The Definitive Dwiggins no. 297—The Sun Dial Library
W.A. Dwiggins and the Vogue of the Small Book
Origins of The Sun Dial Library
The Sun Dial Library was established in the fall of 1928 as an imprint of the Garden City Publishing Company, a subsidiary of Doubleday, Doran & Co. An advertising card explained that the new series was being created in response to a demand for small books:
The Vogue of the Small Book
The Sun Dial Library is an answer to the modern demand for small books that has reached America from Germany and England. Small books—but beautifully made; but small books the most famous titles of our time; and at a price that seems incredible considering the format and contents.
The first volume of THE SUN DIAL LIBRARY came off press today: The Bright Shawl by Joseph Hergesheimer. Size 4 3/3 x 7 1/4—3-color poster wrapper—orange case stamped with 2-color decorations—title page and 2-color end-papers by W.A. Dwiggins, famous book-designer and typographer, who will supervise the design of the succeeding volumes.
Not to boast—but—we’ve done it again! In non-fiction, STAR DOLLAR BOOKS; in fiction, the new SUN DIAL LIBRARY! 
The card included a thumbnail picture of the jacket of The Bright Shawl, the first book in the series, and a list of ten other books scheduled for publication on September 1, 1928. When The Bright Shawl by Joseph Hergesheimer was published, its jacket back had a slightly different blurb, but it too emphasized the crucial role that W.A. Dwiggins had in determining the look of the series.
The Vogue of the Small Book
Compactness is the modern note. In houses, cars, furniture—in everything we moderns possess—the smart thing is the small one. And now, the small book! The Sun Dial Library is an answer to the modern demand for small books that has reached America from Germany and England. Small books—but beautifully made, and printed in large, clear type; small books—but the most famous titles of our time; small books—at a price that seems incredible considering the format and contents.
The first volume of THE SUN DIAL LIBRARY to come off the press was The Bright Shawl by Joseph Hergesheimer. Small in size, with a three-color wrapper and a bright cloth binding, with title-page and end-papers designed by W.A. Dwiggins, this is a promise of the high quality of books to come in this library. 
Dwiggins was credited with the design of the jacket, binding, endpapers, and title page of The Bright Shawl—and with the supervision of future titles. But whether or not he was responsible for the format and interior typography was left unsaid.
“The format first catches one’s attention, and in planning this,” commented The Publishers’ Weekly, “the publishers have called into conference W.A. Dwiggins of Boston,whose inventive genius in decorative typography was used to advantage by Harper’s Magazine as well as by many other enterprises.”  The magazine went on to describe the jackets, bindings, and paper of the first two dozen titles in the series. It incorrectly said that the bindings were uniform (see the discussion below), but was right in saying that the jackets were printed in two colors not three as the publisher claimed. It noted that the paper thickness varied from title to title so that books with varying page counts would bulk equally, something that Dwiggins would surely have objected to. 
It may not seem odd today to see Dwiggins described as a “famous book designer and typographer,” but it certainly would have been in August 1928. At that point in his career, Dwiggins was known primarily as an advertising designer. The first books that would bring him acclaim as a book designer—Elizabeth and Essex, The Complete Angler, Layout in Advertising, and Paraphs—were still in production at that time.  The Publishers’ Weekly had cited Dwiggins’ redesign of Harper’s Magazine as the possible reason he was hired by Doubleday, Doran and Company for The Sun Dial Library job.
Whether the description of Dwiggins as a “famous book designer” was true or not in August 1928, it was definitely the first time that his name was used to promote the sales of trade books rather than limited editions.
Who was behind this? Who hired Dwiggins? There is no documentary evidence providing definitive answers to these questions, but I think A.P. Tedesco (b. 1899) played an instrumental role. Between 1923, the year he graduated from Harvard College, and 1928, when he moved to New York to become art director at Doubleday, Doran, Tedesco worked for Brad Stephens & Company, one of Dwiggins’ principal clients at the time.  In 1945 he remarked that Dwiggins had been “a great inspiration to him.”
