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. 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 …
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

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.”) …
Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 33 addendum—An Archeress

Along with the archers surveyed in The Definitive Dwiggins no. 33, W.A. Dwiggins created at least one archeress. She appears on the title page of his short story The War Against Waak,(Hingham, Massachusetts: Püterschein-Hingham, 1948). The story is the fifth in the Athalinthia series that he began writing in the mid-1920s. [1] The archeress, labeled “Bellona”, is stenciled in magenta and rose. She faces to the left, seemingly oblivious to the presence of three men engaged in battle with spears and …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 28 second addendum—The Humanists’ Library

The source for the frame used on the front of the Humanists’ Library Second Series circular is a 1503 title page engraved on wood. It can be found in Bücher-Ornamentik der Renaissance by A.F. Butsch (Leipzig: G. Hirth, 1878–1881), Tafel 15. [1] W.A. Dwiggins, the presumed designer of the frame for The Merrymount Press, has not only eliminated the scene between the pillars, but he has also deleted all of the text and the three shields. More significantly, he …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 45—Fifteen Sonnets of Petrarch (1903)

Page 136 from Early Venetian Printing Illustrated (Venice: Ferd. Ongania, London: John C. Nimmo, and New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895).
This title page for a 1497 Venetian edition of Terence, reproduced here in Early Venetian Printing Illustrated (Venice: Ferd. Ongania, London: John C. Nimmo, and New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), was copied and repurposed by both Daniel Berkeley Updike of The Merrymount Press and Bruce Rogers. [1] The Merrymount Press version of the title page deleted the central …
Continue reading