as they are in “A Book of American Trade Marks,” compiled by Joseph Sinel and published by Alfred A. Knopf of New York. Europe has had books of this quality and it is refreshing to see such volumes published in America. It is especially encouraging to learn that this volume is selling rapidly.… A great many emblems are shown in posteresque style, one to a page, and others are grouped four or more on a page in an attractive manner. With black there are combined such colors as blue, brown and plum. The colors in almost every case are those middle hues that are brilliant yet restful.

The one feature that helps to make the book so uniformly good is that Mr. Sinel has redrawn all of the trademarks, and in most cases has improved their rendering.

A book of this sort in the libraries of advertising men, designers and printers cannot help but improve the American trademark, which in too many instances is absolutely ugly and difficult to harmonize with good design.…

We heartily recommend it. [6]

Sinel’s book must have made an impression on Dwiggins, even though it failed to convince him to do a similar Dwiggins book for Adler. In April 1926 he told Arthur W. Rushmore, art director of Harper & Brothers, that he was in the process of gathering various marks of his for inclusion in “a little pamphlet”. [7] Among those marks were two marks he had recently designed for the publisher. [8] But in less than a year Dwiggins had abandoned the mark book project and turned his attention to another personal project. “The book of marks has gone dead for the time being—I can’t convince myself that it is important enough for the world to see those designs,” he wrote to his friend and client Carl Purington Rollins in early 1927. Instead, he was “going to try to sell a little book of toy essays to some soft publisher.” [9]

But sometime later in 1927 Dwiggins regained his enthusiasm for the marks book. By January 1928 he was writing to clients and others in an effort to track down samples of his marks. In a letter to Daniel Berkeley Updike, his old client and mentor, he explained,

Rudge has undertaken to make a small edition of 22 printers’ marks and seals of mine. I wanted to include Rutgers with the other schools (the design with the sun in the middle that I redrew for you some time back) and wrote them, with the result herewith.

It may be that the design I made was not used—or it may be contrary to the practice of MP [Merrymount Press] to let such information loose in the world. But if the seal was used, and if you are willing to designate the fatal man, I should to pursue the matter further with the Librarian of Rutgers. So may I ask… etc.

It was a nice little seal—and it was not like the one he [the Rutgers librarian] sent!

John Bianchi, Updike’s business partner, added a note to Dwiggins’ letter: “According to our records we never made a seal for Rutgers College. Is he not referring to the seal for Trinity College Durham N.C. which he drew in 1910?” [10]

What had happened in 1927 to change Dwiggins’ mind? On his end, it was several things. Although he was still buried in work for S.D. Warren Co., most of his other advertising work was winding down. He had not yet become Knopf’s go-to book designer and his flowering as a designer of limited edition books— “the Dwiggins year”—was still in the future. [11] More importantly, he had completed the manuscripts for both Paraphs and Layout in Advertising, thus freeing time to think of the marks book. [12]

The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge
The impetus for getting the marks book done may have come from The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge. Its owner, William Edwin Rudge, Jr. (1876–1931) was the son of a Manhattan printer. He had taken over his father’s firm c.1900 and by 1921, when he moved its plant to Mt. Vernon in Westchester County, adjacent to New York City, had become well known as a quality printer. One reason for his growing reputation was his collaboration with Bruce Rogers (1870–1957), the most famous American book designer of the time, which had begun in late 1919. [13] In 1925, to further his prestige, Rudge established a special department to handle books of cultural and artistic interest. He was eager to be a publisher as well as a printer. [14]

William Edwin Rudge, Jr. (n.d.)

Before and after photographs of The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge in Mt. Vernon, New York. Reproduced from The American Printer (1927). Note the hand press in front of the renovated building.