The Sun Dial Library mark
Left unmentioned in the blurbs about Dwiggins’ contribution to The Sun Dial Library is the mark for the series, even though it was present on both.  The mark was designed for use on the title pages of the books, the jacket backs, and in advertising. It does not appear on the bindings, probably because it was too elaborate to be used in the small size needed.
The mark is complicated. It consists of the name of the imprint with an open book above it. Radiating out from the book are twelve printers’ marks. All of this is enclosed within an oval. Around the upper half of the oval, and within a second oval, are thirteen roman numerals. The symbolism of the mark was unclear to me until I recently came upon a small pamphlet entitled A Printers’ Sun Dial: Being a Short Description of the Sun Dial Recently Placed in the Garden of the Country Life Press by Walter Gilliss (Garden City and New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913).
Doubleday, Page & Co. (the predecessors of Doubleday, Doran and Co.) asked Walter Gilliss (1855–1925), a leading New York printer, in 1910 to oversee the design and fabrication of a table incorporating the marks of early printers, “around which the employees might assemble at the noon hour, and, as they rested and refreshed themselves, gain a little of the inspiration of the early craftsmen through the contemplation of their marks.”  The table was to be installed in the “cedar room” at the southern end of the garden of the Country Life Press (the publisher’s printing plant) in Garden City, New York.
The “table” became a sundial with an open book, Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible, as its central feature. The early printers’ marks were to be arranged around only a portion of the sundial. Gilliss explained:
The form of the Dial is that of a 41-degree ellipse, 65 1/8 x 78 7/8 inches. This form, as well as the unusually large size was determined by the dimensions of the Bible, which lies open at the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Job, that great chapter in which he speaks of the immortality of the soul, the twenty-third verse of which, in the English translation, reads: “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!” Above, and at the sides of the Bible, are twelve hour-spaces bearing the marks of twelve of the early printers, so disposed, that at noon, the shadow rests full across the centre of the Bible, and passes first over the earliest of all printers’ marks—that of Fust and Schoeffer. 
The thirteen printers’ marks are those of Fust and Schoeffer, Hans & Paul Hurus, Nicolaus Jenson, Aldus Manutius, Bernardinus de Vitalibus, William Caxton, Wynkyn de Worde, the St. Albans Printer, Thierry Martens, Christopher Plantin, Ulrich Gering, Berthold Rembolt, and Guillaume le Rouge.
The face of the sundial was made of cement with inlays of brass for the printers’ marks and the facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible. The lettering for the latter was engraved and then filled in with a compound. A bronze rim, cast by the John Williams Company, was placed around the sundial. And a pedestal of concrete was designed by John H. Petit, the architect of the Country Life Press.  The sundial (see the photograph below) was installed in 1913.
It is evident from this description of the sundial at the Country Life Press that it was the basis for Dwiggins’ mark for The Sun Dial Library. He must have been requested to do so by the company chairman Nelson Doubleday (1889–1949), or someone else high up in the Doubleday, Doran executive ranks, since he would not have thought up such a complex design on his own. Most likely Dwiggins was given a photograph of the sundial, a copy of Gilliss’ book, and a copy of Gilliss’ design for the sundial. 
Dwiggins based his mark directly on that of Gilliss. But his design is much more than a redrawing. He has indicated the lettering of the Gutenberg Bible by squiggles, replaced the quotation below the Bible by The Sun Dial Library name, substituted large roman numerals for the detailed time markings on the rim, deleted all of the captions, and redrawn the printers’ marks from scratch. In sum Dwiggins’ version of the sundial is stronger and more harmonious. It had to be since it was intended to be printed at small sizes while Gilliss’ design was, like an architectural drawing, a guide for a larger physical object.
In both Gilliss’ and Dwiggins’ designs there are only twelve printers’ marks instead of the thirteen listed by Gilliss in his book. An article about the Country Life Press sundial identified them clockwise as: Wynkyn de Worde, the St. Albans printer, Thierry Martens, Guillaume le Rouge, Ulrich Gering (and his partners Michel Freiburger and Martin Krantz), Christopher Plantin, Fust & Schoeffer, Bernardinus de Vitalibus, Hans & Paul Hurus, Aldus Manutius, Nicolaus Jenson, and William Caxton. Missing from this list is Berthold Rembolt. But Dwiggins’ design includes Rembolt’s mark where the article says that of Gering, Freiburger and Krantz should be. The discrepancy is explained by the fact that Gering, Freiburger and Krantz never had a printer’s mark. 
