The Definitive Dwiggins no. 438—Book jackets for Alfred A. Knopf [Part One: 1926–1935]
W.A. Dwiggins contributed designs to 328 books published by Alfred A. Knopf according to Dwight Agner, author of The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W.A. Dwiggins (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Press of the Nightowl, 1974). I use the phrase “contributed” because he did not design all of these books in the conventional understanding of the term. Agner’s list includes books where Dwiggins was responsible for: 1. the typography, binding, and jacket; 2. the typography and binding; 3. the binding only; and 4. the title page only. By his count Dwiggins designed jackets for only 43 books: nine between 1926 and 1935; twenty-three between 1936 and 1941; ten between 1942 and 1949; and 1 from 1950 to 1956. 
This post is the first of a multi-part survey of Dwiggins’ jackets for Knopf which will go beyond Agner’s enumeration to also look at jackets partially designed by him, jackets containing elements originally designed by him for other purposes (e.g. bindings or title pages), and jackets that were planned by him but not carried out. The jackets are listed in rough chronological order. 
The Early Years: 1926–1935
Although Dwiggins worked on books to one degree or another for thirty years, the famously close relationship between the designer and the publisher did not truly begin until 1936. Over the course of the previous nine years, Dwiggins had designed—in the sense of being responsible for the typography of the text of a book—only twelve books. In 1936 alone he designed eleven books. In the early years, Dwiggins was essentially treated as a decorator, being called upon to design only the binding or title page to fifteen books. Some of this work—vignettes, decoration, and lettering—made its way onto the jackets of their respective books, apparently without his input.
My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather [Agner 26.04]
The first jacket designed by Dwiggins for Knopf was for the trade edition of My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather. The design—both front and back—was also used on the slipcase. The three decorations printed in an egg yolk yellow are difficult to discern today due to the acidification of the formerly white paper. This is especially true of the one on the spine. The decoration on the front surrounds the title which is lettered by Dwiggins in “Fat Face” capitals. (Willa Cather subsequently adapted Dwiggins’ lettering as her house style for the labels on the bindings of her later books published by Knopf.) The decoration on the back frames the summary of the book which is set in ATF Bodoni.
The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy edited by Samuel Bemis Flagg [Agner 27.01]
The first three volumes in the The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy series were published by Knopf in 1927 with another seven being published under Bemis’ editorship over the following two years. (In the 1960s the series was continued under the editorship of Robert H. Ferrell with Cooper Square as publisher, following the typographic format established by Dwiggins.) Apparently, Alfred Knopf’s original plan was to treat the initial volumes in the deluxe manner with a leather binding and a slipcase for the set. But in late November 1926 he changed his mind and told Dwiggins he wanted a cloth binding without paper sides and a “wrapper” (jacket) for each volume. 
The jacket design parallels the title page of the book series, but is not identical. In the latter he typography is centered and the laurel leaf frame, which extends around all four sides, is different.
The Devil by Alfred Neumann [Agner 28.05]
This is Dwiggins’ first unconventional jacket. The design is reused from his design for the binding with one small change. The illustration of a devil crouching within a frame and a castle behind him has been flopped so that the figure faces to the left. The binding design is stamped in purple and black ink on tan cloth. In contrast the jacket is simply black ink on dark red paper. Apparently Dwiggins wanted the paper to be a dark purple.  Who decided on the change to red is unknown.
The lettering on the spine is Art Deco in style and fits in with other lettering mixing sans serif and serif features that Dwiggins was doing in the late 1920s. The hyphenation of the title is only the first of many unusual hyphenated spine designs that Dwiggins did over the course of his long tenure with Knopf.
Borzoi Pocket Books series [Agner 29.06]
Knopf hired Dwiggins to redesign the Borzoi Pocket Books series of cheap reprints in late 1928 in order to compete with the Modern Library.  His design—which consisted of a standard jacket, a standard binding, and new endpapers—was announced in the February 9, 1929 issue of Publishers’ Weekly with a showing of The Wanderer by Knut Hamsun.
