The Song of the Twisted: Being a Tale of Woe Told by the Victim
In 2015 I discovered an amusing yet fascinating manuscript of doggerel in the Frederic and Bertha Goudy Collection at the Library of Congress.  The manuscript, entitled “The Song of the Twisted: Being a Tale of Woe Told by the Victim” was written, lettered, and illustrated by Frank Holme (1868–1904), the celebrated newspaper artist and proprietor of the School of Illustration in Chicago. It tells the story of how Holme was saved from lettering sin by Frederic W. Goudy (1865–1947), a member of the school’s faculty. Although it is in a folder labeled “Banderlog Press” [sic] there is no evidence that the manuscript was ever intended to be printed. It is undated and unannotated. There are no accompanying documents such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or related ephemera in the folder. Thus, what I have to say about the manuscript is derived entirely from what I know about Holme, his school, Goudy—the target of Holme’s ribbing—and the text itself.
The cartoon above was reproduced in 1938 as the cover of a keepsake submitted as part of a celebration of the 35th anniversary of The Village Press.  It was not the first cartoon of Goudy, despite the keepsake’s title, but the third. The first appeared in The Inland Printer (December 1899) where Goudy was part of a conga line of members of the faculty of The School of Illustration.  And the second was part of The Song of the Twisted.
Although both Goudy and Holme moved to Chicago at about the same time in early 1890, there is no evidence that they met each other prior to 1899. However, Goudy knew of Holme before they met due to Holme’s fame as the illustrator of various murder trials in Chicago, most notably that of Adolph Luetgert, the “sausage king of Chicago” who was tried and convicted for killing his wife Louisa.  And Holme surely knew of Goudy despite the latter’s move to Detroit in June 1897.  Despite working as a bookkeeper, Goudy submitted a steady stream of lettering and decorative designs to The Inland Printer beginning with the cover of the February 1898 issue. The most important of these was the April 1899 issue which included a single-page profile titled “F.W. Goudy, ‘Student of Lettering'”. 
The unnamed author of the profile wrote:
Mr. Goudy does not claim to be a designer, but asserts that he is merely “a student of lettering.” He feels that appropriate lettering, properly placed, is usually as effective as an elaborate design.… His initial letters, one or two of which are shown in this connection, are usually of the bold, virile variety, and his letters are usually clean, clear-cut romans, with a preference for caps rather than lower case, depending for effect upon the proportion and the spacing of his letters and not upon bizarre shapes and curly-cues. His designs are generally dynamic in form, Gothic in character, with a fondness for Celtic [sic] interlacing, and not without feeling. He seems to be developing a style of his own which, while rather cold and severe at first, is becoming decidedly warmer. 
Goudy, having lost his job as a bookkeeper in Detroit, returned to Chicago sometime in August 1899. He told Temple Scott, his first biographer, “…I returned to Chicago and took up general designing, devoting myself specially to the study of lettering and decorative design in relation to typography.”  To that end he ran a spot advertisement in the October issue of The Inland Printer headed “F.W. Goudy Designing” which listed his skills as “Book and Catalogue Covers, Borders, Initial Letters, Advertisements, Etc.” Goudy stressed his location as Chicago. 
But by the time the advertisement appeared, Holme already knew that Goudy was back in Chicago and had quickly hired him as an instructor in lettering and ornament at his School of Illustration. “Oct. 1— First symptoms of Catalogue. Will Carqueville, F. W. Goudy and Frank X. Leyendecker are annexed,” he wrote in his “concise chronology” of the school’s early history.  Goudy appeared as one of twelve instructors at the school in a half-page advertisement in the December issue of Brush and Pencil. 
Goudy’s hiring was made possible by the departure from Chicago of Lawrence Mazzanovich (1871–1959) in August to teach at the Roycroft School of Applied Art in East Aurora, New York. Mazzy, as he was called by Holme, had been the instructor in Decorative Design at The School of Illustration.  Holme hired Goudy and Will Carqueville (1871-1946) to fill the void, with the latter teaching Commercial Decorative Design. With his two new hires Holme was keeping his school up-to-date with trends in lettering, decoration, and poster design. (Compare Goudy’s work in The Inland Printer article above with Mazzanovich’s below.)
