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. 177 addendum no. 1—The Ninety-first Psalm (1906)

Front cover of The Ninety-first Psalm: Reprinted from the King James Version (Hingham Centre, Massachusetts: Will Dwiggins, 1906). Design and lettering by W.A. Dwiggins; printing by the Heintzemann Press; binding by W.A. and Mabel Dwiggins. Image courtesy of Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
After posting The Definitive Dwiggins no. 177 regarding some rotunda sketches that W.A. Dwiggins had made c.1906–1907, I realized I had inadvertently overlooked a significant contemporary example of his work that belonged in the discussion. In …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 178—The Mystery of the York Mysteries

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 177 focused on five sheets of rotunda sketches by W.A. Dwiggins contained in a small srapbook in the Dwiggins Collections at the Boston Public Library. [1] This post looks at two reproductions of a manuscript page headed “The Wefferes” pasted on a spread in the scrapbook. The reproduction on the left is printed in red and black while the one on the right is in black only (see below). [2]
Two reproductions of “The Wefferes” …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 177—Rotunda Sketches

There is a small scrapbook in the original W.A. Dwiggins Collection at the Boston Public Library. Among its miscellaneous contents are five small sheets of paper bearing undated outline drawings of rotunda alphabets. [1] Three sheets contain sets of capitals, one has a mix of capitals and minuscules, and one has minuscules only. Two alphabets are sketched on notepaper from The Carolina hotel in Pinehurst, North Carolina while one set of letters has been drawn on the reverse of an …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 171—Der Bohemeverein

W.A. Dwiggins spent his adolescence in Cambridge, Ohio. He returned there in the spring of 1903, following his studies at The School of Illustration and a brief stint working in a studio with his lettering teacher Frederic W. Goudy. A year and a half later, in the fall of 1904, he left—with his new bride Mabel—for Hingham, Massachusetts to work with Goudy at his relocated Village Press. During the short time he was back in Cambridge Dwiggins designed and typeset …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 169—”Der Professorverein”

W.A. Dwiggins attended The School of Illustration in Chicago from November 1899 until sometime in 1901. [1] The school’s short existence, which lasted from September 1898 until July 1904, was tumultuous. In the early years it grew rapidly with its success most visibly marked by a mushrooming faculty which its founder Frank Holme (1868–1904), tongue in cheek, referred to as “Der Professorverein.” This article is a look at the faculty of The School of Illustration, its growth and its make-up.

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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 180—The Epworth League

The Epworth League, founded in Cleveland in 1889, was created as a Methodist counterpart to the YMCA, with the intent to serve as an outreach and activity program for young people. Its object was “to promote intelligent and loyal piety among its members”. [1] the League grew rapidly in the 1890s with chapters throughout the country. The first International Convention was held in 1893 at Cleveland; after that they were biennial with the fifth taking place in San Francisco in …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 168—Teuerdank

Title page from Teuerdank by Maximilian I and Melchior Pfintzing (Nuremberg: Johannes Schoensperger, 1517).
Page from Teuerdank by Maximilian I and Melchior Pfintzing (Nuremberg: Johannes Schoensperger, 1517). Illustration by Albrecht Dürer.
In the 1974 Dwiggins Collection at the Boston Public Library there is a scrap of paper with some outlined bâtarde-like letters drawn on it. [1]No captions, no date. I have traced the letters to the Teuerdank, the book commissioned by Maximilian I as an epic retelling of …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 181—Three Folksongs from the Coast of Northern France

Work from early in the career of W.A. Dwiggins frequently looks very different from what casual observers envision as “the Dwiggins look.” This post is about one such instance, a set of five ornaments designed to fill out several lines of typography on the title page of some sheet music.
On New Year’s day, 1910 Daniel Berkeley Updike—not resting on the holiday—commissioned Dwiggins to design “line endings typographical.” (Elsewhere in his account books Dwiggins entered the job as “line endings Grasset.”) …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 165 addendum—Another B

On page 114 of W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design by Bruce Kennett (San Francisco: Letterform Archive, 2018) the author shows a cropped image of an insert for Beckett Paper from Direct Advertising vol. IV, no. 3 entitled “The Buckeye ‘Dummy’ Covers”. [1] “Dwiggins cleverly recycled the ornamental B from his Bartlett days, Kennett comments. Unfortunately, the decorative B, despite looking very much like the one Dwiggins designed for Alfred Bartlett in 1906, is not by Dwiggins.
The Buckeye …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 176—A Note on a Note in Towards a Reform of the Paper Currency

*The Society of Calligraphers of Boston, a group of experts whose authority in the realm of graphic art is unquestioned, goes on record with the opinion: “It is not possible to discuss the designs [for the paper currency] without heat. They infuriate you because you cannot get at them. They are beyond the reach of criticism. They are safe—as an idiot is safe anywhere, in any community, savage or civilized. They are made immune by hideous deformity.… The artistic value …
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By the Numbers no. 2 addendum—Fat Face in Chicago

Obviously people had difficulty in seeing the address above the doorway. The only solution was to design the house number in a Fat Face so large that it had to be positioned vertically. It looks great except for the screen at the lower portion of the door. I think the numerals are made of steel.
House number in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005).

By the Numbers no. 1—third addendum: New York didone stencil

The painted address of the Project Find Clinton Senior Citizen Center (originally known as Harborview Terrace) in New York employs didone stencil letters associated with Le Corbusier. The building was designed by Herbert Mandel in 1977. Whether he was responsible for the decision to use the Le Corbusier stencils for the supergraphics or they were the idea of a hired graphic designer is unknown. Either way, they look terrific—even covered in grime and with their paint peeling.
535 West …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 175—An Irked Consumer

In The Definitive Dwiggins no. 9 continued—Toward a Reform of the Paper Currency I suggested that W.A. Dwiggins may have been spurred to write Toward a Reform of the Paper Currency by an article his friend Paul Hollister had contributed to the January 1930 issue of The American Printer. At the time I only quoted Hollister’s comments on the typographical quality of the new one dollar bill that followed the 1929 currency redesign instigated by Andrew Mellon, Secretary …
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By the Numbers no. 1—second addendum: Mantova

In searching through my archive of Legacy of Letters photographs I found this wonderful example of a didone address in Mantova with the old house number carved beautifully in stone—the 5 is especially charming—and a newer house number in enamel. The numerals of the latter are condensed. The 3 is notable for its horizontal top.
House number in Mantova. Photograph by Alta Price (2011).

By the Numbers no. 1 addendum

An Italian friend has pointed out that John Morgan’s Nizioleti typeface (alphabet?) includes numerals that have no basis in actual Venetian examples. In his opinion they are “molto inautentici e fuori posto.”  He is absolutely right. Here is the John Morgan character set with some Venetian figures below it for comparison.
Nizioleti by John Morgan Studio.
House number in Venice. Photograph by Alta Price (2010).
House number in Venice. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2013).
It should be noted that Morgan’s letters …
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By the Numbers no. 1—Some Didones in Italy, Copenhagen, London, Philadelphia, and Montreal

By the Numbers is a companion series to the Rchive series of blog posts. While the Rchive focuses on iterations of the capital R, By the Numbers will look at numerals, especially as they appear as the addresses of residences, offices, factories, and other buildings in the urban environment. This first installment is a survey of numerals in the didone style.*
Sotoportego de le Pute in the sestiere of Castello, Venice. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2017).
The Sotoportego de le …
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