The Definitive Dwiggins no. 365—Voyages to Vinland (1942)
Voyages to Vinland: The First American Saga translated by Einar Haugen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942) includes translations of material from Hauk’s Book, the Flatey Book, and AM. 557 (a manuscript in the Arnamagnean Library in Copenhagen) that concern the Viking voyages to the eastern seaboard of the North American continent in the 11th century.  The book was designed by W.A. Dwiggins. It is not among his most famous works in the field, though its jacket is included in Bruce Kennett’s biography of Dwiggins. 
The jacket of Voyages to Vinland is part of a series of jackets that Dwiggins designed in the early 1940s based on the notion of jackets as “playbills”. In anticipation of wartime restrictions on materials he urged Knopf to rethink the design and manufacturing of jackets and bindings.  Regarding the former he wrote three notes in August and September 1941 to Sidney R. Jacobs (1909–2000), Knopf’s production manager, explaining his thinking:
Design the side in all cases as a plackard [sic] a hand-bill… no airbrush no trick lettering just honest-to-goodness hand-bill (in the best manner)[.] Print in black, or red and black, always, no other inks. No pictures ETC ETC[.]” 
…a preliminary and experimental attempt along PLAYBILL lines. The essence of that project would be to establish a HOUSE STYLE that would run through (at least) one season’s work. As I plug at it the PLAYBILL thing is typographic—and a typographic that takes its hunch from French Revolution times, but translates the hunch into present day terms. It turns its back absolutely on the nazi “new order” stuff that is the fashion—no air brush, no “montage” no surrealism. It is reactionary in toto. Types with the help of purely typographic ornaments and pictures. Dynamic but simple in the old fashioned way. 1800…. While “old-fashioned” in its derivation I do not think it would strike the “recipient” as oldfashioned [sic] under my manipulation. 
Get absolutely away from tricky “clever” lettering. Use simple letter-shapes. Avoid anything candy-boxy or adv.-agenty. For the preliminary rally (to establish the “house style”) use type. 
Above all, Dwiggins wanted “controlled simplicity”. Most of the jackets he designed during the war years adhered to this goal. They were purely typographic—all set in Caslon 471, a longtime Dwiggins favorite—and printed only in black. The two-color, illustrated jacket for Voyages to Vinland was an exception.
Despite having designed a number of startlingly inventive and memorable jackets for Knopf in the late 1930s, Dwiggins had begged off of that aspect of book design by 1939. He disliked jackets because they were a sales tool, preferring to devote his energies to designing bindings which he viewed as an intrinsic part of a book. However, he constantly complained about the appearance of bindings with designs stamped in ink, considering it a difficult problem to solve. In 1938 he wrote at length to Jacobs on the subject:
The whole matter of these late covers stamped in ink is most unsatisfactory. If you use cloth-colors dark enough to look rich, and to conceal dirt marks, the ink titles, etc., fade away and can’t be read. The only possible ink is black, and even black doesn’t show up unless the cloth is pretty light in value. I don’t like the pale, “orchid” cloths, and I certainly don’t like the effect of ink-stamping on either hard or nat. cloth—it is either sticky, or else thin and sloppy. Light colored inks on dark cloths look like the devil, don’t you think?—cheap school books… I am quite up in the air on the matter, and quite uninspired. I can design decently for metal on dark cloth, but all the ink stuff leaves me out in the cold, without ideas, or any desire to work in the material! 
Although Dwiggins designed many ink-stamped bindings for Knopf in the years after this screed, he remained unhappy with the process. In one of his 1941 letters about “playbill” jackets cited above, he described the look of ink-stamped bindings as “third grade”.  But with the war on he realized that ink-stamped bindings were inevitable and he dedicated himself to seeing if he could make them work.
The binding for Voyages to Vinland is one that he felt succeeded. The design, stamped in brown and black ink, simulates a leather binding with metal clasps. While working on it, Dwiggins remarked to Jacobs that, “The picture comes to me in terms of sun-burned sail-cloth and faded tar-stains.”  The Voyages to Vinland binding is cloth. Dwiggins had sternly warned Jacobs, “No more school-book pyrox.!”  All of the text on the binding is handlettered by Dwiggins.
The title page of Voyages to Vinland is a masterful handling of a lengthy text. Note the use of diminuendo, the variations in letterspacing, the subtle use of a smaller capital T in the third line, and the deliberate avoidance of justification in lines 6 and 7. Compare it to the way Dwiggins dealt with the same information on the jacket (above). On the jacket he used Caslon 471 roman and italic, but on the title page he shifted to ATF Bulmer, another of his favorite typefaces. His decision not to carry over Caslon 471 from the jacket was not unusual as Dwiggins rarely seemed interested in maintaining consistency among the different parts of a book. The Knopf borzoi is set within a medieval architectural frame flanked by two knights. This device was originally designed by Dwiggins for Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1935).