The Sun Dial Library title page
The Sun Dial Library device was used most prominently on the title pages of the books. The typography of the first title, The Bright Shawl, was set in Bodoni, but the other books in the first batch printed in September 1928 have the title and author’s name in lettering (matching the lettering of those elements on the binding side). I have no explanation for this sudden change in style, but am sure it was not something instigated by Dwiggins since the lettering on the title pages (and bindings) is not his. Only a few other titles, all published much later, have title pages set entirely in Bodoni. 
The interiors of the books were set in a motley variety of typefaces (e.g. Caslon, ATF Garamond, Oldstyle no. 1, and Oldstyle no. 7), reflecting their origins as electrotyped reprints. Thus, Dwiggins had no control over that aspect of the books. His supervisory role was apparently limited to the endpapers and bindings, both of which will be discussed next.
The Sun Dial Library endpapers
The endpapers designed by Dwiggins for The Sun Dial Library books depict the sundial within the cedar room of the garden at the Country Life Press.  At the lower left is the series name with “THE / SUN DIAL” lettered in Bodoni-esque roman capitals and “Library” rendered in Dwiggins’ distinctive script. The illustration is fanciful in suggesting a more secluded setting for the sundial than the one indicated by the photograph in A Printers’ Sun Dial by Gilliss. More noticeably, Dwiggins has chosen a angled perspective and completely reimagined the shape of the pedestal.
The endpaper shown here (taken from Where Angels Fear to Tread by EW.M. Forster) is a light ochre color printed in violet ink. It is one of several variants used for the endpapers of the titles in The Sun Dial Library. I have identified twelve different ink colors—bronze, sand, tan, wine, dusty rose, violet, purple, light purple, mauve, indigo, Wedgewood blue, spruce green—and two shades of paper (cream and ochre) used for the endpapers. 
The Sun Dial Library bindings
Dwiggins designed the binding for The Bright Shawl with a two-color ornament (lavender and black) for the front and a one-color decoration (lavender) for the spine. The title and author are lettered in black on both the spine and the front. The cloth binding itself is orange. The result is striking and, in its unusual color combinations, typically Dwiggins.
There are eleven additional colors (peach, orange, purple, tan, green, lime green, indigo, blue, acid yellow, fuchsia, and brass yellow) paired with black for the ornaments on the bindings of the other fifty-one titles in the The Sun Dial Library. There are nine cloth colors (vermilion, red, purple, tan, sand, lemon yellow, blue, green, and black). The titles with black cloth bindings have two colors instead of a color and black for the lettering and ornament. In total, there are are thirteen different combinations of ink colors and cloth colors, more than half of them jarring. 
The many colors used for the endpapers and bindings make it clear that Dwiggins’ princiapl role as supervisor of the titles in The Sun Dial Library was principally as a color consultant. He had been experimenting with colors in this manner for nearly a decade, beginning with the 1919 redesign of Direct Advertising.  He had discovered that changes of ink color combined with paper stock color enlivened a publication even as its design remained constant. It was also an inexpensive way for a publisher to suggest to a book buyer or subscriber that they were getting more for their money.
The Sun Dial Library jackets
The advertising card for The Sun Dial Library said that The Bright Shawl, the first book in the series, was had a “3-color poster wrapper—orange case stamped with 2-color decorations—title page and 2-color end-papers by W.A. Dwiggins….” In fact, the endpapers were one-color and the jacket was two-color. Furthermore, the jacket was only partially designed by Dwiggins. He was responsible for its format (its elements and their placement), the ornamentation, and the lettering on the spine, but not the lettering on the front or the illustration. The latter looks like nothing he ever did and is not signed.
The lettering and decoration on the spine are from the same artwork created for the binding spine, but here they are crisper and clearer. The odd hyphenation of “HERGES-HEIMER” is a Dwiggins trademark, something he became known for later in his work for Knopf but which he had already engaged in for many years. The lettering on the front, including that of “The Sun Dial Library,” is by someone else who has attempted, with decent results, to emulate Dwiggins’ style.
