New W. A. Dwiggins book! Athalinthia stories and pictures

Created by Bruce Kennett

The personal side of Dwiggins. Cool stories, published together for the first time. Tons of never-before-seen art, much in color.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Standard copies mail out at the end of the week
4 months ago – Mon, Nov 14, 2022 at 09:58:27 PM

Hello Everyone,

I am away until this coming Wednesday but have learned from Penmor that the books have arrived there from the bindery! So the current plan is that I'll go over to Maine on Friday to help with the packing and shipping. Books will leave Lewiston Friday or Monday and will travel via Media Mail to addresses in the US, so will probably take seven to ten days to arrive, depending on how far away you are from Maine. Books to Canada will go via UPS and I have *no* idea how long those will take! Books to the rest of the world will travel via USPS International Priority Mail and again, I cannot tell you when you'll see them. But it'll be soon.

Thanks again to each of you for helping to make this book a physical reality. I know WAD is up there whistling tunelessly, with a grateful twinkle in his eye.

Forgot to post binder's label picture
5 months ago – Thu, Nov 03, 2022 at 08:23:20 PM

Plus you get to see WAD’s brush work from his dining room mural. I think it is a miracle that someone was able to dismount that mural — which I assume WAD painted directly on plaster – and then move it to Boston for installation at the BPL.

Prototype deluxe in hand
5 months ago – Thu, Nov 03, 2022 at 05:27:26 PM

Greetings One and All,

Gray just sent me the prototype of the deluxe and it is every bit as beautiful as I knew it would be. I feel the quiet presence of his craftsmanship and skill in every small detail. Such an honor to work with an artisan of this skill.

I'll put pictures below. A note for deluxe backers: I had written at the outset that Gray and I would sign the deluxes, but he let me know a while back that he *never* signs books. His standard practice is to place his wee and discreet binder’s label near the gutter on the rear endpapers, so that’s what we’ll do with this edition, too.

It looks as if we’ll have bound copies of the standard edition arriving at Penmor around the middle of the month, so we’ll be mailing out out as soon as we can. First batch of 25 deluxes still on schedule for December mailing, too. Those of you who ordered both a deluxe and a standard will be getting those together in one box, at the time the deluxes mail out.

Thanks again for helping to bring this book into the world.

Here's an overall shot of the deluxe spine and covers. Yummy Nigerian goatskin.
I had Owosso make a laser-engraved brass die for Gray to use in foil-stamping the center artwork. They did a fantastic job and Gray’s stamping is superb (way better than my photo quality). The two author names were set in Metrolite by Michael Babcock on his Linotype machine. He then sent the slugs to Gray to use for direct stamping. What I like about this is that the spine art is 100% authentic Dwiggins: his hand-lettered artwork made for the 1948 Waak cover (re-purposed to go here), and the top and bottom names are made directly from slugs cast in his hot-metal Metro. (The only non-WAD bit is that I made the double hyphens in the main title.).)
And here's a peek at the endpapers. Dwiggins had a major interest in Sinbad. During the mid-1920s he issued a series of prints through the fictional Society of Calligraphers that depicted various scenes from Sinbad’s voyages. (Several of these are reproduced in the Athalinthia book.) What you see on the endpapers is the mural that Dwiggins painted for the dining room wall in their house in Hingham. His idea of what Sinbad’s home port would look like. I was utterly charmed when I went to use this for the endpapers, worried about how I might have to crop it, and the aspect ratio of the mural was almost exactly that of the endpapers! For fifty years, this mural has been on display at the Boston Public Library, mounted on the wall of one of the three rooms devoted to exhibiting all things Dwiggins. Sadly, in their recent renovation of the special collections area, the BPL management decided that Dwiggins was not that important, so they eliminated those three rooms. I’m very disappointed about this development, but at least the image gets to appear here, in our book.

T-shirts on their way to recipients
5 months ago – Thu, Nov 03, 2022 at 11:23:52 AM

Hello All,

Jim Jackson, the screen printer in Dwiggins’s home town of Cambridge, Ohio, has finished the run of T-shirts. He mailed them out yesterday, so those of you who ordered them should see your packages at the end of this week, or beginning of next week latest.

The mixing station, where Jim worked carefully to get both colors just right.
One of the finished shirts.

