William Addison Dwiggins, 1880-1956
"It is difficult to give notice only to his calligraphy. As dean of American
book arts, Dwiggins for decades deftly juggled visual ideas and techniques
with results that transformed the physique of the book … A calligraphic
sense permeated most all that he touched—illustration, ornament, typefaces,
title pages, and bindings. Dwiggins’s many italics varied from a near-copperplate
to a quasi-chancery—all executed with deceptive effortlessness … No matter
how formal or casual the subject matter, Dwiggins’s choice of letters
endowed it with authority—and subtly with his own identity … Dwiggins
worked at every job with a drollery that spared even the most strenuous
projects any stuffiness. His calligraphy—often only a word or two on a
title page—was always music for the eye, and as American and timeless
as Gershwin or Copeland."
Edgar Allan Poe
Chicago: The Lakeside Press, 1930
This edition of Poe’s stories
was designed and illustrated by W.A. Dwiggins. He wrote in the
"I knew that it was foolish to try to ornament Poe … My idea
was to start at the opposite pole and try for bald, graphic annotation—
diagrams of people doing the things Poe said they did. If I could
contrive ominous shapes here and there—shapes that hinted at strange
mental states and let the reader (out of the corner of his eye)
glimpse extraordinary dooms impending—that would help."
were printed in shades of gray. The chapter headings are in Dwiggins’
recognizable stenciled style, as is the cover paper. Dwiggins was
the first designer to use stencils widely for typographic ornament.
The tiny design elements were cut in celluloid or acetate and then
combined to decorate bindings and book jackets. The title-page is
also shown here.
||Warren's Standard Printing Papers
S. D. Warren Company
Boston: S. D. Warren Company, c. 1920
This paper sample book
contains specimens of various papers made by the S.D. Warren Company,
each with an image printed on it using various processes (line
cut, halftone, etc.). The individual folders and the case were
decorated with stenciled designs by W.A. Dwiggins.
|The design from the case reappeared in 1987 on the
cover of Fine Print. This journal, published by Sandra Kirshenbaum
from 1975-1990, covered all aspects of the book arts. This issue
included several articles about Dwiggins.
designed the cover using Dwiggins’ ornaments and his stencil alphabet.
Abbé (1909-1999) was a printer, book designer, and photographer,
best known as the longtime companion and protégé
of W.A. Dwiggins. She lived with and cared for Dwiggins and his
wife Mabel from 1947 until 1968, and continued to promote Dwiggins’
life’s work for decades after his death in 1956. From 1947 until
1956, she and Dwiggins operated a joint private press, Püterschein-Hingham.
|This invitation to a preview of a memorial
exhibition of the work of W.A. Dwiggins sponsored by the American
Institute of Graphic Arts in 1957, was designed by Charles E. Skaggs.
In it, Dwiggins is described as “calligrapher, type designer, layout
artist, illustrator, book designer, mural painter, sculptor, playwright,
puppeteer, costume-designer, satirist, thinker, poet in prose.”
||Marionette in Motion
The Püterschein system diagrammed
described by W.A. Dwiggins
Detroit: Puppetry Imprints, 1939
|This work of Dwiggins on the construction of marionettes
is written and illustrated by him. The text reproduces his own lettering,
including additions which give the pages the look of a private journal.
W.A. Dwiggins made and wrote about marionettes extensively. His
work on these puppets has been chronicled by his protégé
Dorothy Abbé. Considered by some to be her most important
book, The Dwiggins Marionettes: A Complete Experimental Theatre
in Miniature, documents the extraordinary basement theater in
Dwiggins’ studio, where he carved the marionettes, made sets,
and wrote original scripts for the puppet productions.
A sample of Dwiggins' design.
Return to Skaggs Exhibition home
| Next Case: Dwiggins & Skaggs' Work
of Use | Return