For the jacket Dwiggins created an overall pattern of stenciled abstract botanical elements divided into panels on the bias. The design wrapped around to the back. A band was left free for the title, author, and imprint, all of which was lettered by someone else in a style heavily influenced by the Broadway typeface designed by Morris Fuller Benton (American Type Founders 1927) that was very popular at the time.  Dwiggins’ pattern included elements found in his contemporaneous poster and catalogue cover designs for The Architect & The Industrial Arts: 11th Exhibition of Contemporary American Design exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The People of Juvik: A Saga of Modern Norway by Olav Dunn [Agner 30.02]
Dwiggins designed the binding for the series of books by Olav Dunn collectively titled The People of Juvik: A Saga of Modern Norway. He was asked to do the jacket as well, but replied, “It will be hard for me to make a jacket design in a hurry; I am up to the neck.” He suggested that Knopf ask someone else, which apparently they did. 
• •. •
Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo [Agner 30.11]
Dwiggins designed the title page and binding for Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo. Knopf reused his ornament and lettering for the jacket. The jacket spine is an exact copy of the binding spine while the jacket front is based on the title page. The ornament is another stencil design.
• •. •
The Castle by Franz Kafka [Agner 30.06]
The Castle by Franz Kafka is another example of Dwiggins’ design for the binding of a book being repurposed by Knopf. In this instance the castle vignette he created for the binding front was also reused for the title page as well as the jacket; and the lettering and decorative frames on the binding spine was copied for the jacket spine.  Dwiggins did not do the blackletter title lettering on the jacket front and I don’t believe he did the other decorative elements on the jacket spine.
The Jealous Ghost by L.A.G. Strong [Agner 31.05]
Agner credits Dwiggins with the title page and binding for The Jealous Ghost by L.A.G. Strong (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931) but not the jacket. However, Philip Hofer included the jacket in his Dwiggins checklist.  This is where ascribing credit to Dwiggins for various Knopf books becomes difficult. There is no documentary trail for the book, but all of the aspects of the jacket, except for the blurb, are by Dwiggins. The spine design is copied from the binding spine; and the lettering and decorative frame on the front are copied from the title page. Thus, the jacket may not have been created from scratch by Dwiggins yet nevertheless it is a “Dwiggins” jacket.
• •. •
The English Captain and Other Stories by L.A.G. Strong [Agner 31.04]
The colophon of The English Captain and Other Stories credits Dwiggins for the book’s title page and binding design, but I am skeptical.  The designs are derivative of The Jealous Ghost with the only differences between the two books being the new title page and binding lettering. The former is mediocre and does not look like Dwiggins’ work, though the latter is plausibly his. I have been unable to locate a jacket for The English Captain and Other Stories, but I suspect it is similar to the one for The Jealous Ghost. If so, it may have been cobbled together from authentic Dwiggins designs with new lettering by someone in New York—a combination that is documented several times in later years.
• •. •
Salute to Heaven by Manfred Hausmann [Agner 31.03]
Agner credits Dwiggins with the binding for Salute to Heaven by Manfred Hausmann, but it is a copy of his work for the binding of The Castle with someone else being responsible for the new title and author lettering on the spine. The castle vignette was reused in a greatly enlarged size on the jacket.
• •. •
Fortune’s Favorites: Portraits of Some American Corporations by the editors of Fortune magazine [Agner 31.02]
There is no doubt that Dwiggins did the jacket design for Fortune’s Favorites since it is documented. When Sidney R. Jacobs, filling in for the absent George M. Stimson, sent a proof of the jacket to Dwiggins for approval, he said, “One of our salesman has objected to it on the basis that it has not enough snap. Do you think you could possibly change the color combination?”  Unfortunately, there is no record of Dwiggins’ original colors.
The lettering of the capitals on the front is unusually sharp for Dwiggins, but the cursive on the spine is typical of him. The laure eaves are a device that he often resorted to (e.g. The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy).