One of the books he published was America Conquers Death by Milton Waldman, designed by Dwiggins. The book was off the press by mid-April 1928, suggesting that its production had begun in late 1927 or early 1928. [15] How did Dwiggins become the book’s designer when Rogers was still affiliated with Rudge and Frederic Warde had recently joined the firm? Perhaps the commission had been sparked by Veni Creator! The tiny book, designed by Dwiggins, was connected to Rudge in two ways. It was commissioned by Crosby Gaige (who was about to become a major Rudge customer in 1928) and it was printed by the Harbor Press, run by John Fass and Roland Wood, two of Rudge’s former employees. If Rudge was not already aware of Dwiggins as an up-and-coming book designer, Veni Creator!—with its novel geometric stencil ornaments—would definitely have caught his attention. [16]

On the same day in November 1927 that he signed the contract for Paraphs, Dwiggins told Carl Purington Rollins that he was working on jobs for The Lakeside Press, Random House, and Rudge. [17] The Rudge project was probably America Conquers Death. I think that at some point during the design and production of that book, Dwiggins suggested his marks book to Rudge and received a favorable response. Certainly Dwiggins did some sort of work on 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals before 1928. His account books contain four consecutive—and curious—entries between January 9 and 12, 1928 billing Rudge a total of $175 for “WAD Printers marks book”. [18] Why would Dwiggins have charged his publisher for work on a book about his own work? I don’t know the answer. There are no other entries for 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals.

Rejected artwork for side label of binding for Printer’s Marks, Seals Design or Redrawn by W.A.D. [sic]. Design, lettering, and decoration by W.A. Dwiggins. Original pen-and-ink artwork with retouching, and specifications. Image courtesy of Special Collections, Boston Public Library.

It was not until June 18, 1929, over a year and a half later, that 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals was published. [19] That may seem like an inordinate amount of time for a slim book with no text, but it should be remembered that 1928 was an extremely busy year for Dwiggins with substantial book projects for The Lakeside Press (Tales of Edgar Allan Poe), Random House (Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and The Merrymount Press (The Complete Angler by Izaak Walton), as well as four book designs for Crosby Gaige (all printed by William Edwin Rudge), five book bindings for Knopf, and other book work for Yale University Press and the Garden City Publishing Co.; plus a redesign of Life magazine, and promotional work for papermaker S.D. Warren Co. in addition Dwiggins oversaw the design and production of both Paraphs and Layout in Advertising. [20] It is not surprising that 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals was put on the back burner.

A detailed description of 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals will appear in The Definitive Dwiggins no. 210 along with some thoughts on how the book fits into the context of Dwiggins’ transition from an advertising designer to a book designer.

1. The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W.A. Dwiggins by Dwight Agner (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The Press of the Nightowl, 1974). Since 2003 I have been working on a corrected and greatly expanded version of Agner’s bibliography.
2. W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design by Bruce Kennett (San Francisco: Letterform Archive, 2018), devotes one paragraph (p. 202) to 22 Printers’ Marks that focuses on William Edwin Rudge, Jr. rather than on the book itself. (Kennett mistakenly confuses Rudge [1876–1931] with his son William Edwin Rudge III [1908–1989] in attributing the founding of Print magazine in 1940 to the former.) However, he does reproduce the title page from the book.
3. There is only one letter from Rudge to Dwiggins in the two Dwiggins collections at the Boston Public Library, but it makes no mention of 22 Printers’ Marks. See William Edwin Rudge to W.A. Dwiggins 12 September 1928 in Folder 1, Box 12, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.  The William Edwin Rudge Printing Company archive in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division of the New York Public Library consists of financial records and they only cover the years from 1931 to 1935.
4. See W.A. Dwiggins to Elmer Adler 27 July 1925; Adler to Dwiggins 27 July 1925, and Adler to Dwiggins 29 July 1925 in Folder 2, Box 323, Elmer Adler Collection C0262, Special Collections, Princeton University. Dwiggins wrote to Adler on July 27, 1925, “Since talking to you I have let the idea jostle around in my mind over the week-end—and the more it jostles the more distasteful it becomes. I dislike it so basically that the feeling is bound to cripple any attempt that I might make to design the book.” After sending Dwiggins the Sinel book, Adler continued to press his case for a Dwiggins book. On July 29, 1925 he wrote,

I know your modesty and just exactly how you feel regarding a book of the kind that we have planned. A large part of it is distasteful to you. But unfortunately, you have to bear in mind that you are more than an individual. You have made yourself a force and an influence in American typography and you cannot hide your light under a bushel. A book of the kind that we plan is bound to be done someday and it is much better that it be done under your guidance and direction than that someone who has not your taste and versatility direct it.