When I began preparing this post nearly two months ago I believed that Holme wrote The Song of the Twisted in the wake of meeting Goudy in person for the first time in the fall of 1899. I assumed that the meeting probably occurred at the opening reception of the exhibition of commercial art sponsored by the Central Art Association on September 19 at the Fine Arts Building. Holme was a member of the organizing committee of the exhibition and bookplates by Goudy were among the works displayed. 
However, I have now gained access to some of Frank Holme’s correspondence which indicates that The Song of the Twisted was written in the spring of 1901. “Tell Brer Goudy I’ve broke ground on the parody at last. That’s what the gilt paint is for,” Holme wrote to Oswald Cooper on April 28, 1901.  At the time Holme was living in Asheville, North Carolina in an attempt to recuperate from tuberculosis and Cooper had taken over the running of The School of Illustration in Chicago. Holme’s letters are filled with commentary and instructions on preparing texts about aspects of illustration and design for printing, interspersed with critiques directed at the school’s “mail course” students. The Goudy parody may have been sparked by Holme’s frustration at getting material from Goudy that he needed for the sections of his text devoted to decoration and lettering.
I am writing to Goudy this A.M. for some hot air about conventionalizing leaves &c—if he answers quick I may put it into the copy near the cuts I sent you to be etched. [13 March 1901]
—By the way I wish you would see Goudy & ask him to please—send me some stuff on conventionalizing leaves—crossing curves &c as requested—quick—also proofs of the type he selected from Hart & the drawings of the alphabet he is to use in the lettering section. I would like several different typefaces from Hart either to run in the matter—or better still to make a solid full page—
—put the ordinary different faces & (with their names under them?)
—I wish you—with Goudys [sic] advice & assistance—would select from newspapers &c enough fancy drawn letters (on the order of the the [sic] ones I enclose) to paste together and make a page to be reproduced in zinco—say 1/3 reduction) over the title of
Examples of lettering from newspaper headings.
—will you PLEASE attend to this soon & and ask Brer Goudy to fix up his stuff—so I can get proofs of all the cuts. I am actually very anxious to get this d— [damned] 10th sec done and off my mind. [20 March 1901]
—In regard to the Goudy designs & initial pages you will see that I have arranged for this page to strike a certain point in enclosed copy to illustrate “conventionalizing”. If 4 initials crowd this page too much—which I’m afraid they will—leave out the initials with outline spinach. In other words use [sketch of serifed H with flower decoration] & [sketch of floral decoration] the shaded spinach initial.—better save the other two for the lettering section. [21 March 1901]
You know there will be a full-page of type faces—(if Goudy ever picks them out—keep at him) and this page must go with it in looks. [27 March 1901]
I telegraphed Goudy today for copy. [9 April 1901]
Wired Goudy yesterday—no answer & mailed him his alphabet drawings together with a letter.
—I hope the hellish 10th [section] will soon be done. [10 April 1901] 
Holme may have created the parody as a means of prodding Goudy to respond more quickly to his requests for artwork and copy—or perhaps he made it as a thank-you gift after the “hellish” tenth section of his text was finally completed. The Song of the Twisted explains how Holme came to appreciate the simplicity of “The Roman Alphabet in Squares” by Goudy as superior to the fanciness of the various lettering styles found in newspaper headings (and advertising) of the time (for both see below).
I have reproduced all of the pages of The Song of the Twisted manuscript below, accompanied by a transcription of the text and some annotations.
The double-page title lettering is typical of the “artistic” style that Holme was steeped in prior to his revelatory encounter with Goudy. His design—in its lettering, decoration, and layout—references Artistic Printing which was the dominant aesthetic trend in American printing between 1870 and the mid-1890s. “Twisted” in the title may refer to The Bartholomew “Twister,” a device invented as an aid in curving brass rule for use in such designs. 
The Victim, Walking in a Dangerous Place Beholdeth Spinach. [p. 2]
“Spinach” is a derogatory term for tangled, messy and excessive decoration. Although mid-20th century adherents of chancery cursive handwriting used the term to refer to Spencerian pensmanship, Holme clearly had Goudy’s bianchi girari (the white vine decoration commonly found in Humanist manuscripts and books of the Renaissance) in mind. 