As much as Dwiggins liked Bulmer, he never used it for the text of a Knopf book. That was partly because it was only available for text composition from Monotype and Dwiggins, as much as possible, preferred to specify linotype faces. His usual go-to choice as a companion to Bulmer was Linotype Baskerville and that is what he used for Voyages to Vinland. For the contents page and the running heads Dwiggins used his own Electra Cursive. The marginal dates are set in a Caslon that I have not been able to definitively identify. This seemingly odd mix of types was quite commonplace for Knopf books designed by Dwiggins. 
Voyages to Vinland is lavishly illustrated with twenty vigorous two-color woodcuts by Frederick Trench Chapman (1887–1983). This is very unusual for a Knopf book, especially one published during wartime. The explanation is that Knopf acquired the book from Holiday Press who had published it—with the woodcuts—in a limited edition the year before.  “This settling of where such pictures are to come is more an editorial function than a matter of design,” Dwiggins wrote to Meyer Miller, assistant to Jacobs, on July 9, 1942. “For myself I wouldn’t be worried if a few of the plates wander from their positions close to the text.” He was more concerned with backing up all of the illustrations with blank pages so that the type didn’t “punch through” and interfere with them. 
Workload and remuneration
Dwiggins worked on Voyages to Vinland from late February to early September of 1942. It was one of sixteen books for Knopf he was juggling during those seven months.  Knopf paid him $25 for purely typographic jackets, $75 for jackets with an illustrative element, and $100 for fully designed and lettered jackets; $25 or $80 for the bindings, depending on whether the designs used old dies or were entirely new; and $40 or $50 for the interior typography. The Plimpton Press paid him an additional $35–$50. For Voyages to Vinland Dwiggins received a total of $115. 
1. Voyages to Vinland is item 42.04 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). The book was originally published in 1941 by Holiday Press of Chicago in a limited edition of 350 copies.
2. The jacket is shown as part of an array of Dwiggins jackets for Alfred A. Knopf without specific information, not even a date. The caption says that all of the large text of all of the jackets was hand lettered by Dwiggins, but that is not true of Voyages to Vinland which is set in Caslon 471. See W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design by Bruce Kennett (San Francisco: Letterform Archive, 2018), p. 292.
3. Restrictions on goods began several months before the United States entered World War II with the creation of the Office of Price Administration on August 28, 1941. Dwiggins was anticipating the restrictions on paper and metals that were to come and trying to figure out a design response.
4. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs 28 August 1941 in Folder 2, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
5. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs n.d. [10 September 1941] in Folder 2, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
6. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs n.d. [22 September 1941] in Folder 2, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
7. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs 28 January 1938 in Folder 1, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
8. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs 28 August 1941 in Folder 2, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
9. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs n.d. [14 May 1942] in Folder 2, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. Dwiggins repeated this notion (“I thought of tar on sail cloth.”) in the note he wrote in his copy of the book in 1948. See WAD185 in the Dwiggins Studio Room, Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
10. Note headed “COVER CLOTHS” attached to binding cloth samples in Folder 3, Box 734, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. “[P]yrox” refers to pyroxylin-impregnated cloth called buckram that has been commonly used for library bindings.
11. To see how Dwiggins mixed these various typefaces see the Internet Archive copy of Voyages to Vinland online.
12. The Holiday Press was run by William A. Kittredge and other members of The Lakeside Press of R.R. Donnelley & Co. in Chicago. They described themselves as “a Press within a Press”. The Holiday Press lasted from 1926 to 1942, suggesting that Voyages to Vinland may have been its last publication. See The Private Press in the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Libraries, 1973), p. 16.
13. W.A. Dwiggins to Mr. [Meyer] Miller 9 July 1942 in Folder 3, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. This is a reminder that the book was printed letterpress.
14. The other books were The Book of Modern Composers edited by David Ewen, Zones of International Friction: The British Empire before the American Revolution. Vol. 5 The Great Lakes Frontier, Canada, the West Indies, India, 1748-1754 by Lawrence Henry Gipson, This Was Cicero: Modern Politics in a Roman Toga by H.J. Haskell, Desert Challenge: An Interpretation of Nevada by Richard G. Lillard, ABC of America’s Wines by Mary Frost Mabon, The Sea-Gull Cry by Robert Nathan, Tacey Cromwell by Conrad Richter, Red Hills and Cotton: An Upcountry Memory by Ben Robertson, The New Order in Poland by Simon Segal, The Sun Dial by Richard Austin Smith, and The Artist in America: Twenty-Four Close-Ups of Contemporary Printmakers by Carl Zigrosser published in 1942; and The Road to Courage: Sources of Morale in Men and Nations by Henry Wyman Holmes, Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft by Dard Hunter, More Stories of Famous Operas by Ernest Newman published in 1943. The workload was so heavy that Rudolph Ruzicka completed Green Mansions and Jacobs and the Knopf staff handled ABC of America’s Wines and The New Order in Poland. The latter two were designed following examples by Dwiggins, including jackets in the “playbill” style.
15. This information comes from “Work Done by W.A. Dwiggins on Retainer Basis May 1, 1941 to April 1, 1942,” an internal Knopf document (typescript) in Folder 3, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.