That anonymous artist was responsible for the lettering on at least the first twenty-four titles in The Sun Dial Library. After that, either he slightly altered his style for the next twenty-four or someone else tried to work in his style. Another person handled the final four titles in the series. 
The first books in The Sun Dial Library came out in the fall of 1928. The series quickly reached a total of fifty-two titles, but it must not have been a success since Doubleday, Doran and Company sold it to the Modern Library in 1930. The sale was ironic given that one reason The Sun Dial Library was established was to compete with the Modern Library.
The series’ failure was not due to Dwiggins’ colorful and eye-catching binding designs. They were hidden underneath the jackets, only visible to book buyers after they had made a purchase. The jackets themselves were among the best of their time in the United States. Many of the titles are now minor classics. The price of $1 was a bargain. The failure of The Sun Dial Library was probably due to crowded competition in the cheap reprint field and the impact of The Great Depression which began a little over a year after the series’ inception.
The Sun Dial Library was not the first book series for which Dwiggins designed the visual identity and it was not the last. In fact, his work on it may have led Alfred Knopf to hire him to overhaul the look of the Borzoi Pocket Book series, a subject for another Definitive Dwiggins post. 
1. The undated advertising card is in a scrapbook in the Will Ransom Papers, Newberry Library. Based on its text it seems to have been printed in July or August 1928.
2. The text is from the back of the jacket of The Bright Shawl by Joseph Hergesheimer (Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Company, 1928). I want to thank John Krygier for providing me with an image of the jacket back.
3. See “The Sun Dial Library” in The Publishers’ Weekly vol. CXIII (October 27, 1928), p. 1781.
4. In Extracts from an Investigation into the Physical Properties of Books as They Are at Present Published (Boston: The Society of Calligraphers, 1919) Dwiggins objected to the then-common practice of bulking out books, using thicker paper to make them appear more substantial than they were:
Q. Mr. B , will you please tell the committee why you printed this book on card-board?
A. To make it the right thickness. It had to be one inch thick.
— Why that thick, particularly ?
— Because otherwise it would not sell. If a book isn’t one inch thick it won’t sell.
— Do you mean to say that people who buy books select them with the help of a foot rule?
— They have to have some standard of selection.
— So that it is your practice to stretch out the text if it is too short by printing it on egg-box stock?
— Not my practice, particularly. All publishers do it. We are obliged to use this and other means to bring the book up to a proper thickness. You must remember that our prices are not based on the contents of a book but on its size.
5. See The Definitive Dwiggins no. 208 for some background on 1928 as a “Dwiggins Year.”
6. The information about A.P. Tedesco’s career comes from his thumbnail biography in The Relationship between Type and Illustration in Books and Book Jackets by A.P. Tedesco (Brooklyn: George McKibbin & Son, 1945). There are a number of letters from Tedesco to Dwiggins, but all of them are post-1930. See Folder 1, Box 12, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Dwiggins designed a letterhead for Doubleday, Doran and Company—formed in September 1927 through the merger of Doubleday, Page & Co. and George H. Doran Company—but it is unclear when the commission was made. Twelve roughs, but no final design, are in Folder 10, Box 5, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Dwiggins recorded a payment of $600 from the publisher in his ledgers on May 11, 1928, but the size of the amount suggests that this was for work on The Sun Dial Library series. See Folder 4, Box 81(2), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
7. The Sun Dial Library mark was unaccountably left out of 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929).
8. A Printers’ Sun Dial: Being a Short Description of the Dial Recently Placed in the Garden of the Country Life Press [by Walter Gilliss] (Garden City and New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913), pp. 7–8. For more information on Walter Gilliss and The Gilliss Press see Recollections of The Gilliss Press and Its Work During Fifty Years 1869–1919 by Walter Gilliss (New York: The Grolier Club, 1926).
9. A Printers’ Sun Dial: Being a Short Description of the Dial Recently Placed in the Garden of the Country Life Press [by Walter Gilliss] (Garden City and New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913), pp. 10–11.
