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Written & designed by Bruce Kennett. The first comprehensive biography of one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century.
Written & designed by Bruce Kennett. The first comprehensive biography of one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century.
1,059 backers pledged $171,574 to help bring this project to life.

Off Press!

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Original artwork, hand-lettered by W. A. Dwiggins for an S. D. Warren brochure, 1936.
Original artwork, hand-lettered by W. A. Dwiggins for an S. D. Warren brochure, 1936.

“How will it print?”

That’s the question posed by W. A. Dwiggins’s lettering in a 1936 brochure for the S. D. Warren paper company.

Today, we can answer that question … at least for our book. W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design was on press this week, and author Bruce Kennett and publisher Rob Saunders were on hand for press checks.

Bruce Kennett and Rob Saunders on press at Penmor Lithographers.
Bruce Kennett and Rob Saunders on press at Penmor Lithographers.

The job was completed at Penmor Lithographers, a premier printer whose book work includes the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Smith College Museum of Art. They are located in Maine, not too far from Dwiggins’s New England stomping grounds. The paper is also historically tied to Dwiggins. Sappi Opus is a successor to Lustro from Warren’s, the company for whom Dwiggins produced countless promotions, and the endpapers are from Strathmore, who was also a frequent Dwiggins client. (Many of these promotional pieces for Warren and Strathmore are shown in the book). Soon, the pages will be Smyth sewn and casebound at Acme Bookbinding in Massachusetts. When the process is complete the books will have been manufactured entirely in the USA, a fitting life cycle for this truly American designer.

Bruce and Penmor go way back. “It’s been exciting to work on this. We’ve known Bruce for years and have done a lot of work with him,” said Penmor President, Paul Fillion. “But he really lit up when it was decided the book could be printed locally. It means a lot to him and so it means a lot to us. We take a lot of pride in this project.”

Paul and Joe Fillion of Penmor Lithographers.
Paul and Joe Fillion of Penmor Lithographers.

Joe Fillion, Paul’s father, is Penmor’s Chairman of the Board and has his own relationship with Dwiggins. Joe has been in the trade since 1954, and like many printers of books and magazines during that era, he knew the designer through his typefaces. “We used a lot of Caledonia,” Joe told us. “In the 1950s and ’60s it was called for maybe 80% of the time.”

“This book has created a lot of conversation,” Joe added. “I have a relative who told a friend about the project, and this guy jumped up and started talking all about Dwiggins and his legacy.”

Bruce and Wayne Fillion, Penmor’s Director of Prepress.
Bruce and Wayne Fillion, Penmor’s Director of Prepress.

Penmor was glad to use stochastic screening for the book. “The process gives sharper detail and smoother transitions,” Paul said, making it ideal for the original artwork that is so prevalent in the book. “It’s also well-suited for the many examples of pre-printed imagery, because it prevents moiré patterns that can sometimes result from re-screening halftones.”

The eight-tower Komori press at Penmor.
The eight-tower Komori press at Penmor.

Bruce and Rob were wowed by the performance of Penmor’s state-of-the-art UV press, an eight-tower Komori set for perfecting (i.e. printing both sides of sheet in one pass), with automatic density control and automatic plate hanging. We arranged for a special making order of the paper so the grain runs parallel to the spine (for comfortable handling in the finished book), and each sheet folds into a sixteen-page signature with no waste. The process was fast and smooth. “It was approximately forty-five minutes between press checks: thirty minutes running time, and fifteen minutes to set up for the next sheet,” Rob said, comparing to his prior experience as the proprietor of Picture Book Studio. “The setup, hanging plates and bringing the press up to color, used to take over an hour in the old days, wasting three or four times as much paper.”

Paper is special making order, so the grain is parallel to the spine, and one sheet folds into one signature.
Paper is special making order, so the grain is parallel to the spine, and one sheet folds into one signature.

 

Two signatures on a skid.
Two signatures on a skid.

So how did it print? Very well, thank you very much. We can’t wait to get it in your hands; and now we don’t have to wait much longer. The Standard edition toward the end of January, and the Deluxe will follow in February. 

Bruce collating letterpress portfolios in between press checks.
Bruce collating letterpress portfolios in between press checks.

 

Custom-made bumper boxes, designed to protect the Dwiggins books on all sides as they are shipped to subscribers.
Custom-made bumper boxes, designed to protect the Dwiggins books on all sides as they are shipped to subscribers.

Thank you again for your patience and support, and we hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Sean Donnelly, Patti Adams, and 25 more people like this update.

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    1. LetterformArchive 2-time creator on

      We appreciate the kind words of support, Urbain!

    2. Urbain du Plessis
      Superbacker
      on

      Thanks for these wonderful updates.

      I love books and this enhances not only the specific case but my overall appreciation of the craftsmanship associated with the creation of books.

      Once again thanks for doing something as well as it can be - every detail really does matter, maybe not always to everyone but thanks to Kickstarter and dedicated people like yourselves we can enjoy the results of excellence in action!