William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) was a type designer, book designer, calligrapher, illustrator, and writer. He also carved and wrote plays for his marionettes, and had occasional excursions into architecture, furniture design, mural painting, kite flying, weathervane-making, and making his own tools. The collection includes over 130 volumes and over 30 pieces of ephemera documenting Dwiggins's design career, as well as works written about him.
This collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
The collection includes over 150 volumes including ephemera of books designed, written, and illustrated by Dwiggins as well as works written about him. The collection contains work from as early as 1902 and as recent as 1987.
William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) is best remembered by his many friends and associates as a gentle, modest, and sensitive person, with numerous whimsical talents that gave his professional work a liveliness and richness in expression, even for the most serious of subjects. He was a type designer, book designer, calligrapher, illustrator, and writer. He also carved and wrote plays for his marionettes, and had occasional excursions into architecture, furniture design, mural painting, kite flying, weathervane-making, and making his own tools.
After studying illustration in Chicago under Frederic Goudy he moved to Hingham, Massachusetts in the first years of the century to work with Goudy and his Village Press, where he lived the rest of his life. Most of his work in the first two decades was in the advertising field which made use of his skills as a calligrapher and graphic artist. It was not until the mid-twenties that Dwiggins emerged as a book designer, following the publication of his 1919 essay "Extracts from an Investigation into the Physical Properties of Books as They Are At Present Published", written with his cousin Laurance B. Siegfried who later became editor of The American Printer. Published by The Society of Calligraphers, a fictitious group, with the "help" of Hermann Püterschein, Dwiggins' alter-ego, the essay did shake up a few men in the publishing industry by criticizing the lack of attention to careful design and typography and helped to establish Dwiggins as a designer opposed to shoddy workmanship.
Dwiggins' career as a designer of trade books began in 1926 when he designed and illustrated both the limited and trade editions of Willa Cather's My Mortal Enemy for the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. He went on to have a long and fruitful career designing many more trade and limited editions for Knopf, as well as limited editions for other organizations, including George Macy's Limited Editions Club. Dwiggins felt that book design ought not be a slave of the past. If a book was to be read in the present its design and illustrations should reflect contemporary tastes. As noted by Dorothy Abbe, an associate of Dwiggins, two keys styles of Dwiggins can readily be noted when viewing the collection: ornamentation done with stencils and hand lettering on the spines of his books.
The William Addison Dwiggins collection is organized as two series
Patricia Goldsmith England donated the William Addison Dwiggins collection to the University of Maryland Libraries in 1990.
The books in this collection have been cataloged and are available in the University of Maryland Libraries online catalog. They may be located under the call number Z232.D975, followed by the Agner No.