• •. •
The Wild Orchid by Sigrid Undset [Agner 31.06]
A week after receiving the proof of the jacket for Fortune’s Favorites, Dwiggins was asked by Jacobs to design the jacket for The Wild Orchid by Sigrid Undset:
I wanted at first to have a picture wrapper in colors, but no one has, so far, submitted a sketch that doesn’t seem to be violently out of keeping with the tone and spirit of Mme. Undset’s work.
I would like the wrapper in the colors, dignified and striking but a wrapper with definite sales quality. What I mean is that you would have to bear in mind in doing it that the book in and out of the bookstore has to be able to read it easily—something I don’t think was achieved in the otherwise perfectly superb job you did for FORTUNE’S FAVORITES.
I am sure we know each other much too well for you to take any offence at what I have written above and I won’t take any offence at any riot act that you may write me in return. 
Jacobs emphasized that “time was of the essence”. In his response Dwiggins cut that phrase out and returned it to Jacobs with an extended comment explaining his decision to decline the offer:
[T]hat is what has got me hog-tied. I’d like to help with the Orchid wrapper, but time is a desperate part of the essence with me right now!
[B]e sure that my ego is not bruised by your comments on wrappers’ selling duties: 30 years spent in advertising with boob problem paramount—ego thoroughly indurated. I do not get any speed with wrappers and such for the reasons you bring up—i.e. because they do have to be boob-proof; and because I am on a permanent vacation from boob-proofing, after a long service. What I am interested in these days is making things according to my own pet standards, with no great concern for our weak sisters’ limitations. Consequently you will get the most out of me by keeping me for things where selling isn’t the main point—such things, I mean, as book-covers of a formal and conservative style, where the object is to make a design good in itself—without an eye cocked in the direction of said boob.
Pardon the essay: simply trying to show where I fit in, and where I dont [sic]. 
In this “essay” Dwiggins was referring to the many years he had spent working in advertising and his nearly-decade long attempt to put it behind him. Although he frequently expressed sentiments similar to these over the years—about avoiding boobs and being only interested in making things according to his own pet limitations—at this point he was on the cusp of his most prolific period of designing jackets. Many of those jackets to come were neither formal nor conservative.
Collected Prose of Elinor Wylie [Agner 33.04]
Collected Prose of Elinor Wylie was the first book since The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy (1927) where Dwiggins was responsible for everything: typography, binding, and jacket. The design of the latter, including its decorative parts, is conservative, fitting the criteria he laid down two years earlier.  It is a design that Knopf would come to adapt and use over and over again.
• •. •
The Lone Striker by Robert Frost [not in Agner]
The Lone Striker by Robert Frost is missing from Agner because it is a small booklet with a self-cover rather than cloth-bound book with a jacket. Dwiggins designed the cover.
• •. •
The Life of Richard Wagner 1813–1848 by Ernest Newman [not in Agner]
Dwiggins was not involved in any aspect of The Life of Richard Wagner 1813–1848 by Ernest Newman, the first of four volumes on the life of the German composer, but his contribution to the second volume in 1937 influenced the jackets for all of them. 
• •. •
The Crusader’s Key by Eric Linklater [Agner 33.02]
Agner only lists Dwiggins as responsible for the typography and binding of The Crusader’s Key, but the typescript “Books designed by WAD for Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Published 1926–1956” credits him with the jacket. But which one? The book had two bindings and two jackets. I don’t think Dwiggins did either of them. The first one shown here is very plain, other than the choice of violet panels for the title and author’s name. All text is set in Kabel. Although this does not look very Dwiggins-ish, it shuld be remembered that Dwiggins designed a dull jacket for Yale University Press using that typeface.  The second jacket is also set in Kabel, but it is more plausibly by Dwiggins since it includes an illustration of a nude woman by him.
However, the chaste illustration of a nude woman was excised from a more intricate illustration that Dwiggins created for the opening of the first chapter of The Crusader’s Key. That suggests that the jacket may have been created by the production staff at Knopf.
Seven Famous Novels by H.G. Wells [Agner 34.04]
I have already discussed Dwiggins’ jacket for Seven Famous Novels by H.G. Wells. See The Definitive Dwiggins no. 58 . He was paid $100 for the jacket, a sum larger than the normal fee of $75. 
