The Definitive Dwiggins no. 328—Direct Advertising & Sample Book of Mill-Brand Papers (Part III)
I like Far East color combinations; a chutney-sauce effect with lots of pepper and mustard and spices, odd harmonies that make you sit up. I think the Chinese were the greatest color manipulators, and after them the Persians of the miniatures. I like black as part of a color scheme. 
W.A. Dwiggins wrote this in 1936. His remarks, repeated many times, have come to dominate descriptions of his work. But it is one that does not apply to his early career in which he invariably used the same colors that had dominated printing since Gutenberg’s day: red and black. This was due partly to the expectations of his clients and the limitations of letterpress technology as well as the heavy hand of tradition.
In letterpress printing each color requires a separate print run, thus driving up costs. Consequently, the instances where Dwiggins was able to go beyond the standard black-and-red color duo prior to 1919 are few. In 1908 he designed a three-color Christmas card to sell. It was printed in black with red and blue added by hand using stencils.  The satirical journal Vague no. 7 (1915) was printed in purple ink on pink paper. The gesture, meant to shock, was inexpensive. The Fabulist no. 2 (Spring 1916) contained two seven-color illustrations, one of a Japanese woman and another of a wintry scene with a woman and carriage driver. Both were created using stencils and thus labor-intensive but not capital intensive. And both publications were private projects.
The one significant commercial job that Dwiggins did in his early years that involved uncommon colors was the cover of Print, the cooperative journal established by Brad Stephens (1878–1964) in 1911.  The covers for the first three years were designed by Herbert Gregson (1878–1933), but for the remaining two years of its existence the covers sported a Dwiggins design. Each issue, marked by a large two-color initial P, was the same except for a constant change of colors. But the covers were relatively tame. One reason was that one of the two ink colors was always black, the other one was a shade of orange, yellow or green; and the paper stock was always cream, beige, or tan. (The lone exception was vol. IV, no. 2 which was printed in dark purple and mauve on light violet stock.)
The moment when Dwiggins began to discover the joys of working with an unlimited palette of colors was 1919 when he redesigned the cover of Direct Advertising & Sample Book of Mill-Brand Papers. The magazine had emerged out of The House Organ Review, another Brad Stephens publication established in 1911.  The new design abandoned a large, central illustration in favor of an entirely “typographic” approach. Dwiggins revised his classical Roman capitals for the title to give more emphasis than before to the mill brand sample paper section. But the real revolution was in color. The 1917–1918 version of the magazine rotated ink and stock colors, but in a dark and dull manner (e.g. dark green and dark brown on tan paper). The new design, which lasted until 1935, was characterized by more daring color combinations (e.g. olive and mauve on sage paper). 
I think the 1919 change in the cover design was spurred by the success of the mill brand paper section which had been added two years earlier.  Following the first issue to include the section, the magazine received a slew of congratulatory letters praising its new way of showing paper samples.  The idea of emphasizing the mill brand papers section surely originated with Stephens, but the idea of rotating ink colors to show off different cover papers must have come from Dwiggins. It had two advantages for Stephens and his client the Paper Makers’ Advertising Club (PMAC): 1. it was cheaper than designing a new cover with each issue; and 2. it was a perfect way to display the mill brand papers, especially colored cover stock. This second factor would have been especially pressing after the Armistice as the paper makers once again had access to aniline dyes which were crucial for making colored papers, especially those used as covers. 
For Dwiggins it provided him with an unprecedented opportunity to experiment with colors. In April 1919 he was ending his tenure as the acting Director of the Harvard University Press, On April 4 he asked the Syndics of the Press to be relieved of his post “because of the pressure of his personal business”. Part of that pressure was work for Stephens which, at that same moment, included the redesign of the Direct Advertising cover.  Dwiggins was frustrated during his time at the Harvard University Press on various levels, operational and financial as well as aesthetic.  The Direct Advertising cover job must have been a welcome change of pace.