The Start [p. 3]
I walked past the bookseller’s counter—
Past the place where my dollars have flown—
And I saw on the latest book-covers
Wild curliques carelessly strown
And I asked what it was—and the clerk said
“It is spinach that Goudy has grown.”
Holme saw books with covers designed by Goudy at either A.C. McClurg & Co. on Wabash Avenue or The Morris Book Shop, operated by Frank Morris in the Pullman Building at the corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. Both were located only a few blocks from The School of Illustration and were popular hang-outs for Chicago’s literary and artistic circles.  It was most likely the former since Goudy designed covers for McClurg, a publisher as well as a bookstore. 
The Alphabet Is Dragged In [p. 4]
Years ago when I first learned my alpha-
Bet I had a notion that all
World were wrote to be read and believed it
Till Goudy he said “not at all—
For the technique of type—” but I’m rushing
Let me tell you the tale of my fall. [p. 5]
Telling of Ye Olden Time [p. 6]
Long ago I was sane and my songs were
But now they are bughouse and bum;
My notions of letters were honest
Though perhaps not as lucid as some
And I thought every kind had its uses
But—that was before Goudy come. [p. 7]
“Bughouse” was nineteenth-century slang for mentally deranged or crazy. It was a favorite term of Holme’s.  In nineteenth-century American slang “bum” had two common meanings: butt, or a lazy hobo or drunk. But Holme used the term to mean something that was poorly done.  It is a word that his student W.A. Dwiggins used often.
Renunciation [p. 8]
I saw all the kinds that were printed
The Outline and Heavy and Thin
The Shaded and Block letters also
That seemed to be made out of tin
And I liked them and used them and loved them—
But alas, all this now seems like sin. [p. 9]
“Block Letters” was a very malleable term in nineteenth-century lettering manuals. It was used to describe slab serif letters, sans serif letters, letters in perspective, mechanically made letters, letters that are fitted to a “block” or standard rectangle, and more. For instance, the “Sickels” alphabet, a mainstay of American penmen and engrossers, is described by one source as “Fancy Block Lettering”. But Holme’s drawing indicates that he had gothic (sans serif) letters in mind. .
The Trouble Begins [p. 10]
For one day as I walked in “Chi”
I met a scholarly man
With his think-tank encased in a dicer
And a book of Book Plates in his hand
And I said Oh kind sir tell me can you
And he instantly answered I can [p. 11]
“Chi” clearly refers to Chicago. A “dicer” is a man’s hat, “made of stiff silk or felt, not as tall as a top hat, but of similar shape (though the term is sometimes also applied to a derby).” Based on Holme’s illustration (see below) Goudy was wearing a derby (or bowler) hat. The “book of Book Plates” may have been a copy of the April 1900 Journal of the Ex Libris Society which mentioned Goudy’s bookplate for the Chicago & Alton Railroad. 
A Picture [p. 12]
Note the melting ice cube.
[illustration of Holme meeting Goudy p. 13]
The Deadly Deed Is Did [p. 14]
[illustration of Holme bowing down to Goudy p. 15]
How It Happened [p. 16]
Then I fell at the feet of Br’er Goudy
And I clutched at his robe, and I cried
“And will you?”— and there, in that crowd he
Consented, my tear drops he dried
And inquired whether I preferred spinach
Boiled, roasted, stewed, breaded or fried? [p. 17]
“Br’er Goudy” was an affectionate nickname used by Holme that was picked up by Dwiggins. He used “Br’er”—a contraction of “brother”— to indicate comradeship. It was not a religious reference, though in Goudy’s case it may have been occasioned by his fervent views on good lettering. 
There Is Hell to Pay [p. 18]
From that moment I looked with new eyes on
The letters I long loved so well—
I broke my block letters to pieces.
I fired all the others, pell-mell
While Goudy’s fell into their places
Like demons that swarm into Hell [p. 19]
“Artistic” lettering vs. Goudy lettering
The Song of the Twisted is a conversion story in which Holme abandons “artistic” lettering and embraces the plain lettering advocated by Goudy. The two illustrations below show the difference between the two views of lettering. Goudy’s plain letters were not the classical capitals of the Trajan Column; they were simply letters without any distortions, flourishes, or adornments. It is hard to imagine today how radical this was at the turn of the twentieth century.
