The Definitive Dwiggins no. 369—The New Deal in Old Rome (1939) and This Was Cicero (1942)
The New Deal in Old Rome
Henry Joseph “Harry” Haskell (1874–1952) was the editor of the Kansas City Star from 1928 to 1952. He was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. As H.J. Haskell he was the author of two books designed by W.A. Dwiggins: The New Deal in Old Rome: How Government in the Ancient World Tried to Deal with Modern Problems by H.J. Haskell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1939) and This Was Cicero: Modern Politics in a Roman Toga by H.J. Haskell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942).  This post looks at the design of both books and is a companion to The Definitive Dwiggins no. 368 which examined the design of The Roosevelt Omnibus edited and annotated by Don Wharton (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934)
In his preface, Haskell asserted that his book was “neither a criticism nor a defense of the New Deal, but an objective survey of the instances of government intervention in the ancient world” with a focus on warning signals from the past.  This post is about book design, not American political history, so I won’t go into a discussion of whether or not Haskell’s book is as objective as he claims. Instead, here are four excerpts from The New Deal in Old Rome to give a sense of the flavor of his comparisons between Ancient Rome and Depression Era America:
Two more New Deal experiments come within this period. An Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the familiar A.A.A., was set up under Domitian, A.D. 91, and a Farm Credit Administration, the F.C.A., a few years later under Nerva and Trajan. Italian farmers, especially the big landowners, had found wine and oil more profitable than wheat. When vineyard cultivation was an infant industry the Italian farm bloc had been able to induce the government at various times to restrict the planting of vineyards in the provinces. Nevertheless provincial competition had continued. In the year 91 there was a bad wheat harvest and an overproduction of wine. To stimulate the production of wheat and at the same time to protect the vineyard interests, the Department of Agriculture provided an A.A.A. It decreed that no more vineyards be planted in Italy and that half the vineyards in the provinces be destroyed. America was following Roman precedent when it ploughed up the cotton in 1933. 
We saw the effects of the boom years in America in breaking down standards and undermining character. Flaming youth got the idea that the highest aim in life was to have a good time. Many of its elders confused their moral values. The official scandals of the Harding administration had their counterpart in Rome under similar conditions. 
There is another aspect to the decline of Rome, the economic. The underlying economic trouble of the Roman system was its failure to provide opportunities for the people to find work through which they might maintain decent minimum standards of living. As Russia has demonstrated, no society is on a stable foundation when it is divided into a world of beggars and a world of the rich. 
The fundamental modern social problem is the problem that Rome failed to solve. It is the problem of building a unified yet free society, with decent minimum standards of living. A society so intelligently and justly organized that there is no menacing submerged class. A society that provides reasonable incentives for the free rise of a general staff of competent managers whose ranks are always open to fresh recruits. A society that develops a social pressure under which leaders accept an enlightened and far-sighted view of their responsibilities. This is the society which the long experience of Rome sets as a goal before the modern world. 
The last three excerpts are from Haskell’s concluding chapter.
An interesting feature of The New Deal in Old Rome is the inclusion—between the table of contents and the main text—of photographs of four marble maps erected in 1934 by the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini on the brick wall of the Basilica of Maxentius abutting the newly created Via dell’Impero. The maps depict the growth of Ancient Rome from a settlement to an empire. A fifth map was erected in 1935 to show the new Fascist empire that Mussolini envisioned.  Haskell says he left it out of his book because it was “not germane”. But why did he choose those particular renditions of Ancient Rome rather than traditional drawn maps available in a history of Rome, a textbook or an encyclopedia? Was he making a subtle comparison between the governments of Mussolini and Franklin D. Roosevelt? I do not have an answer. However, in complimenting Dwiggins on his design of the book, Haskell pointedly remarked, “The maps came out in good shape and I believe are a real feature of added interest.” 
For the jacket of The New Deal in Old Rome Dwiggins initially placed the subtitle and a description of the book’s contents within two Roman tabellae ansatae vertically flanking the title roughed out in Roman capitals. The colors were ox-blood red and turquoise. Only the front was initially designed. In a late February 1939 letter to Jacobs, Dwiggins apologized for the flat quality of the rough, saying that it had been made “in a grand scramble” and that he had a better one in hand. 
Dwiggins deleted the tabella ansata housing the book’s description; enlarged the panel containing the title and added a decorative frame to it; and, on the spine, included more elements—the acronym “SPQR” (Senatus Populusque Romanus, usually translated freely as “The Senate and People of Rome”) above an eagle in profile, three fragments from different decorative Roman sculptural friezes, and a hanging tabella ansata framing the publisher’s name—suggestive of Ancient Rome. He deliberately avoided Roman political figures such as Julius Caesar or Constantine and architectural items such as the Colosseum or the newly reassembled Ara Pacis. With the exception of “SPQR”, Dwiggins chose Roman elements that have been absorbed into the architecture of American government buildings since the founding of the United States. Thus, they also served to suggest the New Deal.
