Research

Research consists of unintended or accidental discoveries that I have made during the course of my research into other topics. They are posted here in the belief that others may find the information equally fascinating. Some items are meant to challenge or question existing scholarship on a specific topic. And others are intended to alert scholars to material that may be relevant to their own pursuits or to new opportunities of research.

Online Type Specimens at St. Bride Library—Fold-outs

In digitizing their pre-1831 type specimen books St. Bride Library in London—arguably the preeminent repository of material on the history of type—was unable to fit some elements of the books into the Internet Archive format. Various fold-outs and inserted items had to be placed on the site as TIFFs rather than included in the complete book download options. Roughly one-fifth of the specimens digitized and uploaded to the Internet Archive fall into this category. The fold-out material includes type samples …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 438—Book jackets for Alfred A. Knopf [Part Two: 1936–1941]

W.A. Dwiggins contributed designs to 328 books published by Alfred A. Knopf according to Dwight Agner, author of The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W.A. Dwiggins (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Press of the Nightowl, 1974). I use the phrase “contributed” because he did not design all of these books in the conventional understanding of the term. Agner’s list includes books where Dwiggins was responsible for: 1. the typography, binding, and jacket; 2. the typography and binding; …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 63—Type Specimens 1770 to 1799

This is the third in a series of posts listing type specimens that have been digitized and placed online. Many of them are downloadable in whole or as individual pages. A few items listed are not type specimens, but books that show important typefaces in use.
N.B. Several of the St. Bride Library type specimens available at the Internet Archive have fold-out pages or inserted items which do not appear in the regular viewer or in the PDF downloads. To access …
Continue reading

Blue pencil no. 62—Type Specimens from 1700 to 1769

This is the second in a series of posts listing type specimens that have been digitized and placed online. Many of them are downloadable in whole or as individual pages. A few items listed are not type specimens, but books that show important typefaces in use.
N.B. Several of the St. Bride Library type specimens available at the Internet Archive have fold-out pages or inserted items which do not appear in the regular viewer or in the PDF downloads. To access …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 438—Book jackets for Alfred A. Knopf [Part One: 1926–1935]

W.A. Dwiggins contributed designs to 328 books published by Alfred A. Knopf according to Dwight Agner, author of The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W.A. Dwiggins (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Press of the Nightowl, 1974). I use the phrase “contributed” because he did not design all of these books in the conventional understanding of the term. Agner’s list includes books where Dwiggins was responsible for: 1. the typography, binding, and jacket; 2. the typography and binding; …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 419 addendum—Serenade jacket roughs

Somehow, when I prepared the post on Serenade I overlooked two roughs by W.A. Dwiggins for the jacket. Both are in the Boston Public Library, while the material I had been relying on came from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Neither of the roughs resembles the final jacket design which leads me to believe that they were done before September 10, 1937. But exactly when is unclear.
Both roughs are more conservative—at least by Dwiggins’ standard—than the …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 60 addendum—Some comments by Dan Reynolds on “Die Schrift unserer Zeit”

Type historian Dan Reynolds has sent me the following comments regarding my notes to the English translations of Paul Renner’s essay “Futura: Die Schrift unsere Zeit” in Blue Pencil no. 60. Within brackets I have added some clarifying information.

There are two things that deeply bother me about the advertising around Futura’s launch. The first is that, as far as I can remember reading, there does not seem to have been any critical reaction to the phrase “Die Schrift …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 60—Die Schrift unserer Zeit

Front cover of Futura 1. (Frankfurt am Main: Bauersche Giesserei, 1927). Image courtesy of St. Bride Library.
Futura 1., the first specimen of Paul Renner’s groundbreaking Futura typeface contained an essay titled “Futura: Die Schrift für unserer Zeit” (usually translated as “Futura: The Type for Our Time”). The provocative title is well-known, but Renner’s actual text less so. It has never been translated in full into English. [1] An abridged version appeared as “Futura: The Type of Today and Tomorrow” in …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 419—Serenade

