The Definitive Dwiggins no. 294—Stories of Our Earth
W.A. Dwiggins was at heart an artist, an illustrator. His posthumous reputation as a type designer, a book designer, and a marionette maker has overshadowed the fact that what he most wanted to do was illustrate books. His work as an illustrator has often been denigrated. One reason is that he had no single, defining style. Instead, he tailored his approach to the perceived needs of the story. An obscure, but excellent example of this are his spare illustrations for Stories of Our Earth by Nellie B. Allen and Edward K. Robinson (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1927), a coloring book intended to introduce young children to physical geography. 
Stories of Our Earth was the third (and last) title in the Stories and Sketches series that had begun with Children of Other Lands in 1923.  The authors of all three books were educator Nellie B. Allen (1875-1952) and Ginn editor Edward K. Robinson (1883–1971).  Each book has a unique, patented structure that combines the pages of the text with a set of blank sheets of tracing paper for the young child to use to copy the illustrations. Directions are provided that explain how to fold the book and rotate the tracing paper.  The first two books were illustrated by Marguerite Davis (1889–1980).
For Stories of Our Earth Dwiggins provided thirteen illustrations that matched the style established by Davis. There is one for each of thirteen chapters—each no more than a double-page spread—in the book with maps being used as illustrations for the other two chapters. 
I. The World We Live In [two maps, one showing continents and one showing oceans]
II. What the Sun Does for Us
III. The Air and Its Uses
IV. What Soil Is
V. The Surface of the Land
VI. On the Mountains
VII. What Valleys Are
VIII. Plains and Plateaus
IX. The Five Oceans [map]
X. In and On the Oceans
XI. Seas, Lakes, and Ponds
XII. Shore Forms
XIII. Clouds and Rain
XIV. A Water-Drop’s Dark Journey
XV. How the Rain Helps Men
The drawings are simple outlines, with two exceptions, rendered in bold lines. Both “Shore Forms” and “How the Rain Helps Men” have areas filled in with Benday screens which makes them among the least successful.  Nine drawings are of landscapes or seascapes, only two of which have a significant human presence. The other four drawings emphasize people and human activity in relation to climate and topography. Allen and Robinson asserted that, “Both human and industrial geography depend to a great extent on physical environment. It is necessary, therefore, that children should early acquire clear ideas of physical forms and some knowledge of their influence on human activities.” 
The book came with thirty-two sheets of tracing paper, enough the authors claimed, to allow each picture to be traced twice, the first time in black and the second time in color (with guidance from the the teacher).  Directions were provided for doing other things with each picture beyond merely coloring it. For instance, the directions for “The Air and Its Uses” (see above) were: “After tracing the picture on the opposite page write under it a list of all the things which you can see in the sketch that are being moved by the wind. How many can you find?” (I found eight things.)
Stories of Our Earth displays Dwiggins’ ability to subsume his personality in order to serve the project. In this it is similar to his work for Collar and Daniell’s First Year Latin even as the illustrations of the two books are at opposite ends of a stylistic spectrum. The spareness of the drawings for Stories of Our Earth contrasts strongly with the detailed hatching of the Latin grammar illustrations. Although the two books display Dwiggins’ versatility, neither is among his greatest works. 
1. Stories of Our Earth is not in The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W. A. Dwiggins by Dwight Agner (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Press of the Nightowl, 1974) and is not listed in WorldCat. Neither is it mentioned in W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design by Bruce Kennett (San Francisco: Letterform Archive, 2018).
2. Children of Other Lands by Nellie B. Allen and Edward K. Robinson (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1923). The second book in the series was What People Are Doing by Nellie B. Allen and Edward K. Robinson (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1924). Worldcat does not list any other titles in the series besides these.
3. Allen was an instructor at the State Normal School in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. She is not the same person as the landscape architect Nellie B. Allen (1869–1961). Robinson began his career as a clerk at Ginn & Company c.1910 and worked his way up to the executive office by 1940. In 1911 he was described as being “in charge of illustrations and designs” at the publisher, but by 1915 he was functioning as an editor. See “Where the Best Made Schoolbooks Are Produced” by Henry Lewis Johnson in The Graphic Arts vol. II, no. 6 (December 1911), p. 402. I think his role in the Stories and Sketches series was an art editor, commissioning and overseeing the illustrations.
4. “The Double Book Binding” was patented in the United States on April 3, 1923. It was invented, probably by Robinson, in 1919 and first used in Practical Map Exercises in Medieval and Modern European History by Mildred C. Bishop and Edward K. Robinson (1920). The technique was used for several other geography books before it was applied to the Stories and Sketches series. The instructions for using the tracing paper section of Stories of Our Earth reads: “Pictures. Turn the first sheet of tracing paper to the right, and then back to the left over the picture. When ready to trace the second picture, turn the used sheet of tracing paper to the right and allow it to remain there. Turn the second sheet of tracing paper to the right and back to the left over the second picture.” An ironic aspect of Stories of Our Earth is that Dwiggins probably created his drawings by tracing photographs, a technique he had used for many years in creating illustrations for Paine Furniture Company advertisements.
5. The cover of Stories of Our Earth proclaims “illustrations by Will.m A. Dwiggins”. The lettering matches that of the rest of the cover—except for the distinctive Dwiggins touch on the title—which is identical to that of the two previous books in the series. I think Dwiggins did this bit of lettering and adjusted the spelling of his name to fit the space previously taken up by Davis’ name. There are also two maps in the book which do not look like Dwiggins’ work since the numbering is set in type rather than handlettered as was his custom for maps and diagrams; but they are listed in his account books. See the entry for 8 February 1926 in Folder 6, Box 81(1), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
6. Benday screens are mechanical tints and patterns invented by New York engraver Ben Day in 1879. See Newspaper Advertising by George Henry Edward Hawkins (Chicago: Advertisers Publishing Company, 1914), p. 17 and “Techniques of Advertising Illustration V: How and When to Use Ben Day” by W. Livingston Larned in The Printing Art vol. XXXVII, no. 4 (June 1921), pp. 305–312. These two illustrations in Stories of Our Earth are the only instances I know of Dwiggins using them or other mechanical aids. Perhaps they were added by the Ginn & Company art department.
7. Stories of Our Earth by Nellie B. Allen and Edward K. Robinson (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1927), p. 1. The book was also seen as a stepping-stone toward later learning: “These little stories include some of the features of physical geography with which small children should become acquainted in order that they may use intelligently the textbooks planned for higher grades.”
8. I own two copies of Stories of Our Earth. In one the tracing paper sheets are untouched, but in the other there are tracings in pencil and in ink (but not in color) by two sisters, Ruth Ohl (b. 1918) and Roberta Ohl (b. 1920) of Akron, Ohio.
9. Dwiggins’ account books indicate that he began work on Stories of Our Earth on April 28, 1925 and finished everything other than the maps and cover on February 8, 1926. See Folder 6, Box 81(1), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. His slow progress was due to the fact that he devoted much of his time from mid-February through late September 1925 to the redesign of Harper’s Magazine—and to the usual glut of work for S.D. Warren Co.