• •. •
Defy the Foul Fiend, or the Misadventures of a Heart by John Collier [Agner 34.01]
Dwiggins’ color comp for the jacket design for Defy the Foul Fiend, marked by a title in light green surrounded by a rose-colored Art Deco-ish frame, is typical Dwiggins. It was ok’ed by Sidney R. Jacobs, but somewhere along the line the colors became more conventional (vermilion for the lettering and deep maroon for the frame). Dwiggins made several design adjustments beyond the colors: “the Foul Fiend” was changed from italic to roman; the author’s name went from all caps to upper- and lowercase; the subtitle was squeezed in; and several stencil elements at the bottom of the frame were replaced.
• •. •
The Roosevelt Omnibus ed. Don Wharton [Agner 34.04]
Dwiggins’ jacket design for The Roosevelt Omnibus was described in detail in The Definitive Dwiggins no. 368. His original idea for the jacket was a variation of his design for Collected Prose of Elinor Wylie.  The final design was much different, with the spine based on Dwiggins’ binding spine design but the front created by someone else. The two parts fail to cohere.
• •. •
Alblabooks series [Agner 34.02]
In March 1934 Jacobs asked Dwiggins to do lettering for the Alblabooks series of reprints that would set the style for the series. “While I should like to have you do the lettering for all the titles in the series,” he wrote, “—at present there are six—it will probably be too much of a nuisance for you and I can get a pretty fair imitation of your style done by one of our letterers.”  Given that the bindings have the individual titles in the series set in type on the spines with the series name lettered on the front, it can be assumed that Jacobs was referring here to jackets. But what that design looked like is unclear as all but one of the jackets I have seen in person or online were designed in 1937 or later. The exception is the jacket for Howards End by E.M. Forster (dated 1945) which is a clear-cut knock-off of the jacket design for Collected Prose of Elinor Wylie. However, its title is set in Bernhard Modern by Lucian Bernhard (American Type Founders 1937). Perhaps the Wylie template was used in 1934 with lettering which was replaced later by type. I don’t yet know the answer.
Cast Down the Laurel by Arnold Gingrich [Agner 35.06]
Along with Defy the Foul Fiend, the jacket for Cast Down the Laurel is Dwiggins’ finest during this early period of his relationship with Knopf. Here the laurel leaves are treated as more than rote symbols. Dwiggins wrote of them to Alfred Knopf: “NB Vegetation to be done very much geometrical—everything hard and sharp.”  The lettering is Dwiggins at his idiosyncratic best: on the front—a controlled condensed cursive with Art Deco capitals for the title combined with Fat Face capitals for “NOVEL”, funky Didone capitals (marked by erratic thicks and thins) for the author’s name, and “Esquire” in imitation of the magazine’s masthead; on the spine—a loose 18th century engraving-style italic with swash caps for the author’s name, semibold Didone capitals for the title, and Dwiggins’ own cursive for “Knopf”.
1. Although Agner’s bibliography has become a standard one—and I refer to it often in my posts—it is both incomplete and inconsistent. I have been compiling a more comprehensive and more accurate bibliography for over 20 years and will eventually make it part of The Definitive Dwiggins series of posts.
2. Dwiggins often worked on multiple books at one time for Knopf, so determining a precise chronological order is impossible. I am listing them based on available correspondence relating to their designs.
3. See Alfred A. Knopf to W.A. Dwiggins 9 November 1926 in Folder 6, Box 700, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas and George M. Stimson to W.A. Dwiggins 21 February 1927 in Folder 13, Box 731, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas. The latter mentions the jacket but without any details. Agner does not list the jacket design. However, “Books designed by WAD for Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Published 1926–1956” (an undated 15 pp. carbon typescript in Folder 23, Box 100, 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library) describes Dwiggins’ work on the book as “complete”.