What is ironic about The Song of the Twisted is that Holme used a full arsenal of “artistic” lettering styles and decoration in its execution. But his conversion was real. It is evident in the pre- and post-Goudy publications he designed for The School of Illustration. The first catalogue (shown earlier in this post) had a cover designed with “artistic” lettering by Lawrence Mazzanovich.  Subsequent catalogues and promotional booklets sported textura or chunky roman letters—or small sizes of Caslon type.
The Song of the Twisted is a gentle parody of Goudy not an attack on him.  Holme respected Goudy and Goudy loved Holme. Decades later, Goudy said of Holme:
The thing that struck me about him was his tremendous simplicity and goodness of heart. If he thought someone had need, he would go out of his way to help. He once said to me: “You have made your class so interesting, I wonder if you would mind if I gave you $50.” God knows I needed it… He had a capacity for making friends in all walks of life. All different types of men liked him.… He was a friend. That is the first thing one remembers of him. 
1. Folder 8, Box 19, Frederic and Bertha Goudy Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Library of Congress
2. First Goudy Cartoon by Frank Holme (Forest Hills: Thumbprint Press, 1938). The cartoon was reproduced from the program of the Second Saturday Evening Saturnalia of Der Professorverein held October 27, 1900 at The Monroe restaurant in Chicago. The keepsake incorrectly claims that Goudy spoke on “Emotional Aspects of the Alphabet.” There were no listed speeches for the dinner. The reference was simply Holme’s characterization of Goudy (e.g. his comment about the photoengraver Josh Ramsdell was “The first bite.” See The Definitive Dwiggins no. 169.
3. “Dinner to Der Professorverein” in The Inland Printer vol. XXIV, no. 3 (December 1899), p. 439. Goudy is eighth from the left. The cartoon is by Joe Carll, who is in front of Goudy.
4. See Frank Holme by Frederic W. Goudy (Ysleta, Texas: Edwin B. Hill Press, 1942). The Luetgert trial (actually two of them since the first ended in a hung jury) lasted from August 1897 through February 1898. Holme claimed to have “illustrated the Luetgart [sic] trial with over 260 pictures for the News, many of them three, five and seven columns wide, besides keeping the New York Herald supplied with special pictures every day of the trial.” In Speaking of Results by Frank Holme (Chicago: The School of Illustration, 1902), n.p.
5. Goudy moved to Detroit upon getting married to Bertha Sprinks in June 1897. There he worked as a bookkeeper for Michigan Farmer magazine while creating designs on the side. Behind the Type: The Life Story of Frederic W. Goudy by Bernard Lewis (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1941), p. 40. Lewis is wrong about the location of Goudy’s office upon his return to Chicago. It was not in the Athenaeum Building, site of Frank Holme’s School of Illustration, but in the Fine Arts Building. See Goudy’s spot advertisement in The Inland Printer vol. XXIV, no. 1 (October 1899), p. 147.
6. During his time in Detroit, Goudy’s work appeared in The Inland Printer in the February, May, August, September, October, and November issues of 1898; and the March, April, and May issues of 1899.
7. “F.W. Goudy, ‘Student of Lettering'” in The Inland Printer vol. XXIII, no. 1 (April 1899), p. 70. The “successful design” by Goudy for a “dainty new edition of ‘The Rubaiyat'” is a reference to Thomas Bird Mosher’s Vest Pocket Series. The cover designs of the first four volumes were created by Goudy and then reused by Mosher (with Goudy’s initial G removed) for later books in the series. See Book Decoration in America 1890–1910—A Guide to an Exhibition by Laurie W. Crichton; revised by Wayne G. Hammond and Robert L. Volz (Williamstown, Massachusetts: Chapin Library, Williams College, 1979), p. 45 and Thomas Bird Mosher and the Art of the Book by Jean-François Vilain and Philip Bishop (Philadelphia: F. A. Davis, 1992). The Rubaiyat was first announced in The Bibelot vol. V, no. 6 (June 1899).