Notes on Page Layout (Part II)
5 months ago – Sat, Oct 29, 2022 at 11:08:59 PM

Given the wide range of format styles In WAD’s own productions, how should I reconcile those while keeping the new production “his” in spirit as much as possible? My design responsibility was to set up pages that reflected this spirit, but with Caledonia as the typeface through the full production. (For those unfamiliar with Dwiggins’s Caledonia type, he based this 1939 design for Linotype on the family of types generally known as Scotch Roman, which includes the Bulmer types he admired so much.) In addition, I needed to include running heads to identify the eleven different stories in the book and provide navigational cues for the reader. Finally, I wanted to make it easy to add as many illustrations as I could manage from the major trove I had discovered in the files of the Dwiggins Collection, and to do so in various sizes and in varying locations on the pages.

Here is a new spread that I typeset, following Dwiggins’s 1928 design, but now composed in 11-point Caledonia on 13-point linespacing. This copies the layout he planned for composition in Bulmer type. The type page feels very dense to me, and a bit challenging to read.
This is somewhat better: still 11 Caledonia but linespacing has been increased to 14-point, providing a bit more air between the lines. Note that there is a spatial problem at the head of the page: when the story title is placed between the centered folio (page number) and the gutter margin, it feels very cramped. Fine for “Syrillion” but not so good for “The Drums of Kalkapan.”

Next, I explored Dwiggins’s ideas from late 1943:

WAD’s Athalinthia layout from 1943. Again, very generous margins. He calls for the text to be set in his Electra type (released by Linotype in 1935), in 12-point body on 13-point linespacing, with the result that there is very little space between the lines. There are folios on both pages, and the running heads are now set in small caps; looks fine for [PROLOGUE but will cause a problem for something like [JADE CARVED FLAMEWISE.
My execution of WAD’s 1943 specs, but using 11 Caledonia in place of 12 Electra. The typeset matter still feels very dense. The centered folios up top are fine, but there’s the same problem with the story title being placed between the folio and the inner edge of the text block.

Following the progression of Dwiggins’s own publication designs, I next made a trial setup that imitated WAD’s 1948 Waak layout, substituting Caledonia for the foundry Bulmer that had been set and printed by Abbe.

WAD’s “Waak” layout, replacing Bulmer with Caledonia. This looks nice, with good space for illustrations, but the type feels smallish. Running heads up at the top work well.
Next, I retained WAD’s “Waak” layout in all other respects, but increased the size of the type to 10.5-point on 15-point linespacing. That gives us three fewer lines of typeset matter per page, but the size is more comfortable for reading and feels like the appropriate scale for this page size.

And finally, my emulation of the 1950 Glistening Hill pages.

This is the “Glistening” format with 12 Caledonia in the place of the 12 Winchester English. The type feels quite big for such a small page; also, larger type would force the book to go to more pages, which would in turn make it more expensive for the backers. The folios/page numbers set in the side margins will cause complications as I insert illustrations.
Retaining the margins of the “Glistening” layout, I reduced the body size of the Caledonia to 10.5-point on 15-point linespacing. This feels in better balance with the page size. I’m not liking the running heads up top, though. Dwiggins’s format design for this book did not have heads at all, so he needed little space at the top. However, the new book must have running heads. The one I have added here is an echo of a treatment WAD used elsewhere, but it feels way too cramped. Using running feet at the bottom of the page (where there is space galore) feels like too much of a departure from what he generally liked to do, so that’s not an option.

Considering all of the foregoing, what qualities from WAD’s designs could I incorporate to reach my goals? The body size of 10.5 seems good, and setting the type on a 15-point linespacing gives enough lightness of color to the page, while still remaining fairly economical. (I really wanted to keep production costs down as much as I could.) Wide margins are in order, since that reflects WAD’s own design preferences, and that gives plenty of room and placement flexibility for illustrations. In a book with eleven stories, the running heads provide clear navigation, and I like WAD’s choice in Waak to have a folio on one side, and the story title on the other. Here’s my final scheme:

This is the page layout you’ll see when your copy of the book arrives.

I reached this decision back in late fall of 2021, and then spent the spring and summer months fleshing out the full book with eleven stories, my afterword, and around 120 illustrations. I can report that this format was a pleasure to work with, and it feels as if it is a solid continuation of what WAD designed earlier.

(Note: I did not consider the formats for A Children’s Sampler and the “Scheme for a book” proposal because those did not use the 5-3/4” x 7-1/2” trim size favored by Dwiggins and Abbe that I knew I’d be using for the 2023 book.)

Hope this has been illuminating for a few of you.