The Definitive Dwiggins no. 713—A Description of Christ
The Letter of Publius Lentulus (also known as The Epistle of Publius Lentulus) is a report from “Publius Lentulus, Proconsul of Judea to the Senate of Rome” describing the appearance and temperament of Jesus Christ. The text was discovered in 1421 by Giacomo Colonna. Although denounced as a fraud by the humanist scholar Lorenzo Valla in the 1440s and commonly labeled as spurious or a forgery by religious scholars and leaders over the course of the succeeding five centuries, its account of the physiognomy of Christ has become widespread—and widely accepted. 
This man is of noble and well-proportioned stature, with a face full of kindness and yet firmness…. His hair is the color of wine, and golden at the root, — straight, and without lustre, — but from the level of the ears curling and glossy, and divided down the centre after the fashion of the Nazarenes. His forehead is even and smooth, his face without blemish, and enhanced by a tempered bloom. His countenance ingenuous and kind. Nose and mouth are in no way faulty. His beard is full, of the same color as his hair, and forked in form; his eyes blue, and extremely brilliant.…. His person is tall; his hands beautiful and straight. 
W.A. Dwiggins was involved in the creation and publication of two versions of The Letter of Publius Lentulus. The first was A Description of Christ written by Publius Lentalus [sic], President of Judea in the Reign of Tiberius Caesar to that Monarch in Rome printed by Carl Purington Rollins (1880–1960) at The Montague Press, Dyke Mill in 1912.  Rollins was a lifelong friend of Dwiggins and a client of his from 1910 through the 1920s, first as proprietor of The Montague Press at the Dyke Mill in Montague, Massachusetts and later as Printer to Yale University. For this edition of A Description of Christ, Dwiggins drew a sprig of lilies for the title page and an initial T for the text. Rollins set the text entirely in Kennerley Old Style, designed the year before by Dwiggins’ Chicago teacher Frederic W. Goudy for New York publisher Mitchell Kennerley. 
The sprig of lilies in red flanked by text was undoubtedly Rollins’ idea, influenced by the title page designs Selwyn Image (1849–1930) created for Herbert Horne’s books published by Elkin Mathews in the early 1890s. Copies of the Horne title pages can be found in a Rollins scrapbook. 
The red initial T appears to be influenced by Renaissance designs, but I have been unable to locate a model for it. Dwiggins designed it on March 12, 1912 and the booklet was printed before the end of the month. 
The translation and abridgement of the Publius Lentulus text used by Rollins is a rare one. Prior to the publication of his booklet it only appears in three places, all published in 1900 or 1901. Most likely Rollins picked it up from The Literary Digest, the last of them. (I have been unable to trace its original source.)  Why Rollins chose that particular rendition is unclear. By 1912 there were multiple translations of the text in several languages. At least four of them, excluding the one used by Rollins, were available in books published in the United States after 1900.  However, despite the uncommon nature of the text, the booklet must have sold well. Certainly, it inspired the Boston publisher Alfred Bartlett (1870–1926) to commission Dwiggins, a longtime collaborator, to create a version of it for him that was issued in 1913.  It was printed by The Montague Press, further linking the two versions.
This second version of the letter from Publius Lentulus was unaccountably retitled A Description of Jesus.  Instead of being set in type it was entirely handlettered by Dwiggins. The cover has a Christogram (chi-rho monogram) instead of a spray of lilies and the initial T is a simple roman capital. These changes give the booklet an appearance that alludes to Ancient Rome. The 1918 catalogue of The Cornhill Company, commented that, “The artist, Mr. W.A. Dwiggins, has cast the text, title-page and cover in a severe classic mould, supplementing the simple and ancient style of the epistle.” 
There are a number of tiny changes from the 1912 Rollins publication besides the different wording of the title and subtitle. The Bartlett edition includes a preface that says the text was taken from a “manuscript now in the possession of Lord Kelley”. It is 12 pages instead of 10 pages because of the addition of the preface. However, the Publius Lentulus letter only occupies three pages instead of four This is because Dwiggins’ lettering is more tightly leaded than the Kennerley Old Style type used by Rollins. The text is paragraphed and, perplexingly, it omits the final two words “in every sense”. 
Bartlett’s version of the Publius Lentulus text must have also been commercially successful since he published a second edition. This one was not printed by The Montague press—nor by The Merrymount press which had previously had done a number of Bartlett books and booklets. 