8. Frederic W. Goudy quoted in The Work of Frederic W. Goudy, Printer and Craftsman by Temple Scott (Barnard’s Monographs on Design, Illustration, Photography, Printing in Relation to Advertising) (New York: Charles H. Barnard, July 1912), p. 6. Goudy’s return to Chicago was fortuitously timed not only for himself, but also for the future trajectory of American lettering and type design. Oswald Cooper arrived in Chicago the same month to study at the School of Illustration and W.A. Dwiggins followed in early November 1899.
9. The advertisement appears in The Inland Printer vol. XXIV, no. 1 (October 1899), p. 147.
10. Holme’s chronology appears in “Dinner to Der Professorverein” in The Inland Printer vol. XXIV, no. 3 (December 1899), p. 439.
11. The first full showing of the faculty of the School of Illustration occurs in an advertisement in Brush and Pencil vol. V, no. 3 (December 1899), p. 24. The photograph of Goudy in the bottom row was taken from the article in The Inland Printer vol. XXIII, no. 1 (April 1899), p. 70 which reinforces the notion that Holme was aware of Goudy before his return to Chicago in August.
12. Mazzanovich was still listed on the faculty of The School of Illustration on the school’s letterhead in mid-August 1899. But he had apparently already left Chicago for East Aurora. See The Chicago Daily Tribune 20 August 1899, p. 35. His stint on the faculty began February 1, 1899 according to the school chronology in “Dinner to Der Professorverein” in The Inland Printer vol. XXIV, no. 3 (December 1899), p. 439.
13. See the descriptions of the exhibition in The Chicago Tribune (September 20 and 24, 1899) and “Artistic Publicity: Commercial Art in the West” in Profitable Advertising vol. IX, no. 5 (October 1899), pp. 328–331.
14. Frank Holme to Oswald Cooper 28 April 1901 in Folder 12, Box 5, Edwin Bliss Hill Collection, The Huntington Library. The gold paint was used on the double-page title design of The Song of the Twisted. Oswald Cooper (1879–1940), a student at The School of Illustration, was appointed Superintendent of the school when Holme had to leave Chicago for his health in late February 1901. He remained in that position until several months after Holme’s death on July 27, 1904. Ida Van Dyke Holme, Frank’s wife, became the school’s business manager.
15. Frank Holme to Oswald Cooper 13 March to 10 April 1901, in Folder 12, Box 5, Edwin Bliss Hill Collection, The Huntington Library. The text that Holme was working on was part of his series of booklets entitled Practical Lessons in Illustration which he had begun in 1899. The March and April 1901 letters refer to sections on portraits, decorative design, and lettering which were published respectively as numbers 10, 11 and 12 in the series. But in the letters Holme’s “hellish” section ten refers to decorative design and lettering before the two subjects were separated.
16. See the advertisement for The Bartholomew “Twister” in The Inland Printer vol. VI, no. 10 (July 1889), p. 893. Also see a note on a rival device called “The Electric Twister” in The British Printer vol. IV, no. 21 (May–June 1891), pp. 31–32. For more on the “twister,” the “wrinkler.” and Artistic Printing see The Handy Book of Artistic Printing: A Collection of Letterpress Examples with Specimens of Type, Ornament, Corner Fills, Borders, Twisters, Wrinklers, and Other Freaks of Fancy
by Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).
17. I have not been able to identify the origins of the term. I know that both Paul Standard (1896–1992) and Ra DaBoll (1892–1982), proponents of chancery italic handwriting, used the term to refer negatively to round hand (“copperplate”) calligraphy. See for instance “Part III—On Calligraphy & Scribal Writing” by DaBoll in Recollections of the Lyceum and Chautauqua Circuits by Irene Briggs DaBoll and Raymond F. DaBoll (Freeport, Maine: The Bond Wheelwright Company, Publishers, 1969), p. 166 for a reference to “Spencerian spinach”. Perhaps the term “spinach” originated with Holme and migrated to his student Oswald Cooper and thence to Cooper’s employee DaBoll and on to Paul Standard.