The odd color combinations Dwiggins employed must have been a shock to printers weaned on red and black. But the use of classic Roman capitals must have been reassuring since the new cover design lasted until 1935, with the exception of four issues between late 1926 and late 1928. Those issues bore a “modernistic” cover design by Dwiggins which met with opposition among the readership of Direct Advertising. But in 1935 modern design had become more widely accepted, even if by a vocal minority, and the magazine finally retired Dwiggins’ classic Roman capitals design. In his editorial explaining the change Stephens wrote,
You are going to be disappointed with this modern layout for Direct Advertising. If you expect to be greeted with a different pyrotechnic type display every time you turn over a page. We are out to give the reader a break. There is at least uniformity in the type style in which our headings and articles are set. The presumption on our part that inspires this departure from what now appears to be general practice in modernistic, periodical typography, is this magazine is read. Its type page is not designed simply to make a splurge that will impress advertisers who haven’t time to read or to analyze the articles….
Since this book is published by a cooperative association of paper manufacturers to promote the use of fine paper and printing, we have felt too that it was up to us to promote the beauty of deep, impressive margins. Our use of Metro Medium also gives a blacker page which further enhances, in our opinion, the attractiveness of fine paper. The light, sans serif letter in many periodicals makes a grey page which is hard to read, and which is lacking in contrast, color and character. 
It is ironic that the new typographic dress of Direct Advertising emphasized Metro Medium, Dwiggins’ first typeface for Mergenthaler Linotype. However, the irony was short-lived. By the following issue Metro Medium had been replaced by Monotype’s New Caslon for text, remaining in use only for headlines, captions, and folios.
Where did Dwiggins get the ideas for his color combinations from in 1919? This was several years before he worked on Modern Color by Carl Gordon Cutler and Stephen C. Pepper (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1923), a book which I suggested in The Definitive Dwiggins no. 66 played a role in his color shift. Dwiggins was close friends with the artist Charles Hovey Pepper (1864–1950), a close colleague of Carl Gordon Cutler (1873-1945) and father of Stephen Pepper (1891-1972). In 1919 he joined the Boston Art Club at the urging of the elder Pepper. Perhaps, in the years while the book was in development Dwiggins discussed color theory with all three men.
I doubt that Dwiggins was influenced by the Munsell Color System since he began working on the Direct Advertising covers before the publication of A Grammar of Color by Strathmore Paper in 1921. More significantly, many of his color combinations ran counter to what Munsell considered to be balanced color. It also seems unlikely that Dwiggins picked up ideas about color from the Fauves or other European avant-garde art movements.
It is more likely that he was inspired by the Ballets Russes, specifically the colors of the costume and set designs of Léon Bakst (1866–1924).  He apparently saw the troupe on February 7, 1916 as they were winding down their engagement at The Boston Opera House. Among the performances that evening was Petrouchka. Five years later Dwiggins created a four-color woodcut of Petrouchka sitting slumped over.  Dwiggins may also have drawn inspiration from the Ballets Russes secondhand via the illustrations in Dessins sur les danses de Vaslav Nijinsky & Album Dédié a Tamar Karsavina (1913) by Georges Barbier (1882–1932), the French pochoir artist.
The lessons that Dwiggins learned from devising thirty-two different color combinations was put to use for the covers of The Paper Book, another Stephens project, and the bindings for The Sun Dial Library later in the 1920s. And, of course his Direct Advertising covers experience manifested itself in the designs of his late 1930s jackets for Knopf and the illustrations and ornament of such books as The Time Machine (1931), Droll Stories (1932), The Travels of Marco Polo (1933), One More Spring (1935), The Treasure in the Forest (1936), Java Head (1946), and The War Against Waak (1948).
Following the notes are images of all the Direct Advertising covers in the classical Roman capitals style from 1919 to 1928. The cut-off year is based on the images I have. The last year that Dwiggins worked for Stephens was 1927. Wherever possible I have listed the paper stock used for the cover.