James Cain (1892–1977) is best remembered for his hard-boiled crime novels that were subsequently made into iconic film noir movies: The Postman Always Rings Twice (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934), Double Indemnity (1936), and Mildred Pierce (Alfred A. Knopf, 1941). [1] Serenade (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1937), his third novel, never made it it to the silver screen, but not for lack of trying. Its controversial depiction of the supposed link between homosexuality …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 445—Faust

Typography
“For me to function in the project, I should have to have a free hand with the typographic scheme, and be backed up by you in any discussion with Author (I foresee discussion!),” W.A. Dwiggins wrote to Sidney R. Jacobs (1909–2000), production manager at Alfred A. Knopf, on March 19, 1941. “If it is a case, like some others, where Author has to have his way for one reason or another, I want to be told, so I can drop …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 61—Type Specimens 1486 to 1704

This is the first of a series of posts listing type specimens that have been digitized and placed online. Many of them are downloadable in whole or as individual pages.

Index of Selected Type Designers, Punchcutters and Type Foundries
Arrighi, Ludovico Vicentino degli—1529
Garamont, Claude—1592 (2), 1622, and 1664
Granjon, Robert—1592 (2), 1622, and 1664
Guyot, François—1565
Janson, Anton—1671 (2), c.1675, 1678 (2), c.1680, 1683, and 1687 (2)
Le Bé, Guillaume—1546 and 1602
Luthersche Schriftgiesserei—1664, 1665, and 1678 (2)
Moreau, Pierre—1645
Ratdolt, Erhard—1486
Schmidt, Johann—c.1670, c.1674, and 1677
Voskens, Bartolomaeus—c.1665 (2)
Voskens, Reinhard—c.1668 …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 51—ITC as a Pioneer of Diversity in Type Design

Since the summer of 2020 I have been compiling a comprehensive list of digitized type specimens available online. My list includes some unexpected items such as U&lc, the magazine that ITC (International Typeface Corporation) published from 1974 to 1999. The magazine was a stealth type specimen with every article set in an ITC typeface (identified with a tiny credit at the end and also listed on the contents page). But the great majority of issues also introduced (or sometimes …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 348—A Christmas Carol

The Press of the Woolly Whale is probably the best name ever conceived for a private press. It was the imprint of Melbert B. Cary, Jr. (1892–1941), who, at the time of its founding in 1928, was the president of the Continental Type Founders Association, a company that imported metal type from European foundries and distributed the typefaces of Frederic W. Goudy (1865–1947). The first book issued from the Press of the Woolly Whale was The Vision …
Continue reading

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 560—The Creaking Stair

Jacket spine and front for The Creaking Stair by Elizabeth Coatsworth (New York: Coward-McCann, 1949). Design, illustration and lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.
W.A. Dwiggins’ career as a book designer is tightly tied to Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. But here and there he designed a few books for other trade publishers, either as a personal favor to friends or as a means of exploring other aspects of his professional career. The Creaking Stair by Elizabeth Coatsworth (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1949) is the …
Continue reading

Nachlass Jan Tschichold (Deutsche National Bibliothek Leipzig)

“Exhibition of new German Writing Art” (1920). Calligraphy by Johannes Tzschichhold [Jan Tschichold]. Image from Nachlass Jan Tschichold, Deutsche National Bibliothek Leipzig.
In October 2021 I stumbled on the digitized collection of Jan Tschichold’s work that was uploaded to the Deutsche National Bibliothek Leipzig website several months earlier. It is a remarkable collection. I was especially struck by finding a lot of Tschichold’s early calligraphic work, much of it in various forms of blackletter. That discovery led me to …
Continue reading

Blue Pencil no. 49—Melure

This is the complete text that appears below the heading “Melior (all sizes—see Melure)” in a 1965 specimen book or advertisement from Headliners. I have copied it from the WRU+1 PDF supplied to me by Nikolaus Weichelsbaumer.
We call it Melure.
Now you can specify Melior to fit areas, not just lines.
Now you can get all sizes in five different weights, three proportions, matching italics and open face.
Now you can keep the clean, precise look of Melior in tight display headings.
For Melure …
Continue reading