In 1922 Brad Stephens (1878–1964), a leader in direct marketing in the paper industry and a devout Christian, revised and reprinted The Montague Press edition of A Description of Christ as a promotional vehicle for the Chemical Paper Manufacturing Company of Holyoke, Massachusetts.  Although Stephens was Dwiggins’ principal client at the time, there is no evidence that he had any involvement in the reprint. It is peculiar that he chose to reprint the Rollins version rather than the handwritten Bartlett one, as he had reused one of Dwiggins’ illustrations for a 1911 Bartlett greeting card for a paper promotion around the same time. 
Although it has the red bunch of lilies on the cover, Dwiggins’ red initial T, and is set in Kennerley Old Style, the Stephens version is different from the 1912 Rollins version in a number of ways. Lentulus’ name is properly spelled. The title is set in Cloister Black (printed in red), the text has been reset with closer leading but in a wider measure with looser (and gappier) word spacing, and red rules have been added around each column. Finally, the reprint is a single tri-fold sheet. The typography and format suggest that Rollins, contrary to Gay Walker’s claim, had little if nothing to do with the reprint. It is unclear if the Chemical Paper Manufacturing Company mailed out this version of the Publius Lentulus letter or if it was inserted into a publication like Direct Advertising.
The last iteration of the Rollins version of A Description of Christ occurred in the autumn of 1950 when he distributed thirty surviving copies of the 1912 printing to members of The Columbiad Club of Connecticut as Keepsake no. 55. This was not a reprint, though Rollins did print an explanatory note to accompany each copy. 
There are still a number of unanswered questions regarding A Description of Christ and A Description of Jesus regarding the original source of its text, the model for Dwiggins’ initial red T, the textual changes between the two initial versions, the identity of the printer of the second edition of the bartlett version, Rollins’ role in the 1922 Stephens version, and the distribution method of the latter. Although a minor item in Dwiggins’ oeuvre, the letter of Publius Lentulus is surprisingly fascinating.
1. See Orthodoxwiki.org, the Wikipedia entry on “Letter of Lentulus,” and the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the letter at newadvent.org for one translation of the Letter of Publius Lentulus as well as summaries of its history and explanations why it is believed to be a forgery.
2. This abridged English translation of The Letter of Publius Lentulus is taken from The Life of Jesus, the Christ by Henry Ward Beecher (New York: J.B. Ford, 1871) pp. 140–141 footnote. Its description of a “white” Jesus has become common in paintings and other artwork. The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2012) discusses the role of such a depiction on the territorial expansion of the United States and on its history of racism.
3. This edition of A Description of Christ is item no. 114 in The Works of Carl P. Rollins by Gay Walker (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1982). Walker incorrectly dates it as 1910. She may have taken the date from a copy at Yale University with a pencilled note on the title page that says “c.1910 / drawing by WAD / Printed by C P Rollins / 30 copies”. If so, it is then unclear why she —probably correctly—that it was printed in an edition of a “few hundred copies”. The copy of the booklet digitized by Google Books (from the University of California at Berkeley) clearly states “Copyright 1912 The Dyke Mill”.
4. The Kennerley Old Style typeface was first used in The Door in the Wall and Other Stories by H.G. Wells (New York and London: Mitchell Kennerley, 1911) designed by Goudy and with photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn.
5. See Diversi Colores by Herbert Horne (London: Elkins Mathews, 1891) and Poems & Carols by Herbert Horne (London: Elkins Mathews, 1894). The title page for the latter sports a sprig of oak leaves. Both title pages are pasted into a Rollins scrapbook in a folder labeled “CPR Miscellaneous Projects” in Box 12, Carl Purington Rollins Papers (AOB 9), Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University. Dwiggins’ original artwork for the illustration is in a folder labeled “Dwiggins originals for Yale UP ” in Box 49, Carl Purington Rollins Papers (AOB 9), Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University; a proof of the illustration appears as item no. 36 in the Yale University Press binder of ornaments in Box 66, Carl Purington Rollins Papers (AOB 9), Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University. The binder is item no. 806 in The Works of Carl P. Rollins by Gay Walker (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1982).
6. See the entry for 12 March 12 in Dwiggins’ account books in Folder 2, Box 81(2), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Proofs of the T in two sizes (labeled T-WAD 9 and T-WAD 10) are in the Yale University Press lettering binder in Box 66, Carl Purington Rollins Papers (AOB 9), Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University. A copy of the booklet was deposited with the Library of Congress copyright office on April 1, 1912. Advertisements for A Description of Christ appeared in Handicraft: Representing the Arts & Crafts Movement vol. V, no. 1 (April 1912) and vol. V, no. 2 (May 1912), a magazine printed by Rollins at The Montague Press, where it was described as “An exquisitely printed booklet in two colors, with decoration by W. A. Dwiggins.”
