Blue Pencil

Blue Pencil is a “slog”: a slow blog. It does not get updated daily or even on a regular schedule. Instead, it gets updated when there is something of value to be posted. Postings often take a long time to prepare and appear at intervals of a few weeks or even months. Sometimes there is a flurry of postings within the span of a few days. Blue Pencil may be unpredictable in its frequency, but not in its purpose. Blue Pencil is fiercely dedicated to the 3Rs: research, reading and writing.

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 58—Seven Famous Novels of H.G. Wells

Throughout his life W.A. Dwiggins was enthralled by the writings of H.G. Wells (1866–1946). He was constantly looking for opportunities to design and illustrate his tales of fantasy and science fiction. In the two part Bulletin No. I of the Transactions  of the Society of Calligraphers (January 1, 1924), Dwiggins, in the guise of his alter ego Hermann Püterschein, presented studies for book page designs of two books by Wells: When the Sleeper Awakes (Part I) and The …
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More about AIGA Medalists

Three years ago I wrote a long post about the history and demographics of the AIGA medalists. Three of the overlooked names I listed are being honored this year: Nancy Skolos (with her husband and partner Tom Wedell), Art Chantry and Lance Wyman. This is a positive step, though I wish that among the six honorees there were some from the past as there was in 2014. At the top of my list would be Oswald Cooper, Helen Dryden …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 55—Mary Elizabeth Church

In 1909 W.A. Dwiggins designed a bookplate for Mary Elizabeth Church, the proprietor of Miss Church’s School for Girls on Beacon Street in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. It is not a significant design visually, but the correspondence surrounding it is of some interest. [1]
The origins of the project are murky. Despite the voluminous correspondence between Dwiggins and Daniel Berkeley Updike that survives, there are no letters from the latter commissioning the bookplate. The commission may have been an …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 53—Harper’s Magazine continued

W.A. Dwiggins’ work for Harper’s Magazine did not end with the appearance of tailpiece no. 7 in the August 1926 issue. In the November 1930 issue a new series of decorative elements—headpieces, tailpieces and column frames—began to appear. They are abstract rather than pictorial or floral like the first series. Although there is no documentation about their origin, I have some speculative ideas about how they came to be.
At the time that Dwiggins was redesigning Harper’s Magazine in 1925 a …
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Junk Type

Cover of Junk Type by Bill Rose (New York: Universe Books, 2016).
Junk Type: Typography · Lettering · Badges · Logos
captured by Bill Rose
New York: Universe Books, 2016
Note: I was recently asked by Gregory Cerio, editor of The Magazine Antiques to review Junk Type. Gregory decided that the review I had submitted was not right for his audience and, after several discussions about how to revise it, we mutually agreed to cancel it entirely. He then very kindly suggested that …
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The Definitive Dwiggins No. 51—What Is the West?

Between early 1907 and the end of 1912 W.A. Dwiggins did roughly 75 jobs for either G. Schirmer or its affiliate the Boston Music Co. through The Merrymount Press and its proprietor Daniel Berkeley Updike. [1] The great majority were done in 1909, including the subject of this post: From the West: Symphonic Poem for the Organ (Op. 60) by Edwin H. Lemare (New York: G. Schirmer and Boston: Boston Music Co., 1909).
From the West: Symphonic Poem for the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins No. 50—Harpers Magazine

Cover of the June 1925 issue of Harpers Magazine.
W.A. Dwiggins worked in a wide range of graphic design sub-disciplines. One that is often overlooked is periodical design. Over the course of his career he redesigned mastheads or entire formats for a wide range of magazines, house organs and journals: The Alghieri (1911), Advertising & Selling (1912), Happyland (1913), The New England Printer (1914), The Cornhill Booklet (1914), Granite Marble & Bronze (1917), The Modern Priscilla (1918), The Lever Standard (1920), The …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 52—Paulus Franck

