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Old 06-16-2006, 12:00 PM   #1
rakman4
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Default Dwiggins Initials

Hi all,

Tuesday was my 48th birthday, which is the opus number of Schumann's "Dichterliebe". I am apparently not on the forum birthday greetings list, alas.

A number of years ago (1997? 98?) I found a font specimen book from Plimpton Press, Norwood, Massachusetts, at a used bookstore in Bangor, Maine. The fonts it offers date the book in the late 40s or 50s, and a Supplement of display type is dated January, 1959.

Towards the end of the regular specimens are specimens of four "Dwiggins" Initials: 36, 41, 42 and 48. I've never seen them in a specimen book before, but I had seen 48 as initial caps in (I think) a book about opera plots from the 1950s or 60s. They so intrigued me that I made digital versions with Fontographer -- and I worked really hard on the 48-point initials. And I've never seen them anywhere else. See attachment.

I've read about Dwiggins in various places, including the web, and know about his other fonts, including Caledonia. But I've seen scant mention of these initials. Are there any smart people out there with any information about these initials, just to satisfy my curiosity?
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Old 06-16-2006, 12:12 PM   #2
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>>david: and I worked really hard on the 48-point initials. And I've never seen them anywhere else. See attachment.

Very cool!!!

I'll bet KT might know about them...

Happy Birthday!!!

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Old 06-16-2006, 01:07 PM   #3
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Hey! Belated happy birthday! I'm about two and a half months behind you. 1958 was an excellent vintage.

   
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Old 06-16-2006, 02:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rakman4
But I've seen scant mention of these initials. Are there any smart people out there with any information about these initials, just to satisfy my curiosity?
Not too much. They are shown in the two-volume Typophile Chap Books entitled Postscripts on Dwiggins, with this brief comment from Paul A. Bennett:
Much of the correspondence is graced with marginal sketches that illumine the artists thinking on the arch of a curve, the swell of a stem, the treatment of serifs, and so on. What a treasure trove for scholar-typographers and designers in the years ahead!

The four decorative initial alphabets that follow the type specimens were drawn by WAD for Plimpton Press, as a result of original designs worked out for several Knopf books. They remain the property of the Press, and are shown through their courtesy.
The chap books have a great deal about Dwiggins as well as much correspondence in which he discussed type design (and the realities of life as an artist). There are also specimens of Metroblack and Caledonia, as well as some of his wilder designs, including a script called Charter and the extremely odd Winchester.

You can probably find a set of these books in decent quality for less than $100.

Gerard Unger is a great admirer of Dwiggins (and a scholar on the subject). He speaks and sometimes writes about him. He may know more about these initials. You might be able to reach Unger via his web site.

I cannot find an Unger article on Dwiggins, but I did find a report by Cynthia Hollandsworth on Unger’s talk on Dwiggins at the Boston ATypI meeting. It doesn’t allude to the initials but to his ideas about letter forms, some of them radical and still of interest. More to the point, they might illuminate the forms of the initials.

I scanned the specimens of the four initials. Alas, the images have been reduced by about 2/3, but they are still too large to attach. I will put them in a separate message.

   
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Old 06-16-2006, 03:08 PM   #5
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Here are the two scans from Postscripts on Dwiggins. (They are not accurate in size).




   
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Old 06-16-2006, 10:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Tuesday was my 48th birthday, which is the opus number of Schumann's "Dichterliebe". I am apparently not on the forum birthday greetings list, alas.
You'll get a forum bday greeting next year. In the meantime, Happy Belated Birthday for this year!

   
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Old 06-17-2006, 04:30 AM   #7
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Very cool. The specimens are notably larger than in my book (the pages are 5-3/4 x 8-1/2, and 7-hole-punched), and apparently a little chubbier. Does the Plimpton Press still exist? Web hits don't go past the 1950s.

And while we're at it, this is practically the topic of a new thread. I'm taken with the specimen of Bernard Cursive in the book, attributed to Bauer. Is there a digital version anywhere? I would actually buy it. (yes, I AM too lazy to make one myself. And I have two pieces due by the end of the summer...)

   
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Old 06-17-2006, 06:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rakman4
Very cool. The specimens are notably larger than in my book (the pages are 5-3/4 x 8-1/2, and 7-hole-punched), and apparently a little chubbier.
If you would like them I can send you the original (life size) scans (huge TIFFs).

Quote:
Originally Posted by rakman4
Does the Plimpton Press still exist? Web hits don't go past the 1950s.
I do not know. That book was published four years after Dwiggins’s death, which occurred on Christmas Day 1956. The press evidently existed at that time.

From an online history of the town of Norwood, where the press was located:
“During the 1960's . . . The town's decision to close a portion of Lenox Street allowed the Plimpton Press to expand its capacity for the production of books.”

I found a link to a 1966 book published by Plimpton Press for the Christian Science church. Nothing more recent than that. If you look for a printer in Norwood, the only name that comes up is something called Royal Press.

Guess you would need to take a field trip to find out; go see what’s going on around Lenox Street!

   
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Old 06-17-2006, 02:12 PM   #9
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Hey, cool. The scans would be nice -- not that I'm going to do anything with them right away, or even ever. I like the æ and œ, by the way, though I'm not really sure I like the 36-point all that much.

A trip on Google Earth and local.live.com shows several places in Norwood that may have been the location of the Plimpton Press -- the most likely of which is revealed in local.live.com as a shopping center with Shaws and TJ Maxx (how many x's in that?). A large bunch of warehouse buildings in back reveal Shaws trucks waiting to be loaded or unloaded. This sleuthing thing is fun, huh?

I wonder why it's called Lenox Street -- Lenox is way over on the other side of the state, where Tanglewood is....

   
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Old 06-17-2006, 02:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rakman4
Hey, cool. The scans would be nice -- not that I'm going to do anything with them right away, or even ever
. . .
I wonder why it's called Lenox Street -- Lenox is way over on the other side of the state, where Tanglewood is....
Probably some governor or hero or something. There is a Lenox hotel in Boston (pretty good one, too, and close to the Hynes).

I will see how small the scans get when I compress them. You have broad band?

   
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