1. The quotation was published in Bookbinding vol. XXIII, no. 4 (April 1936), p. 38. It can also be found among the scraps of undated correspondence in Folder 1, Box 12, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
2. Dwiggins hand-colored some work for The Merrymount Press and Alfred Bartlett as well as for himself before 1918. He tended to favor pastel colors (e.g. pink, lavender, light blue, pale green). For instance, see the 1908 and 1909 Christmas cards he designed for himself and his wife or the 1916 Hunt Ball menu.
3. Print, edited by Brad Stephens, from 1911 to 1915, was not related to Print: A Quarterly Journal of the Graphic Arts established by William Edwin Rudge III in 1940 or its successor Print, the graphic design magazine that lasted from 1954 to 2017. The first Print (“published under cooperative auspices in the interests of the printing and allied crafts”) changed its subtitle several times during its short existence. Dwiggins’ design was a revision of the second one done by Gregson that lasted from vol. I, no. 4 until vol. IV, no. 1.
4. The House Organ Review, like Print, underwent several subtitle changes before becoming Direct Advertising with Sample Book of Mill-Brand Papers in 1917. In the 1919 redesign “with” was replaced by “and” or an ampersand.
5. The classical Roman capitals cover was briefly abandoned for four non-consecutive issues between late 1926 and late 1928. See vol. XII:4, vol. XIII:1, 3, and vol. XIV:4.
6. “As a part of each issue [of Direct Advertising], yet ingeniously separated from the editorial matter, is a sample book exhibiting the various mill brands of papers made by the respective members, and all exhibits are most appropriately and handsomely executed,” wrote Walden’s Stationer and Printer in 1918. See “Paper Makers’ Advertising Club Benefits Printers and Paper Makers” in Walden’s Stationer and Printer vol. XLI, no. 1 (April 25, 1918), p. 80.
7. “Printers Write Congratulatory Letters About First Number of Direct Advertising” in Direct Advertising vol. IV, no. 2 (1918), pp. 23–24.
8. “The Sample Book Showing Standard Mill Brand Papers of the Paper Makers’ Advertising Club” (as the section divider phrased it) flipped the cover ink colors, making the dominant color recessive and vice versa. A caption, often cut off in library copies of the magazine, identified the cover stock, its color, and manufacturer. Dwiggins designed the divider page with a scalloped frame whose style echoed his work a decade ago for sheet music. The supply of aniline dyes, principally made by German companies, was severely restricted by World War I even before the United States joined the conflict. See “The Color Situation” in The Paper Box Maker and American Bookbinder vol. 24 (November 4, 1915), p. 11:
The dearth of aniline and other coloring materials was deplored by the paper manufacturers and a full explanation of the effect it is having upon the production of certain colors in cover and like papers, that of making their manufacture almost impossible…. unless something unforeseen happened, within a short time the color of fancy paper boxes or straight colored paper boxes will be limited to white and a few of the low colors. High colored boxes, such as the various reds, blues, purples and dark orange shades will be had only in inferior grades….
The artificial dyes were an essential component of colored paper. Their scarcity during the war might explain why issues of Direct Advertising in 1917 and 1918 have such dull colored covers.
9. Dwiggins’ account books list entries for the cover design on April 3, 5, 7, 8 and May 2, 1919. See Folder 5, Box 81(1), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
10. See Harvard University Press: A History by Max Hall (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 37: “Dwiggins’s supervision of the Press was not one of his most satisfying experiences. His fellow artist Rudolph Ruzicka recalled that Dwiggins ‘hated the business of managing other people.’ He also had no taste for negotiating with faculty luminaries. And Press operations were in a mess. Not only Lane but also his assistant had joined the military. A number of women on the staff had resigned to enter various kinds of war work. The bookkeeping fell behind, and the Press was subjected to severe criticism.” Dwiggins’ tenure began in July 1918 after Chester C. Lane, the Director, went into the Army.
11. “We Explain Our New and Modern Setup” in Direct Advertising vol. XXI, no. 1 (Spring 1935), p. 3.