Schatzkammer, Allerhand Versalien Lateinisch  vnnd Teutsch allen Cantzleyen Schreibstuben Notarien vnd denen so sich des zierlichen schreibens  befleissigen zudienst  und Wohlgefallen von neüen in Druckh also verferttiget  is the longwinded title of the 1601 writing manual by Paulus Franck of Nuremberg. The book is best known for Franck’s astoundingly intricate set of large fraktur initials (see below). [1]
Ornamental fraktur F by Paulus Franck (1601).
But my interest in Franck’s manual is not in the decorative fraktur capitals, but in …
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Typophillics No. 1 update and addendum

The mystery of the origins of Frederic W. Goudy’s comment on letterspacing type has gotten a little bit murkier.
This morning I received an email from Renata Vickrey, university archivist and special collections librarian at the Elihu Burritt Library at Central Connecticut State University, home to the only known copy of Dinner in Honor of Mr. Frederic W. Goudy by the New York Press Association and Syracuse University held in Syracuse 1936. She tells me that the 6 page booklet includes …
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Typophillics no. 1

Card from Arthur Rushmore to members of The Typophiles 28 May 1938. (Paul Standard Papers, Melbert B. Cary, Jr. Library, Rochester Institute of Technology)
Erik Spiekermann and E.M. Ginger, authors of Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works (Mountain View, California: Adobe Press, 1993), explain the title of their book thusly:
In 1936, Frederic Goudy was in New York City to receive an award for excellence in type design. Upon accepting a certificate, he took one look at it and …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 49—Political Satire in 1896

Richard Sheaff, the inveterate ephemera collector, has a small section on his Sheaff: Ephemera website devoted to Salt River ephemera, most of it from the collection of Ron Schieber. He says that the phrase “Up Salt River” was used in the 19th century to refer to political defeat. Going up Salt River meant the wrong way on a tributary to an isolated and irrelevant headwaters. The expression apparently originated in the 1832 election in which Henry Clay was …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 48—Eugene Field

Eugene Field. From Field Flowers: A Small Bunch of the Most Fragrant of Blossoms Gathered from the Broad Acres of Eugene Field’s Farm of Love (Chicago: The Monument Committee, 1896).
Eugene Field (1850–1895) was one of the leading literary figures of the late 19th century in America. He was known for his bibliophilic writings as well as for his verse for children. From 1881 until his death he was a columnist for the Chicago Daily News which morphed into the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 47—Cambridge, Ohio

Although W.A. Dwiggins was neither born there nor spent the most years of his childhood there, the town most closely associated with his early life is Cambridge, Ohio. [1] Cambridge is located due south of Cleveland and due east of Columbus in rolling hill country. It is the seat of Guernsey County. In the 1890s, when Dwiggins lived there, two railroad lines (the Baltimore & Ohio and the Cleveland & Marietta) ran through town, testifying to its importance. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 44—A Short Note on Notes

“Proper Prefaces” from Ordinary and Canon of the Mass… (New York: H.W. Gray Co., 1913). Printed by The Merrymount Press. Musical notation by W.A. Dwiggins.
Ordinary and Canon of the Mass: Together with the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion and the Holy Chant by Rev. Maurice W. Britton and Charles Winfred Douglas (New York: H.W. Gray Co., 1913), despite being a slim book of 76 pages, took three years to complete. The book was …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 46—Addendum on Maynard Co.

My friend Alex Jay (of the excellent website The Tenth Letter) sent me some microfilm images of Maynard advertisements by W.A. Dwiggins in the The Boston Herald that he got from a newspaper archive called Genealogy Bank. They do seem less scratchy and shadowy. But what is most important is that they are whole pages that provide a good indication of the environment in which the Dwiggins’ Maynard advertisements operated.
Below is the same “Pearl Necklaces” advertisement on back-to-back days in …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 45—More on Metro

Three years ago, for the Typographica annual review of the year’s typefaces, I chose to write about the Metro Nova typeface family designed by Toshi Omagari for Monotype. But instead of the usual 300 word review I wrote an extended essay on origins of Metro, explaining how Metro no. 2—which most people think of as Metro—came about and indicating how little of Metro was actually designed by W.A. Dwiggins. Stephen Coles, creator of Typographica, liked the deep background but since …
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