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Charles E. Skaggs: A Life With Letters

A Calligraphic Version of Skaggs' Name

Charles Skaggs, born in 1917, grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. While in high school he apprenticed in an art studio, where he learned the fundamentals of printing processes. At the age of nineteen, he went to Chicago and soon made his mark designing advertising art, packaging, and posters. In Chicago he was introduced to the art of book design by Chicago bibliophiles, including Raymond DaBoll, who showed him the work of William Addison Dwiggins. Skaggs also taught himself calligraphy during this time.

Skaggs moved to New York City in 1945 and quickly established himself as a freelance book jacket designer. He worked on books and jackets for the Limited Editions Club and for the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Through Knopf, Skaggs worked closely with W.A. Dwiggins. Skaggs also became acquainted with other leading figures in calligraphy and type and book design—Oscar Ogg, Paul Standard, Philip Grushkin, and George Salter. At Salter’s urging, Skaggs joined the faculty of the Cooper Union in 1953. For five years, he taught night classes in calligraphy and the history of the alphabet.


Skaggs' career eventually changed from being an independent designer to working as art director for a variety of publishing houses—Silver, Burdette and Company, Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster), Harper & Row’s college book division, and lastly, the trade book division of Macmillan Publishing Company. In 1969 he left Macmillan and returned to Kentucky. He continued to work as a freelance designer for New York firms and for the University of Kentucky. Skaggs moved to Colorado in 1981, and later to his current home in Washington state.
For more information, read
From Alphabets to Books,
a biography of
Charles Skaggs
by Kimberly Marlowe.

In November 2001 Charles E. Skaggs donated his personal typographic library to the rare book collection at Smith College. This gift includes approximately 580 books, many of them special and limited editions produced throughout the past six decades, many of them designed by Skaggs. There also is a wealth of ephemeral printed and calligraphic material. His entire career is highlighted in this exhibition featuring original art work and calligraphy, his book and jacket designs, and articles written by him. The work of a number of his colleagues in the world of lettering and book arts also is shown.

Charles Skaggs attended a public reception for this exhibition on Friday, September 13, 2002.

Exhibition
Each image below is a link to a particular case of the exhibition. They can be viewed in order via the links at the bottom of each page, or individually by returning to this home page and selecting the case you would like to view. A collection of book jackets designed by Skaggs is available as part of this web exhibition.


An Early Commission
An Early Commission
L. P. 
Hartley
L. P. Hartley
Paul 
Standard
Paul Standard
George 
Salter
George Salter
Oswald 
Cooper
Oswald Cooper
Jackets with Original Art
Jackets With Original Art

William A. Dwiggins
William A. Dwiggins
Dwiggins & Skaggs Work
Dwiggins & Skaggs Work
Continuing Collaboration
Continuing Collaboration
Original 
Lettering
Original Lettering
Lettering Models
Lettering Models
Designs
1949-1960
Designs 1949-1960

Fine Print
Fine Print
LEC
LEC
AIGA
AIGA
RIT
RIT
Typography
Typography
Typophiles
Typophiles

Exhibition designed and written by Barbara Blumenthal.
Web exhibition designed by Jessica Bumpous.

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