12. Dwiggins’ account books contain the notation “Russian Ballet” for 7 February 1916. See Folder 5, Box 81(2), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
13. The four-color woodcut of the figure of Petrouchka is in Box 76pb, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Dwiggins’ illustration for “The Pageant of Color: Turquoise” for Hampshire Paper Co., made in 1922 (and reproduced in Direct Advertising), also suggests the influence of the Russian ballet troupe on him.
List of issue and color combinations 1919-1928
1919 VI:1—dark brown and orange on tan paper [Interwoven Cover (Neutral Brown) from Chemical Paper Manufacturing Co.]
1919 VI:2—dark blue and orange on olive paper [Alhambra Cover (Moss Green) from Knowlton Brothers, Inc.]
1919 VI:3—dark blue and silver on dark blue paper [Old Cloister Cover (Cathedral Blue) from Strathmore Paper Co.]
1919 VI:4—dark blue and orange on beige paper
1920 VII:1—dark green and dark red on greenish gray paper
1920 VII:2—dark red and orange/yellow on olive paper
1920 VII:3—dark green and turquoise on light blue paper
1920 VII:4—Delft blue and lavender on mottled gray paper
1921 VIII:1—vermilion and blue on tan paper
1921 VIII:2—black and brown on sage green paper
1922 VIII:3—black and turquoise on rusty brown paper
1922 VIII:4—wine and warm gray on corn yellow paper [Interwoven Covers (Gold) from Chemical Paper Manufacturing Co.)
1923 IX:1—brick red and spring green on tan paper
1923 IX:2—olive and mauve on greenish gray paper
1923 IX:3—pale purple and turquoise on dark purple paper [Morocco Cover (Cadiz) from Knowlton Brothers. Inc.]
1923 IX:4—dark blue and turquoise on tobacco brown paper [Lodestone Cover (Garnet) from Hampden Glazed Paper & Card Co.]
1924 X:1—violet and orange on tan paper [Collins Castilian Cover (Buff) from A.M. Collins Mfg. Co.]
1924 X:2—black and yellow/orange on wine red paper [Hammermill Cover (Scarlet) from Hammermill Paper Co.]
1924 X:3—lavender and ruby red on bright orange paper [Washington Brilliant (Tangerine) from District of Columbia Paper Mfg. Co.]
1924 X:4—black and red on pale blue paper [Bay Path Cover (Blue Ripple) from Strathmore Paper Co.]
1925 XI:1—dark brown and sky blue on orangish tan paper [Artists Sunburst Cover (Roman Gold) from Hampden Glazed Paper & Card Co.]
1925 XI:2—gold on scarlet paper [Buckeye Cover (Scarlet, Ripple Finish) from The Beckett Paper Company]. This is the only known cover with a single ink color. On the Mill Brand Papers divider page it is supplemented with black.
1925 XI:3—wine red and vermilion on taupe paper [Morocco Cover (Madrid) from Knowlton Brothers, Inc.]
1925 XI:4—lavender gray and spring green on corn yellow paper [Interwoven Covers (Gold) from Chemical Paper Manufacturing Co.]
1926 XII:1—maize and vermilion on midnight blue paper [Librarian Cover (Blue) from A.M. Collins Manufacturing Co.]
1926 XII:2—blue and orange on pale green paper [Hammermill Cover (Green Ripple Finish) from Hammermill Paper Co.]
1926 XII:3—violet and red on light blue paper [Artists Sunburst Cover (Delft Blue) from Hampden Glazed Paper & Card Co.]
1927 XIII:2—red and vermilion on tan paper [Campan Cover (Brown) from District of Columbia Paper Mfg. Co.]
1927 XIII:4—spring green and rose on bright yellow paper [Cockatoo (Yellow) from Strathmore Paper Co.]
1928 XIV:1—black and dark gray on ruby red paper
1928 XIV:2—purple and green on turquoise paper [Sunburst Cover from Hampden Glazed Paper & Card Co.]
1928 XIV:3—orange and maize on tan paper