There is so much in this big, heavy book, so handsomely produced, that I can't even begin to describe the many beautifully carved and painted marionettes. If the fingers in my right hand weren't so numb from carpal tunnel syndrome (surgery scheduled for next month) I might try --- but even then I couldn't possibly do them all justice. So if you really care about marionettes, look for copies among out-of-print booksellers or at the links posted below.
Click on images to enlarge them.
Assorted heads of Dwiggins' distinctive characters.
Photo taken in 1955 at the age of 75, a year before his death. Click on all images to enlarge them.
William Addison Dwiggins was born on 19 June 1880 in Martinsville, Ohio. He had his own print shop in Cambridge OH from 1903 to 1904 when he left for Hingham, Massachusetts, to study with the eminent type designer Frederic Goudy. Dwiggins stayed behind in Hingham -- with his wife Mabel for the rest of his life -- when Goudy left for New York City the following year. From 1905 through 1916 he worked as what was called a "commercial artist" until he became the director of the Harvard University Press during World War I from 1917 to 1918. In 1919 he founded the Society of Calligraphers in Boston and was its sole member as well as president.
In 1922 Dwiggins was the first commercial artist to describe himself as a graphic designer. In his lifetime he designed and produced 300 book covers for his publisher friend and giant of the industry Alfred A. Knopf.
In 1928 Bill Dwiggins or "Dwig" began his first type designs for Mergenthaler-Linotype. Above is his design for Electra, introduced in 1934.
This is Caledonia, probably his most popular face, designed in 1938.
The Hingham (MA) historical society describes him as a "renowned type designer, calligrapher, illustrator and writer" whose talents did not stop there. He was "a gentle, modest, and sensitive person, with numerous whimsical talents [who] designed and constructed furniture, painted murals, made lampshades and woodcarvings, stencilled draperies, and contrived a weathervane to register on an indoor compass. He acted as architect for the remodeling of his home and his studio [and] experimented for many years with a small marionette theatre, serving as artist, craftsman, playwright and director."
Above is a scan of one of the tickets he designed and printed for his theatre from the excellent book about his marionettes and theatre published by Henry N. Abrams and now out-of-print. (Copies are still available at abebooks.com and amazon.com. His associate Dorothy Abbe wrote and collected material for this extraordinary book. It's still expensive but well worth the cost for anyone interested in Dwiggins and unique marionette theatre.
Photos of the puppet maker at work taken by Randall W. Abbott for the book, "Dwiggins & the Puppeteers: 1942."
Dwiggins with a puppet of himself, by Randall W. Abbott.