7. See Hermaphro-deity: The Mystery of Divine Genius by Eliza Barton Lyman (Saginaw, Michigan: Saginaw Printing and Publishing Company, 1900), p. 276; Seed Thoughts for Public Speakers by Arthur T. Pierson (New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900), p. 330; and The Literary Digest vol. XXI, no. 1 (5 January 1901), p. 19. The latter was published by Funk & Wagnalls. There is close, but not exact version, quoted in The Evening Missourian (Columbia, Missouri) 30 September 1913 allegedly from a copy found in a Bible published by Matthew Carey in 1801.
8. See The International Cyclopaedia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge vol. 8 edited by H. T. Peck, Selim H. Peabody, and Charles F. Richardson (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1900), p. 804; Faiths of Famous Men in Their Own Words… compiled and edited by John Kenyon Kilbourn (Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates & Co., 1900), pp. 221–222; The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Paradiso by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1904), p. 391. vol. 11 of The Complete Writings of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and Christ Jesus: Endorsement by Prominent Persons; and Essays by Bartow A. Ulrich (Chicago: B.A. Ulrich & Sons, 1909), pp. 19–20.
9. Dwiggins worked on the booklet in early 1913, but the only locatable notice of its publication appeared months later in The Dial vol. 568, vol. LV (November 16, 1913), p. 419. See the entry for 17 January 1913 in Dwiggins’ account books in Folder 2, Box 81(2), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
10. Note that the misspelling of Publius Lentulus as Publius Lentalus has not been corrected but instead misspelled in a different manner as Publius Lentullus!
11. Trade List and Catalog of The Cornhill Company (Boston: The Cornhill Company, 1918), p. 15. The Cornhill Company was a successor to Alfred Bartlett’s business.
12. The earliest reference I have found to a Lord Kelly owning the Publius Lentulus manuscript is in The Bee: Or Literary Weekly Intelligencer vol. 4 (August 24, 1791), p. 224. However, it’s version of the text does not match the one published by Rollins and Bartlett! Among a number of differences, the latter refers to “barbarians” instead of “Gentiles”. Who Lord Kelly was and when he lived is a mystery. In a discussion of the letter of Publius Lentulus in Notes and Queries 7th series V. (April 28, 1888), M.A. Oxon. exasperatedly (and rightly) asks “Who was Lord Kelly? and where is, or was, his library?”
13. The Bartlett edition ends: “A man for his extraordinary beauty and divine perfection, surpassing the children of men.”
14. A copy of the second edition of A Description of Jesus is in Folder 7, Box 40, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library. Neither of the Dwiggins collections at the Boston Public Library has a copy of the first edition, but there is one in the Dorothy Abbe Collection at the library. It is book 19.18. The colophon of the second edition was cobbled together from the text of the first edition.
15. This version of A Description of Christ is item no. 867 in The Works of Carl P. Rollins by Gay Walker (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1982).
16. The illustration of Henry IV that Dwiggins made for a 1911 Christmas card for Bartlett was reused (without the calligraphic quotation from King Henry IV by William Shakespeare) by Stephens for a an unidentified paper promotion by Crocker-McElwain Company c.1920. The only known copy of the latter was incomplete and has since disappeared from the collection where I saw it in 2006. A copy of the Bartlett greeting card is in Folder 6, Box 41pb, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.
17. See the description of item no. 867 in The Works of Carl P. Rollins by Gay Walker (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1982) which attributes the typography to Rollins. Walker says that it was sewn, but she did not see a copy in creating her description. She says it was printed on Interwoven text which was a paper from the Chemical Paper Manufacturing Company. Unfortunately, my photographs of the Stephens edition of A Description of Christ are from the same missing scrapbook that contained the cutting of Dwiggins’ illustration of Henry IV mentioned in note 16.
18. The keepsake note reads: “The thirty copies of this Keepsake Number 55 have been preserved for forty years and are now distributed to the members of The Columbiad Club of Connecticut in the autumn of 1950. The drawing on the title page was done by W.A. Dwiggins.” The inaccuracy in this text regarding the dating of the original edition of A Description of Christ explains Walker’s mistake. See note 3 above.
n.b. None of these editions of A Description of Christ and A Description of Jesus are in The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W. A. Dwiggins by Dwight Agner (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The Press of the Nightowl, 1974).