Initially Dwiggins proposed a mild color scheme of salmon and dark blue for the jacket to suggest Roman stucco, but then suggested a brighter combination of turquoise and wine. “It is a poster after all—an eye-catcher,” he commented.  Dwiggins always viewed jackets as separate designs from the bindings and interiors of the books they covered. To his thinking they were small posters or broadsides intended to sell a book. He disliked this aspect—especially the need to satisfy the sales department at Knopf—and in the 1930s he constantly complained to both Jacobs and Alfred A. Knopf that he did not want to design any more jackets. Yet, despite his complaining, Dwiggins put a serious effort into trying to make his jacket designs sell the books they covered. One result is the bright and unusual color combinations that distinguish the jackets he designed between 1936 and 1939 such as the one for The New Deal in Old Rome.
The revised design was the final one. The comp lettering of the title in the initial rough was lettered by Dwiggins in an excellent rendition of brush-written condensed Imperial Roman capitals. The rest of the text on the jacket was set in Kennerley, a typeface designed by Frederic W. Goudy, Dwiggins’ lettering teacher at the Frank Holme School of Illustration in Chicago. It is curious that Dwiggins avoided three typefaces by Goudy with direct connections to Ancient Rome: Forum Title (1911) inspired by a fragment of a Roman inscription, Hadriano Capitals (1918), and Trajan Title (1930) based on the famous inscription at the base of Trajan’s Column. Perhaps they were too eye-catching to be used for text. 
For the jacket spine Dwiggins recycled the design he had created from the binding spine. The front of the binding was different, though, since it had no selling function. Dwiggins’ original idea for the front was to play off the “SPQR” with a Latin translation of “the New Deal”. He wrote Jacobs in early February 1939, “I am asking a Latinist for a hunch, also. Idea is in the spirit of the author’s attack, yes?”  A few weeks later he told Jacobs, “My latinist, working to get an equivalent for ‘new deal’, suggests ALEÆ NOVÆ, new dice,—not too good. Caesar used the expression NOVAE RES to mean a change in government, but it meant a change by revolution.” But that was too strong for Dwiggins. Also, he wanted a phrase that was “just a shade beyond the average reader—a kind of teaser” Two options were “NIHIL SUB SOLE NOVUM” and “SEMPER EADEM”. The latter, translated as “the Roman republic always the same” was his final choice and it appears on the binding front in an arc above an eagle with its wings outstretched perched on a tabella ansata bearing the acronym “SPQR”. 
The colors of the binding loosely relate to those of the jacket with violet stamping on light blue cloth.  Parts of Dwiggins’ binding design for The New Deal in Old Rome were repurposed for The Lost Eagles by Ralph Graves (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955). The spine (stamped in gold) was copied without the festoon below the eagle and the Knopf tabella ansata; and the front (blind stamped) was copied without the motto “Semper eadem”. There may be other Knopf books with bindings derived from The New Deal in Old Rome, but I have yet to discover them.
“This is the first book to be set in Caledonia, a new Linotype face designed by W.A. Dwiggins,” reads the opening line of the colophon to The New Deal in Old Rome is.  The book was published May 15, 1939, one month after Mergenthaler Linotype announced it publicly.  Prior to its publication, Haskell wrote to Alfred A. Knopf to say, “I am delighted with all the mechanical work including the type face which is both handsome and clear. It is fine you have the help of such an artist as Mr. Dwiggins. His taste and care are shown in all the details. Very evidently the book wasn’t left to the foreman of the composing room!” 
While the book is notable for being the first one set in Caledonia, it is not widely known that it is also the first book to include some of Dwiggins’ Caravan ornaments. The border on the title page is built up from Caravan matrix slide 1285 ornaments and the band on the chapter openings is composed of matrix slide 1284 ornaments. Caravan was still in development when The New Deal in Old Rome was designed. The suite of ornaments was not publicly announced until over a year later in July 1940. 
Notes to The New Deal in Old Rome
1. The New Deal in Old Rome is item 38.05 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). Agner incorrectly lists it as being published in 1938. This Was Cicero: Modern Politics in a Roman Toga is item 42.03 in Agner’s bibliography.
2. The New Deal in Old Rome: How Government in the Ancient World Tried to Deal with Modern Problems by H.J. Haskell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1939), p. v.
3. Ibid., pp. 191–192. In connection with this excerpt see the fable by Dwiggins quoted in footnote 3 of The Definitive Dwiggins no. 368.
