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. 421—Tsushima (1937)

Tsushima by A. Novikoff-Priboy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1937) is an account of The Battle of Tsushima (May 27–29, 1905) in the Japanese Sea during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. The Japanese fleet completely destroyed the Russian fleet in what has been called “naval history’s first decisive sea battle fought by modern steel battleship fleets”. It has been characterized as the “dying echo of the old era—for the last time in the history of naval warfare, ships of the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 300—W.A. Dwiggins meets Alfred A. Knopf

Supposedly one of the pivotal moments in the career of W. A. Dwiggins was his meeting with the New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf in 1923. I say “supposedly” because I don’t think the meeting had a monumental impact on either Dwiggins’ career or the development of Knopf’s books as has been widely proclaimed. The circumstances of the meeting itself are murky as three different people have been put forth as the interlocutor between Dwiggins and Knopf.
C. Chester Lane or …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 331—Ginn & Co. 1905–1919

One of the first clients that W.A. Dwiggins had after he left The Village Press and struck out on his own was the Boston educational publisher Ginn and Company. One job he did for them may be his first freelance commission after his move East from Ohio since it predates his surviving account books. It is the cover (back and front) of Spelling Lessons by Aaron Gove (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1905). [1] His familiar WAD signature appears in the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 115—Ginn and Ancient Rome (addendum)

The source for Dwiggins’ illustration of a Templum in Collar and Daniell’s First Year Latin is obviously the Roman Temple at Nîmes, France, popularly called the Maison Carrée. But what did he use as a model for his drawing? A photograph or an existing illustration? There are numerous views of the temple from the northwest as paintings, drawings, engravings, lithographs, and photographs. [1] But none of them have his flattened pediment and missing roof. The closest example that I have …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 293—Textbooks in the 1920s (Part I): Open Doors to Science

In the mid-1920s, as he was trying to shift his career from advertising design to book design, W.A. Dwiggins found himself still contributing to textbooks, something which he might have felt was in his past. For Ginn and Company, a client he had worked with sporadically since 1905, he contributed illustrations to two books: Open Doors to Science with Experiments by Otis Caldwell and W.H.D. Meier (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926) and How the Old World Found the New by Eunice …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 703E—How the Old World Found the New: Champlain and La Salle

This is the fifth (and last) installment of a detailed account of each of the illustrations in How the Old World Found the New that I believe Dwiggins reworked in varying degrees. [1] They are presented in the order in which they appear in the book, preceded by notes on their probable source and, wherever possible, primary and secondary images. This installment covers pages 208 to 231 involving the explorations of Samuel de Champlain and René Robert Cavelier, sieur de …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 703D—How the Old World Found the New: De Leon, De Soto, and Drake

This is the fourth installment of a detailed account of each of the illustrations in How the Old World Found the New that I believe Dwiggins reworked in varying degrees. [1] They are presented in the order in which they appear in the book, preceded by notes on their probable source and, wherever possible, primary and secondary images. This installment covers pages 167 to 205 and the exploits of Sir Francis Drake as well as the Spaniards Ponce de Leon …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 703C—How the Old World Found the New: Cartier, Cortes, Balboa, and Pizzaro

This is the third installment of a detailed account of each of the illustrations in How the Old World Found the New that I believe Dwiggins reworked in varying degrees. [1] They are presented in the order in which they appear in the book, preceded by notes on their probable source and, wherever possible, primary and secondary images. This installment covers pages 121 to 157 which deal with the exploits of Jacques Cartier, Hernando Cortes, Vasco Nuñez da Balboa, …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 703B—How the Old World Found the New: Columbus and Magellan

This is the second installment of a detailed account of each of the illustrations in How the Old World Found the New that I believe Dwiggins reworked in varying degrees. [1] They are presented in the order in which they appear in the book, preceded by notes on their probable source and, wherever possible, primary and secondary images. This installment covers pages 62 to 116 relating to the voyages of Chistopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan.

List of reworked illustrations and …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 703A—How the Old World Found the New: Marco Polo, Prince Henry the Navigator, and Vasco da Gama

This is the first installment of a detailed account of each of the illustrations in How the Old World Found the New that I believe Dwiggins reworked in varying degrees. [1] They are presented in the order in which they appear in the book, preceded by notes on their probable source and, wherever possible, primary and secondary images. This installment covers pages 7 to 59 concerning Marco Polo, Prince Henry the Navigator, and Vasco da Gama.

List of reworked illustrations and …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 702—Textbooks in the 1920s (Part II): How the Old World Found the New

Even as he was trying to shift his career from advertising design to book design, W.A. Dwiggins found himself still contributing to textbooks in the 1920s, something which seemed to have been in his past. For Ginn and Company, a client he had worked with sporadically since 1905, he contributed numerous illustrations to two books: Open Doors to Science with Experiments by Otis Caldwell and William Herman Dietrich Meier (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926) and How the Old World Found the …
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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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