Study Notes

Study Notes are my notes on books that are well-researched, well-written, well-edited and, sometimes, also well-designed. These are books whose content is worth sharing with a wider audience that may be unaware of their existence or unable to locate or afford copies. The notes are minimally edited with as few additional comments as possible.

Blue Pencil no. 53—The Tale of the Tittle

“The Parts of a Letter” by Doyald Young. Note that there is no i and thus no mention of a dot or tittle.
We need to expunge the word tittle from the typographic lexicon. Although the word has a long history in the English language, especially in religion, literature and political discourse, its typographic meaning is principally a 21st century creation. It is a coinage based on false erudition, one that is increasingly being accepted by those eager to show off …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 81A—W.A. Dwiggins and “graphic design”: A brief rejoinder to Steven Heller and Bruce Kennett

When I wrote The Definitive Dwiggins no. 81 —Who Coined the Term “Graphic Design”? in January 2018 I thought I had finally put to rest the long-running claim, begun in 1983 by Philip B. Meggs, that W.A. Dwiggins coined the term “graphic design”. [1] The claim has been taken up as gospel by numerous graphic design historians and general graphic design writers for over three decades. I was one of the first to accept it when I wrote a profile of …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 56—New Kind of Printing Calls for New Design

Front page of the Graphic Arts Section, Part Three of the Boston Evening Transcript (August 29, 1922). Design by George Trenholm.
W.A. Dwiggins has held an anomalous position within design history. His varied work as an advertising designer, book designer, and type designer is often praised but rarely shown in design history surveys. Instead, he is included principally as the coiner of the phrase “graphic design.” It is an assertion that I debunked several years ago, though it still persists. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 34—New Ideas in Illustration

“New Ideas in Illustration” advertisement by S.D. Warren & Co. (Print vol. V, no. 3, 1915). Illustration and lettering by W.A. Dwiggins (1914).
During his advertising career W.A. Dwiggins did a large amount of work for paper manufacturers and distributors, especially Strathmore Paper Company and S.D. Warren. His work for the latter occurred in two phases: 1911–1916 and 1917–1937. In the early years the work was done indirectly via Brad Stephens and his various businesses. [1] The later work was …
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Some items from the Heller Fili sale

Earlier this year, on June 28th, I went to the second Heller Fili book sale with a mixture of excitement and dread. I was eager to see what sort of things Steve Heller and Louise Fili were parting with, but not eager to add more items to my already bulging collection of books and ephemera. And not eager to spend money after a binge at McNally Jackson Books a few days earlier. Partly because I arrived late, I succeeded in buying a …
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“Graphic Design”: more on the terminology of a profession

Alex Jay, an old friend and author of the excellent Tenth Letter of the Alphabet blog, has sent me a detailed addendum to my post on the terminology of graphic design. “I don’t know if you searched Chronicling America [I did not] but it’s a good source for old newspapers,” he writes. Through it Alex found a reference to “graphic design” as early as 1842 in the New-York Daily Tribune where it refers specifically to engraving. Similar references appear …
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Two Pages Facing (1916): An early guide to layout

“Parallel Lines” from Two Pages Facing (1916). Design by Tony Sarg.
Two Pages Facing: Some Suggestions for Advertising Display (Philadelphia: The Curtis Publishing Company, 1916) is a remarkable publication. I came across a copy recently while digging into the Arthur S. Allen Collection at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University. (It is available digitally from the Hagley Museum and Library in Delaware.) The book, using layouts provided by Guy Gaylor Clark, Everett R. Currier, J.T. DeVries, W.M. Gerdine, A.K. Higgins, Ben S. …
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Goudy addenda

Monotype: The Journal of Composing Room Efficiency no. 70 (1924) is devoted entirely to Kennerley in celebration of the release of the typeface family—with the addition of bold and bold italic—for machine composition by Lanston Monotype. The issue, designed by George F. Trenholm and Ellsworth Geist, has several articles by and about Frederic W. Goudy to accompany showings of the typeface. In “A Medieval Craftsman and His Types: A Great Advertiser Comments on the Goudy Types”, Earnest Elmo Calkins, co-founder …
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“Graphic Design”: A brief terminological history

“It was not until 1922, when the outstanding book designer William Addison Dwiggins coined the term ‘graphic designer’ to describe his activities as an individual who brought structural order and visual form to printed communications, that an emerging profession received an appropriate name.” This statement, by Philip B. Meggs in the Foreword to his A History of Graphic Design (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983), has been taken as gospel over the past thirty years. Yet, it is inaccurate.
Dwiggins never …
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Genuine Imitations: A Type Designer’s View of Revivals

Matthew Carter spoke on historical revivals last night at CooperType. I had heard the talk twice before in the past year, but this time I took notes. Matthew is not only a good speaker, but he is full of pithy comments that often manage to be both amusing and deadly serious at the same time. Here are a few of them that I copied down.
“I take a predatory approach to history.”—by this, Matthew meant that he prowls history for ideas …
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From the Bookcase no. 2—Spacing in Typography

Type Spacing
E.R. Currier
New York: J.M. Bowles, 1912
The Art of Spacing: A Treatise on the Proper Distribution of White Space in Typography
Samuel A. Bartels
Chicago: The Inland Printer, 1926
These two books come from the Charles Francis Collection. I have singled them out because I am fascinated by the spacing in lettering and type and have been trying to figure out when the modern conception of such spacing developed. Both of these books are surprisingly modern even though they predate the more famous …
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From the Bookcase no. 1—French Renaissance Printing Types

This is the first in a new series of posts. These are not Blue Pencil autopsies of books nor are they conventional book reviews. Instead, these are reports on what I have learned from reading books. These notes will either encourage followers of Blue Pencil to buy and read a book or save them the trouble and expense of doing so.

French Renaissance Printing Types: A Conspectus
Hendrik D.L. VervlietNew Castle, Delaware: The Bibliographical Society, The Printing Historical Society and Oak …
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