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.

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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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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 165—Proverbs 15:17

While preparing The Definitive Dwiggins no. 162 I stumbled across a familiar-looking ornate calligraphic B at the bottom of p. 210 of Early Venetian Printing Illustrated (Venice: Ferd. Ongania, London: John C. Nimmo, and New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895). Ongania took the B from Il Terzo Libro de Madrigali by Andrea Gabrieli (Venice: Angelo Gardano, 1589).
Page 210 from Early Venetian Printing Illustrated (Venice: Ferd. Ongania, London: John C. Nimmo, and New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895).
In 1906 W.A. Dwiggins (1880–1956) appropriated and revised …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 162—The Scribe

As a student at the Frank Holme School of Illustration in Chicago, W.A. Dwiggins (1880–1956) drew a monk writing at a sloped desk as an assignment in the decorative design class taught by Frederic W. Goudy (1865-1947). The presence of the words “Class of Decorative Design” in a ribbon and “School of Illustration” in a tabula ansata below the drawing suggests it may have been intended for the cover of a (fictional) catalogue for the school. A completed, colorized, and signed …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 33—The Archer

Although he never engaged in archery himself, W.A. Dwiggins (1880–1956) had an enduring interest in archers. The fascination seems to have taken hold when he was in his early 30s as archers are rare in his childhood and adolescent drawings, easily outnumbered by warriors with swords and spears, and soldiers with pistols and rifles. The only one I know of appears at the right in a Medieval battle scene drawn in pencil on a page from his father’s account book. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 161—The New Colophon addendum

Recently Charles Nix kindly sent me an image of lettering that he had received as a gift. He was told that it was by W.A. Dwiggins for The Colophon vol. I, no. 1. In trying to confirm that it was indeed the work of Dwiggins I discovered that it was actually the lettering for title page of The New Colophon vol. II, part 8 (February 1950) rather than for the earlier incarnation of the periodical. The rest of the title …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 198—A Portrait of William Morris

Woodcut portrait of William Morris by W.A. Dwiggins from “The Poetry of William Morris” by Wallace Rice in The Blue Sky: A Monthly Magazine, vol. V, no. 1 (April, 1902). Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arizona.
W.A. Dwiggins (1880–1956) lived in Chicago from the fall of 1899 to the summer of 1903. During that brief time he was initially a student at the Frank Holme School of Illustration and then a studio mate of his mentor Frederic W. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 116—The End of Childhood (1890–1895)

The unexpected death of Moses Dwiggins in January 1890 left his widow Eva, and their young son Willie, adrift in the world. Without her soulmate and source of livelihood, Eva stumbled about for the next five years, trying to achieve a stable life. Willie, only 9 1/2 years old at the time of his father’s death, was old enough to understand his mother’s grief, but too young to be able to do much about it.

This post is the next installment …
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Further Thoughts on Nomenclature of Letterforms

In 2014 I published three posts on the subject of letterform terminology. It is something that continues to be vexing to many people, including myself. Since then I wrote Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017) with the assistance of Abby Goldstein. For the book she and I created what we consider to be an improved chart for identifying the parts of letters of typefaces. Instead of using a single typeface …
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