4. Ibid., p. 230.
5. Ibid., pp. 232-233.
6. Ibid., pp. 234–235.
7. For more on the Mussolini maps of Rome see “Mapping Mussolini: Ritual and Cartography in Public Art during the Second Roman Empire” by Heather Hyde Minor in Imago Mundi vol. 51 (1999), pp. 147-162. The Via dell’Impero has since been renamed the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The fifth map was taken down after Mussolini was driven from power. Photographs of the maps in 1936 and 1999 can be found at the bottom of a Rutgers University blog post.
8. H.J. Haskell to Alfred A. Knopf 2 May 1939 in Folder 1, Box 1, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. The reason that Haskell was worried about how the maps looked is that they are coarse halftone photographs printed on soft, uncoated paper; and are greatly reduced in size from the actual marble maps.
9. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney Jacobs n.d. [27 February 1939 added by Jacobs] in Folder 1, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
10. The color swatches (dated March 1939) are in Folder 3, Box 734, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
11. For more on these Goudy typefaces see A Half-Century of Type Design and Typography, 1895-1945 by Frederic W. Goudy (New York: The Typophiles, 1946), 2 vols.
12. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney Jacobs Tuesday [received 8 February 1939] in Folder 1, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
13. W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney Jacobs n.d. [27 February 1939 added by Jacobs] in Folder 1, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. Dwiggins’ “latinist” [sic] was undoubtedly Dorothy Abbe (1909-1999) who was teaching Latin at Derby Academy in Hingham at the time. Eight years later she became a part of the Dwiggins household as a nurse, cook, housekeeper, and design assistant. After Dwiggins died in 1956 she became his art executor and was responsible for the creation of the Dwiggins Collections at the Boston Public Library.
14. Agner describes the binding as “Gray cloth over boards,” but the copies I own and the one in the Knopf Collection at Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas are clearly light blue.
15. Although the main part of The New Deal in Old Rome is set in Caledonia (including the running heads), the title page is set in Linotype Baskerville.
15. Caledonia was ready as early as August 1938, but was not publicly announced until April 1939. See William Bowers of Linotype and Machinery, Ltd. (London) to Paul A. Bennett of Mergenthaler Linotype (Brooklyn) 26 August 1938 in File 29, Case 2A, Paul A. Bennett Collection, New York Public Library: “The Caledonia face has made a tremendous hit over here, and pretty soon will be used by so many different publishing organizations for book work that I think all you people will have to curl up in a corner and shake your heads in despair. Of course, it is a fine type and the perception of American book designers, obviously excellent, is the basic reason for its increasing usefulness.” And see C.H. Griffith of Mergenthaler Linotype to Arthur W. Rushmore 14 April 1939 in Ephemera Box 1, Patricia Goldsmith England Collection of Dwigginsiana, Hornbake Library, University of Maryland.
16. H.J. Haskell to Alfred A. Knopf 2 May 1939 in Folder 1, Box 1, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
17. Caravan: A suite of 29 decorative units designed by W.A. Dwiggins for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company specimen booklet was published in July 1940. See Paul A Bennett to W.A. Dwiggins 2 July 1940 in Folder 413, Box 15, 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
This Was Cicero
H.J. Haskell followed The New Deal in Old Rome three years later with a second book comparing Ancient Rome to contemporary America entitled This Was Cicero: Modern Politics in a Roman Toga by H.J. Haskell (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942). Dwiggins designed the interior and the binding, but his idea for the jacket was rejected.
For the binding of This Was Cicero Dwiggins made no attempt to suggest Ancient Rome as he had with The New Deal in Old Rome. Instead, for the front he used his stencils to make a floral ornament and for the spine he drew the silhouette of an oak leaf and lettered the title and author’s name in a bold seriffed roman. The Knopf name was lettered in a loose monoline script.  The design was stamped in black on green cloth.
Dwiggins’ design was subsequently imitated for the bindings of at least three books published by Knopf: The Birth of Israel: The Drama As I Saw It by Jorge Garciá Granados (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), Mexico: The Struggle for Peace and Bread by Frank Tannenbaum (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950), and Ten Keys to Latin America by Frank Tannenbaum (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962). The floral ornament on the front, the oak leaf in silhouette on the spine, and the script “Knopf” were all reused intact while Dwiggins’ spine lettering was poorly copied. The colors of the cloth and the ink stamping were changed from title to title and edition to edition. 
A partial proof is the only surviving evidence of Dwiggins’ jacket design for This Was Cicero.  There is no correspondence describing his thinking about the design nor any that explains why it was abandoned. The only clue to the latter is an undated scrap of paper on which Dwiggins commented that the jackets for This Was Cicero and The Book of Modern Composers looked “better than I expected—good eye-catcher”.  He was undoubtedly commenting on the incomplete proofs shown here since both designs were scrapped. (Both proofs are missing their spines.)