4. “I am very sure that, instead of using the paper as per sample, I should deepen the purple, both on one side and back. The color of the paper on the dummy is much better.” W.A. Dwiggins to George M. Stimson 9 June 1928 in Folder 13, Box 731, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas. There is an interesting note regarding Dwiggins’ payment for work on The Devil: “Here is the bill for The Devil; it can be credited against a sum I owe the firm—’Paraphs’ account.” See W.A. Dwiggins to [Ronald?] Freelander 25 May 1928 in Folder 12, Box 731, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.
5. The Borzoi Pocket Books were priced at $1. The jacket back flap described them as “modern books for the most cultivated of modern readers… issued at one dollar a volume in complete and unabridged editions.” Dwiggins’ design of the Borzoi Pocket Books was the third iteration of the series. The first was by Claude Fayette Bragdon (1866–1946) and the second by Thomas Maitland Cleland (1880–1964). See John Krygier’s Series of Series blog for details on the history of all three.
6. There is one notable exception to the Art Deco lettering style: Youth and the Bright Medusa by Willa Cather which has the title and author in the Knopf Cather house style Dwiggins established with the jacket for My Mortal Enemy. Most likely the lettering was simply lifted from the label on the binding.
7. See W.A. Dwiggins to L.J. Ansbacher 13 January 1930 in Folder 13, Box 731, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.
8. The image is from Burnside Rare Books. I have been unsuccessful in seeing a copy of this book in person.
9. See “A Dwiggins Check List” by Philip Hofer in The Dolphin no. 2 (1935), pp. 225–230.
10. Tellingly, The English Captain and Other Stories does not appear in either the Knopf 1926–1956 typescript list or the Hofer checklist.
11. See Sidney R. Jacobs to W.A. Dwiggins 2 July 1931 in Folder 7, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas. This is the first letter from Jacobs to Dwiggins as he was not yet the head of production at Knopf. A second letter on July 8, 1931 mentions jacket proofs but says nothing substantive about them.
12. See Sidney R. Jacobs to W.A. Dwiggins 9 July 1931 in Folder 7, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.
13. See W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs 10 July 1931 in Folder 7, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas. For The Wild Orchid Dwiggins designed the title page and the binding. The jacket, done by someone else, can be seen at Recycled Records and Books at biblio.com.
14. Dwiggins only worked on one book for Knopf in 1932 (The Middle Ages: 300–1500 by James Westfall Thompson). There is no known reason for this dry spell in their relationship.
15. Newman’s multipart biography of Richard Wagner will be discussed in The Definitive Dwiggins no. 348 [Part Two].
16. See The Stretchers: The Story of a Hospital Unit by Frederick A. Pottle (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929).
17. For example, Dwiggins was paid $75 for the jacket of Defy the Foul Fiend which he designed at nearly the same time.
18. “Here is a scheme for a bill-board wrapper for Roosevelt that may, or may not, find favor with your Editor. If it suits, you can get it going without any further drawings. / The color, what you will, two printings—type in black—texture strips in color. These strips made up of Lino. border, as per card. Color might be black and ‘sanguine’, or black and vermilion, or india or grey. Any color you like would work, if the type is black. / Try it on the Editor,” Dwiggins wrote to Jacobs. He attached a color comp with the notation: “Shelfback in manner of binding back, with rectangles of color made of slugs running across type-set lettering, or electros from binding stamp design.” See W.A. Dwiggins to Sidney R. Jacobs 7 August 1934 in Folder 3, Box 734, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.
19. See Sidney R. Jacobs to W.A. Dwiggins 5 March 1934 in Folder 7, Box 732, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas. The original six titles in the series—released in August 1934—were Manuel de Falla and Spanish Music by J.B. Trend, A History of Russian Literature by Prince D.S. Mirsky, Travels in the Congo by André Gide, The Life and Mind of Emily Dickinson by Genevieve Taggard, In My End Is My Beginning by Maurice Baring, and Renoir: An Intimate Record by Ambroise Vollard. Jeffrey Harding owns a copy of Manuel de Falla with a jacket set in open Erasmus Initials, but it may be a holdover from a previous edition of the title.
20. See W.A. Dwiggins to Alfred Knopf 29 October  in Folder 13, Box 731, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.