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. 294—Stories of Our Earth

W.A. Dwiggins was at heart an artist, an illustrator. His posthumous reputation as a type designer, a book designer, and a marionette maker has overshadowed the fact that what he most wanted to do was illustrate books. His work as an illustrator has often been denigrated. One reason is that he had no single, defining style. Instead, he tailored his approach to the perceived needs of the story. An obscure, but excellent example of this are his spare illustrations for Stories …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 115—Ginn and Ancient Rome

In the spring of 1905 W.A. Dwiggins left The Village Press and struck out on his own as a freelance artist. Two of the first three commissions he received came from Ginn & Company. They were for book cover (binding) designs. [1] Over the following dozen years he designed other book covers, some endpapers, and several title pages for the Boston publisher. But it was not until the spring of 1917 that he was asked to illustrate a book for …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 335—The Pageant of Color: Old Hampshire Bond

The Hampshire Paper Co. was established in South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts in 1866. Its signature paper was Old Hampshire Bond, first manufactured around 1889. [1] Off and on between 1912 and 1925 W.A. Dwiggins did promotional work for the company and its leading paper stock. The earliest instance occurred at the end of 1912 and the beginning of 1923 when he designed the cover of a booklet titled “Backing Up Your Salesman”. Instead of working directly with Hampshire Paper, he received the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 230 addendum—The source of the Beau Brummell peacock

Slipcase label from Beau Brummell by Virginia Woolf (New York: Rimington & Hooper, 1930). Design by W.A. Dwiggins.
Both the slipcase and binding of the edition of Beau Brummell by Virginia Woolf that W.A. Dwiggins designed have labels bearing a stylized peacock. [1] I have just discovered that the design is not original, but apparently redrawn from one that was part of an embroidered Indian sari (c.1800) owned by Hagop Kevorkian (1872-1962), an Armenian-American archeologist, connoisseur of art, and collector. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 328—Direct Advertising & Sample Book of Mill-Brand Papers (Part III)

I like Far East color combinations; a chutney-sauce effect with lots of pepper and mustard and spices, odd harmonies that make you sit up.  I think the Chinese were the greatest color manipulators, and after them the Persians of the miniatures. I like black as part of a color scheme. [1]
W.A. Dwiggins wrote this in 1936. His remarks, repeated many times, have come to dominate descriptions of his work. But it is one that does not apply to his early career in which …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 298—The Sun Dial Library: A list of binding and endpaper color combinations

I was curious to see if there was any pattern to the combination of binding colors (both inks and cloth) and endpaper colors (inks and paper) for the titles in The Sun Dial Library. Below I have paired bindings and endpapers for the titles illustrated on John Krygier’s seriesofseries.owu.edu website. [1]  I have added numbers based on the sequence of titles on the lists on his site which I believe reflects the order in which the books were published. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 214—Some more information about the BP mark

Personal mark for BP. From 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929). Design and illustration by W.A. Dwiggins.
In The Definitive Dwiggins no. 210 I was unable to identify one of the designs in 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929). The fifth design, showing a lion cub resting on a rock which has the monogram BP carved into …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 227—More Stick Figures

Original drawing (with retouching) by W.A. Dwiggins (c.1924). Image courtesy of Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
In the process of re-organizing my notes and images on the voluminous work that W.A. Dwiggins did for S.D. Warren Co. I found original artwork for more of his stick figure drawings. [1] Unfortunately, there is no identification regarding the project the drawings were made for; and they match none of the Warren publications I have seen. However, based on the captions in some …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 299—Cheap Books

Jacket front of I Am Jonathan Scrivener by Claude Houghton (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1930). First title in The Inner Sanctum Novels series. Format design by W.A. Dwiggins.
W.A. Dwiggins wrote a lengthy letter in response to the article “Bookbuyers’ Complaint” in the June 11, 1932 issue of The Saturday Review of Literature. It was published under the heading “Cheap Books” in the magazine’s June 25, 1932 issue. Here is his text with a few contextual notes.

Some time back—in …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 297—The Sun Dial Library

W.A. Dwiggins and the Vogue of the Small Book
Advertisement card announcing The Sun Dial Library (1928). Note: the text is deliberately on a slant. Image courtesy of the Newberry Library.
Origins of The Sun Dial Library
The Sun Dial Library was established in the fall of 1928 as an imprint of the Garden City Publishing Company, a subsidiary of Doubleday, Doran & Co. An advertising card explained that the new series was being created in response to a demand for …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 210 addendum no. 2—A correction

I recently discussed Joseph Sinel’s redrawing of marks for A Book of American Trade-Marks & Devices with Bruce Kennett. In the course of our exchange he sent me several pairings of Dwiggins’ marks from different sources. One of them was the scribe mark designed by Dwiggins for the Society of Calligraphers. [1] When I saw the two versions I immediately realized that I had made a mistake in The Definitive Dwiggins no. 210 post on 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals. The …
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Blue Pencil no. 46—Yet more on the early history of the term “graphic design”

Alex Jay, who has provided me with material in the past on aspects of graphic design history, has recently sent me two emails with new information on the issue of the early uses of “graphic design” as a term. I have summarized his discoveries below.
“Graphic Design”: More on the terminology of a profession (June 2014) mentioned a snippet that Alex Jay found from The Sierra Educational News about graphic design. The issue is now fully available online and Alex has …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 211—A Book of American Trade-Marks & Devices

In The Definitive Dwiggins no. 209, I quoted Edmund G. Gress, the editor of The American Printer, in praise of A Book of American Trade-Marks & Devices by Joseph Sinel:
American trademarks and devices have never been set forth so attractively…. A great many emblems are shown in posteresque style, one to a page, and others are grouped four or more on a page in an attractive manner. With black there are combined such colors as blue, brown and plum. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 210 addendum no. 1—A mark for The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge

William Edwin Rudge press mark (center) from the title page of Art by the Way by Timothy Cole (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1925). Design by Bruce Rogers between 1923 and 1925.
In my second post on 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929) I quibbled over the number of marks included in the book, pointing out that there were two for The Cygnet Press. In fact there are two …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 210—22 Printers’ Marks and Seals (Part 2)

Binding of 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929). Design and ornament by W.A. Dwiggins. Printing by The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge.
Title page of 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929). Design, lettering, and decoration by W.A. Dwiggins. Printing by The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge. Note the WER mark by Dwiggins.
This essay is a …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 209—22 Printers’ Marks and Seals (Part 1)

Rejected title page design for 22 Printers’ Marks and Seals, designed or redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (1928). Design, lettering, and decoration by W.A. Dwiggins. Original pen-and-ink artwork with retouching, paste-up, and specifications. Image courtesy of Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
22 Printers’ Marks and Seals Designed or Redrawn by W.A. Dwiggins (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929). This is item 29.02 in The Books of WAD by Dwight Agner who describes it thusly: binding of black paper over boards with …
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