Adler kept after Dwiggins for a “Dwiggins book” for many years, not giving up until the end of the 1930s. Perhaps he would have been satisfied by W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design—even if  it was not designed by Dwiggins.
5. A Book of American Trade Marks and Devices by Joseph Sinel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1924). Sinel (1889–1975) is best known today as an industrial designer, but in 1924 he was a commercial artist who had just gone freelance after a stint with the famous advertising agency of Calkins & Holden.
6. The American Printer vol. 79, no. 12 (December 20, 1924), pp. 37–38. Gress’ claim that Sinel redrew all of the trademarks shown in the book was derived from Knopf’s publicity. An advertisement for the book described it as “A remarkable collection of over two hundred and fifty representative American trademarks carefully selected by Mr. Sinel and re-drawn by him to print in one, two or three colors.” See The American Mercury vol. III, no. 12 (December 1924), p. xxiv.
7. W.A. Dwiggins to Arthur W. Rushmore 12 April 1926 in Folder 52, Box 12, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
8. See the 14-15 January 1926 entry in Dwiggins account books for “Harpers 2 imprints [$]100” in Folder 6, Box 81(1), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Also see W.A. Dwiggins to Arthur W. Rushmore 30 December 1925 and 15 January 1926 in Folders 49 and 50, Box 12, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Later in 1926 Dwiggins designed a mark for a Harper & Brothers medical books imprint. See the account book entry for 23 June 1926. The medical mark was excluded from 22 Printers’ Marks.
9. See W.A. Dwiggins to Carl Purington Rollins 1 February 1927 in Box 2, Series II, Carl Purington Rollins Papers (AOB 9), Arts of the Book Collection, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University. The “toy essays” became Paraphs by Hermann Püterschein (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928).
10. W.A. Dwiggins to D.B. Updike, 18 January 1928 (letter 108:695) in Folder 108, Box 69, The Merrymount Press Collection, Henry E. Huntington Library. The librarian at Rutgers University that Dwiggins is referring to is George A. Osborn. See Osborn to Dwiggins, 25 January 1928 in Folder 7, Box 93, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library in which Osborn says he cannot find any artwork for the seal. Bianchi was right in noting that Dwiggins had confused Rutgers University with Trinity College (now Duke University). The Rutgers seal had been commissioned by Frederic Warde when he was at the Princeton University Press.
11. The “Dwiggins year” was 1928. See “We believe this is a Dwiggins year, the year when a distinguished designer seems to have come into his own in trade and public recognition,” in “So These Are Dwiggins” by Jacob Püterschein in Publisher’s Weekly vol. CXIV, no. 18 (November 3, 1928), pp. 1896–1904.
12. Paraphs by Hermann Püterschein (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928 and Layout in Advertising by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1928). Dwiggins signed the contract for Paraphs, ostensibly written by his alter ego Hermann Püterschein, with Knopf on November 8, 1927 and delivered the final manuscript and artwork two days later.  It is less clear when he delivered the manuscript for Layout in Advertising to Harper and Brothers, but it must have been in the fall of 1927 or beginning of 1928 since the book’s bulking was an issue in late April 1928. See W.A. Dwiggins to Arthur W. Rushmore 28 April 1928 in Folder 853, Box 12, 2011 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
13. Rogers’ collaboration with Rudge began in 1919 following his return from England when the plant was still in New York City at 216 Williams Street. Once the plant moved to Mt. Vernon, he made it his “headquarters” until 1928 when he again decamped to England. The relationship between Rogers and Rudge was mutually beneficial as Rudge had Rogers as a designer for much of his printed work and Rogers had the use of Rudge’s staff to carry out his fastidious specifications. See Bruce Rogers: A Life in Letters 1870–1957 by Joseph Blumenthal (Austin, Texas: W. Thomas Taylor, 1989), pp. 85-89 for the Mt. Vernon period of Rogers’ career.