The illustration on the partial proof for This Was Cicero bears the credit “after John Leech”. The unsigned drawing was done by Dwiggins, but closely following one by John Leech, a British caricaturist (1817–1864). His source was “Cicero Denouncing Catiline” in The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (London: Bradbury, Evans & Co, 1852) illustrated by Leech.  Dwiggins had to redraw the illustration to make it function in a single color on the jacket. But he did more than remove the color. He simplified and stylized Leech’s individuals, heightening the contrast of “black” and “white” in their clothing and faces. The figures in dark clothing act as foils to draw attention to Cicero and Catiline at each end of the scene. Dwiggins also greatly edited Leech’s illustration, reducing the scene to the six figures in the foreground from Cicero on the left to Catiline on the right—including eliminating the man with the monocle next to the woman holding the fasces. Despite all of these changes, Dwiggins refused to take credit for the jacket illustration, instead acknowledging Leech as his model. 
The published jacket for This Was Cicero was designed by E. McKnight Kauffer (1890–1954), the American-born British designer who had returned to the United States on the last boat taking American citizens back from England on July 1, 1940.  Kauffer’s jacket is a sharp departure from Dwiggins’ attempt. It is in a modernist vein with the title set in Corvinus, the author’s name in Futura (or Spartan), and the description of the book’s contents in Lydian. The title is reversed out of a black rectangle that bleeds onto the spine at left and is rounded at the right while the author’s name is reversed out of a black triangle that bleeds off the right side. The remainder of the front is divided into a blue rectangle, a blue trapezoid, and a cream trapezoid. There are no illustrations, decoration or ornament. And no allusions to the book’s content. 
The change in direction for the jacket was undoubtedly done at the instigation of the Knopf sales office.
Dwiggins set This Was Cicero in his own Electra. It was one of three books he designed simultaneously for Knopf with it in an attempt to see if he could “achieve variety with a single type”.  For the title page, he mixed four types with Electra: ATF Bulmer Italic, Didot from The Plimpton Press, Caslon no. 472, and an italic I cannot identify. 
Other than its binding, there is nothing special about Dwiggins’ design of This Was Cicero. It is a solid piece of typography with no bells and whistles. It was not chosen by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of its 50 Books of the Year. However, Harry Lydenberg (1874-1960), recently retired director of the New York Public Library, praised Dwiggins’ design and called the lack of AIGA recognition a mark of distinction! 
Notes to This Was Cicero
1. Dwiggins constantly experimented with the rendering of “Knopf” on the bindings of the books he designed for the publisher.
2. A later edition of This Was Cicero changed the binding colors to dark blue stamped on light blue cloth. The original 1950 edition of Mexico is stamped in dark green on red cloth but the 1962 reprint is stamped in violet on green cloth. Dwiggins’ floral ornament is stamped in blue on beige cloth on the binding for The Birth of Israel and blind stamped on the binding of Ten Keys to Latin America.
3. See Folder 7, Box 653, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.
4. See Folder 3, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. The scrap of paper was received in the Knopf offices 15 June 1942. Dwiggins designed The Book of Modern Composers by David Ewen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942) at the same time as This Was Cicero.
5. The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (London: Bradbury, Evans & Co, 1852) following p. 292.
6. This was not an isolated incident. At other moments in his career Dwiggins copied Jean Pillement, Jacques Callot, and Edme Bouchardon and gave each of those artists the public credit.
7. E. McKnight Kauffer: A Designer and His Public by Mark Haworth-Booth (London: The Gordon Fraser Gallery, Ltd., 1979), p. 82.
8. The jacket for This Was Cicero is included in the checklist of published works in E. McKnight Kauffer: A Designer and His Public by Mark Haworth-Booth (London: The Gordon Fraser Gallery, Ltd., 1979), p. 133. It is not illustrated and I have only seen it in low-quality online images. But one of them is torn, and Dwiggins’ green cloth binding can be glimpsed.
9. See W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney Jacobs 27 June  in Folder 3, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. The other two books were The Book of Modern Composers by David Ewen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942) and Tacey Cromwell by Conrad Richer (New York: Alfred a. Knopf, 1942).
10.The italic for Haskell’s name is close to ATF Baskerville Italic, but the k does not quite match. The odd Didot can be found in The Plimpton Press Year Book: An Exhibit of Versatility (Norwood, Massachusetts, 1911), p. 170. Dwiggins used it quite often on Knopf title pages.
11. Harry Lydenberg quoted in Alfred A. Knopf to W.A. Dwiggins 5 March 1943 in Folder 7, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.