18. See The Morris Book Shop: Impressions of Some Old Friends in Celebration of the XXVth Anniversary edited by Laurence Conger Woodworth (Chicago: The Morris Book Shop, 1912), [p. 4]. For Goudy’s connection to A.C. McClurg & Co. see A Half-Century of Type Design and Typography, 1895–1945 by Frederic W. Goudy (New York: The Typophiles, 1946) (Typophile Chap Books XIII), vol. I, pp. 30 and 45.
19. For example, Oh, What a Plague Is Love! by Katharine Tynan (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1900)
For As a Falling Star by Eleanor Gaylord Phelps (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1901) Goudy did the title page, frontispiece decoration, opening headpiece, closing tailpiece, and five initials as well as the cover.
20. Carmine, performed by members of the Palette and Chisel Club on April 14, 1900, was described by Holme, its author, as “a new laid, red hot, strictly bug-house, grand-stand opera”.
21. Current Americanisms: A Dictionary of Words and Phrases in Common Use by T. Baron Russell (London: Saxon & Co., 1897), p. 42 defines “bum-work” as “useless labour or unpaid exertion”. But American printers in the 1890s described poor printing as “bum work” and this is the meaning that I think Holme had in mind. For example see The Printer and Bookmaker vol. XXVIII, no. 6 (August 1899), p. 279: “Good printing costs no more to do it than bum printing.”
22. See The Art of Lettering, and Sign Painters’ Manual by A.P. Boyce (Boston: A. Williams and Company, Publishers, 1878) for both serifed and sans serif block letters; Gaskell’s Guide to Writing by G. A. Gaskell (New York: Office of “The Penman’s Gazette,” 1883) for examples of perspective block letters; and A Textbook on Lettering and Sign Painting (Scranton, Pennsylvania: International Textbook Co., 1902) for mechanical full and half block letters. The Draftsman (1905), p. 244 shows the Sickel Alphabet as an example of block letters.
23. Journal of the Ex Libris Society vol. XI, no. 4 (April 1900), p. 71. Two other possibilities are American Book-Plates: A Guide to Their Study by Charles Dexter Allen (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1894) and A List of Book-Plates Engraved on Copper by Mr. Edwin Davis French (Jamaica, New York: The Marion Press, 1899).
24. The term “Br’er” was widely used in 19th century American literature as part of racist depictions of the speech of African-Americans. See not only the well-known stories of Br’er Rabbit by Joel Chandler Harris, but also Lectures before the Thompson Street Poker Club edited by Henry Guy Carleton (New York: J. Parker White, 1899), A Fool’s Errand by Albion W. Tourgée (New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert, 1880), and even The Cincinnati Medical and Dental Journal vol. I, no. 1 (October 1885), pp. 26–28. The latter is a fictitious account of the “Weekly Meeting of the Protective Union and Association of Colored Dentists”. Holme’s use of “Br’er” was not racist, though. Instances of “Br’er,” employed in the sense of comradeship within an industry or profession, appear in a variety of publications in the 1890s: The American Homeopathist, The Ohio Poultry Journal, Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, The Insurance Times, Wood Pulp News, and Printers’ Ink. Holme applied the appellation “Br’er” to several other members of his school’s faculty besides Goudy (e.g. “Br’er Mulhaupt”). See Holme to Oswald Cooper 4 July 1901 in Folder 14, Box 5, The Edwin Bliss Hill Collection, The Huntington Library. Holme may have picked up the term during his time on The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. The West Virginia newspaper used “Br’er” several times to refer to politicians. For example, see “Br’er Wilson” in “West Virginia Politics,” 1 August 1888, p. 3.
25. Holme was very familiar with Mazzanovich’s style of lettering. It graced several pages of the Palette and Chisel Club scrapbook between 1897 and 1899, including one commemorating the performance of Il Janitore, a “grand opera” written by Holme.
26. Proof of this is the fact that the manuscript was clearly sent by Holme to Goudy. That is why it is now in the Frederic W. Goudy Collection at the Library of Congress.
27. Quoted in Frank Holme by Frederic W. Goudy (Ysleta, Texas, 1942).
A note of thanks
I want to thank both Eric Frazier of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress and Scott Kosofsky. Eric photographed the manuscript for me and Scott Photoshopped it.