14. Information on the history of William Edwin Rudge comes from “A Brief Account of the Life and Work of William Edwin Rudge,” an undated and uncredited keepsake produced for Gallery 303 run by The Composing Room, a type house in New York City; an online genealogy of the Rudge family compiled by David W. Rudge; and my own sleuthing on The keepsake is not entirely accurate and the genealogy is woefully incomplete when it comes to the printing activities of the family. William Edwin Rudge, Sr. (WER I) (1853-1910), was born in England. He emigrated to the united States in 1867 and by 1870 he was working in a print shop in lower Manhattan while living in Brooklyn. In 1872 he established his own printing business. His son, William Edwin Rudge, Jr. (WER II), was born in 1876 and by 1887 was working for his father. When his father became ill in 1891, WER II ran The Rudge Press and by 1903 had taken it over completely. The firm was renamed William Edwin Rudge, Inc. In 1916 it was incorporated as The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge. Over the years, the press moved around in lower Manhattan and it maintained a New York office even after its plant relocated to Mt. Vernon in 1921. The move to Westchester County was ostensibly precipitated by a need to expand its facilities, but was also spurred by a desire to reduce labor costs. (The Rudge family had lived in Mt. Vernon since 1892.) In 1932, following WER II death in the summer of 1931, his sons William Edwin Rudge (WER III) and Frederick G. Rudge took over the business and renamed it William E. Rudge’s Sons. It continued until at least 1968.
15. The only documentary reference to America Conquers Death is a single entry in Dwiggins’ account books: “[1928] May 1 Wm Edwin Rudge ‘America Conquers Death’ Waldman [$]250.00.” See Folder 6, Box 81(1), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
16. Readers should be reminded that in 1927 Dwiggins was not famous as a book designer or type designer. At the time, he had designed only one book for Alfred A. Knopf and no typefaces for Mergenthaler Linotype. The reputation that Dwiggins did have was as a consummate lettering artist, illustrator, and ornamentalist doing advertising work. This is the material that Adler wanted to put in a Dwiggins book. See The Decorative Work of T.M. Cleland: A Record and a Review (New York: Pynson Printers, 1929) for an idea of what Adler had in mind.
17. W.A. Dwiggins to Carl Purington Rollins 8 November [1927] in Box 2, Series II, Carl Purington Rollins Papers (AOB 9), Arts of the Book Collection, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University.
18. The $175 was recorded in four daily installments of $50, $50, $50, and $25. See the entries for 9-12 January 1928 in Folder 6, Box 81(1), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
19. The rejected title page and rejected side label reproduced here indicate that Dwiggins had expected at one point that the book would be published in 1928.
20. For details on most of these books see The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W.A. Dwiggins by Dwight Agner (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The Press of the Nightowl, 1974). Agner leaves out Old Mrs. Chundle by Thomas Hardy and Legends of India by Edward Washburn Hopkins. His date of 1927 for The Sun Dial Library is wrong. See John Krygier’s website A Series of Series which makes it clear that the date should be 1928. Finally, it should be noted that Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was not published until 192 and Tales of Poe not until 1930. It should be noted that the prospectus for 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals touted the fact that Publishers’ Weekly had described 1928 as a “Dwiggins year”.

Title page of The Decorative Work of T.M. Cleland: A Record and a Review (New York: The Pynson Printers, 1929). Design and ornamentation by T.M. Cleland.