Charles E. Skaggs: A Life With Letters
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.
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.
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
|An Early Commission
|Jackets with Original Art
William A. Dwiggins
|Dwiggins & Skaggs Work
Exhibition designed and written
by Barbara Blumenthal.
Web exhibition designed by Jessica
of Use | Return