10. A Printers’ Sun Dial: Being a Short Description of the Dial Recently Placed in the Garden of the Country Life Press [by Walter Gilliss] (Garden City and New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913), pp. 30–31.
11. The sundial design is reproduced in “First Century of the Art of Printing: A Description of the Sundial at the New Home of the Country Life Press, which Covers the Period in Printing History from Gutenberg to Plantin” in Judicious Advertising vol. XII, no. 12 (December 1914), pp. 103-104. The design also appears, inexplicably, as part of Catalogue of Titles 5 (c.1930) shown by John Krygier on his website.
12. For more on Gering, Freiburger and Krantz (and Rembolt who succeeded them), see Printers’ Marks: A Chapter in the History of Typography by William Roberts (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1893), pp. 100–101.
13. The three other titles I have located with title pages set entirely in Bodoni are The Trembling of a Leaf by W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence by Maugham, and Lady into Fox / A Man in the Zoo by David Garnett (two short stories). All first appear in either the Catalogue of Titles 3 or the Catalogue of Titles 4. A mock-up of the title page for The Bright Shawl is in Folder 40, Box 3, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. It was comped on the back of a cut-off from a Society of Calligraphers honorary membership certificate.
14. A loose pencil sketch of the endpapers by Dwiggins is in Folder 26, Box 36, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
15. This enumeration of colors is based on digital images (from a single source), not on first-hand examination of the books. Describing colors is a very inexact science as any color search online will reveal. It is possible that Dwiggins specified fewer than twelve colors and some of the printed colors were simply the result of inaccurate color mixing by the printer. It should be remembered that The Sun Dial Library books were published several decades before color formulas such as the Pantone Matching System (PMS) became standard in printing.
16. As with the listing of endpaper colors, this summary of binding colors is based on digital images (from a single source), not on first-hand examination of the books. Some of the colors may have changed over time due to sunning. That is evident with a few of the binding spines, but all of the fronts seem to be bright and original colors. They may have been protected by jackets or, if jacketless, by neighboring books on a bookshelf.
17. Beginning with Direct Advertising vol. VI (1919), the cover of the magazine maintained—with the exception of three issues—the same Dwiggins-designed cover until 1934. To provide variety, each issue was printed in two colors on colored paper. Dwiggins pursued a similar strategy in 1924 with the design of The Paper Book, a joint publication of Crocker-McElwain Company and the Chemical Paper Manufacturing Company.
18. To see nearly all of The Sun Dial Library jackets visit John Krygier’s seriesofseries website. For many of them, the illustrations are signed, but the only one of the illustrators who could have done the lettering for the first twenty-four titles (and maybe the following twenty-four) is RF, the signature of Robert Foster (b. 1895). He signed Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (1928), one of the first four titles. Foster was, in his own words, an “Artist, Poster and Cover Designer.” But he was also a skillful letterer who is best remembered for his Art Deco typefaces Pericles and Foster Abstract.
19. See “Improving the Borzoi Pocket Books” in The Publishers’ Weekly vol. CXIV (February 9, 1929), p. 658. The first book series design that Dwiggins did was the Evergreen Series for Houghton, Mifflin and Company in 1923. Other series that he designed include The Riverside Library, Borzoi Pocket Books, The Inner Sanctum, Alblabooks, Mercury Books, The Readers Club, and Hart Books.
A bibliographical note: The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W. A. Dwiggins by Dwight Agner (Baton Rouge: Press of the Nightowl, 1974), item 27.02 incorrectly dates The Sun Dial Library as 1927–1930. As a representative title, Agner unfortunately chose Go She Must by David Garnett (1930), one of the last books in the series. “The Adam and Eve of the series,” as Jacob Püterschein [Laurance B. Siegfried] put it, is The Bright Shawl by Joseph Hergesheimer (1928). See “So These Are Dwiggins!” by Jacob Püterschein in The Publishers’ Weekly vol. CXIII (December 3, 1928), p. 1904. The Sun Dial Library is missing from W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design by Bruce Kennett (San Francisco: Letterform Archive, 2018).