William Addison Dwiggins

Mergenthaler was so confident in Dwiggins’ potential as a type designer that in May 1929 they signed him to an exclusive contract (at $ 2500 per year) months before his sans serif was completed. The company wanted to snatch him away from potential rivals such as American Type Founders, Barnhart Brothers & Spindler and Continental Typefounders, all of whom had expressed an interest in commissioning type from him. The National Display Alphabet Co., makers of Innes Alphabets – alphabets reproduced on perforated gummed paper for printers and advertising agencies to use in mechanicals – had already hired Dwiggins as their artistic director.

Dwiggins was a hot commodity in 1929. In January the American Institute of Graphic Arts had awarded him its Gold Medal and sponsored an exhibition of his work at the Art Center in New York City. He had made a name for himself as a commercial artist and advertising designer – Layout in Advertising was the culmination of his knowledge – but after twenty-five years in the field he was shifting his attention to book design, and doing so with success. Four of the thirteen books that he had completely designed since 1926 had been chosen for the AIGA 50 Books of the Year. He contributed decorations or illustrations to three other winners.

Fig. 1: Bookplate for Eva Siegfried Dwiggins, William Addison Dwiggins’s mother. Signed DG implying that it was co-designed by William Addison Dwiggins and Frederic W. Goudy. Most likely Goudy designed the ESD monogram and WAD did the remainder of the bookplate. William Addison Dwiggins shared a studio with Goudy in Chicago for a year or two after graduating from the Frank Holme School of Illustration.
Fig. 2: Measure. One of several color comps by William Addison Dwiggins 1947. The magazine was never published.
Fig. 3: The Interior (Children’s Book Number) 27 November 1902. William Addison Dwiggins did both the border (signed Will Dwiggins) and the illustration (signed Will Dwiggins).
Fig. 4: Modern Color by Carl Gordon Cutler and Stephen C. Pepper (Harvard University Press, 1923). Jacket design by William Addison Dwiggins. (Book design by Bruce Rogers.) Jacket design by William Addison Dwiggins.

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This font feature is an article from Linotype Matrix magazine Vol. 4 No. 2.
Author: Paul Shawn. We would like to thank Roberta Zonghi, Keeper, Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library for permission to reproduce photographs of items in the 1974 and 2001 Dwiggins Collections. All photos, except those credited, were taken by Paul Shaw.