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About this project

Designed for the cover of “American Alphabets,” 1930
Designed for the cover of “American Alphabets,” 1930

UPDATE:

Help us reach our stretch goal — $175,000 — to digitize the rarest Dwiggins items in our collection and make these available to his fans around the world. Read more here. 

William Addison Dwiggins (1880–1956) was among the most influential and innovative designers of the early twentieth century. He was a master calligrapher, type designer, illustrator, private press printer, and a pioneer of advertising, magazine, and book design. In short, he was the quintessential maker — fabricating his own tools, mastering traditional skills, inventing new techniques, and experimenting with design in areas as wide-ranging as modular ornament, stamps, currency, furniture, kites, marionettes, and theatrical sets and lighting. More than any of his contemporaries, Dwiggins united the full range of applied arts into a single profession: designer.

Despite this, a comprehensive biography of Dwiggins has never been published, and too few contemporary designers and design enthusiasts are familiar with the full scope and remarkable creativity of Dwiggins’s work. With your help, we will change that!

W. A. Dwiggins, 1941. Photograph by Robert Yarnall Richie.
W. A. Dwiggins, 1941. Photograph by Robert Yarnall Richie.

The Book

W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design will offer an engaging and inspiring overview of the designer’s wide-ranging creative output and lasting impact on the graphic arts. Bruce Kennett’s careful research, warm prose, and inclusion of numerous personal accounts from Dwiggins’s friends and contemporaries portray not only a brilliant designer, but a truly likable character. 

Labels designed by Dwiggins for the spines of a five-volume publication, Limited Editions Club, 1936
Labels designed by Dwiggins for the spines of a five-volume publication, Limited Editions Club, 1936

  

Detail of Dwiggins’s stencil illustration for “Treasure in the Forest,” H. G. Wells, 1936
Detail of Dwiggins’s stencil illustration for “Treasure in the Forest,” H. G. Wells, 1936

 

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Advance Praise for W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design

“A book to spend a year with. This book is many things, but most of all it is proof positive that if there is any doubt about the origin theory of graphic design, Dwiggins did more to promote, diversify, and integrate the graphic, typographic, and printing-arts disciplines than anyone of his generation.” — Steven Heller, author, art director, and design historian 

“One of the many strengths of this book is that it deals both with Dwiggins’s familiar typefaces — Metro, Electra, Caledonia — and with his less well-known types, illustrated with drawings or trial cuttings. The result is the most complete conspectus we have of an extraordinary variety of type designs, and an appreciation of Dwiggins’s virtuosity in full flower.” — Matthew Carter, type designer 

“To call W. A. Dwiggins a consummate American type designer, calligrapher, book designer, and illustrator is just to get started. Gifted with a superb literary sensibility and a flair for the dramatic, he wrote plays, stories, and crafted marionettes in a theater of his own devising […]. Bruce Kennett has brought Dwiggins to life in this impeccably written and designed biography.”  — Carl Rollyson, biographer of Susan Sontag, Thurgood Marshall, and Rebecca West, among others

Dwiggins’s radical explora­tions in marionette theater stand even today as a remarkable contribution to the field. Puppeteers and puppet-interested audiences around the world will be excited and inspired by Kennett’s perceptive analysis of Dwiggins’s essential puppet modernism.” — John Bell, puppeteer and theater historian

W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design reminds us that living is an art. Bruce Kennett has written and designed a highly satisfying account of the life of the graphic artist and designer that fuses the life and work in a way that Dwiggins himself would have appreciated.” — Stephen Enniss, Director, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin

Dwiggins, cover sketch for his book “Bronabejjia” (never published), 1950
Dwiggins, cover sketch for his book “Bronabejjia” (never published), 1950

 

Dust jacket of “Marionette in Motion,” Dwiggins’s handbook for engineering and construction, 1939, with one of his marionettes, mid-1930s
Dust jacket of “Marionette in Motion,” Dwiggins’s handbook for engineering and construction, 1939, with one of his marionettes, mid-1930s

 

Sample engraved banknote Dwiggins designed for “Towards a Reform of the Paper Currency,” 1932
Sample engraved banknote Dwiggins designed for “Towards a Reform of the Paper Currency,” 1932

 

Dwiggins’s stencil studies for Thomas Dreier, “The Power of Print—and Men,” Mergenthaler Linotype Company, 1936
Dwiggins’s stencil studies for Thomas Dreier, “The Power of Print—and Men,” Mergenthaler Linotype Company, 1936

Production Details

W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design will be produced in standard and deluxe editions. Both will be 9 × 11 inches, with 480 pages including end notes and index, 88,000 words, 1200 illustrations, printed full color throughout with stochastic screening on Sappi Opus paper, Smyth sewn and manufactured entirely in the USA.

The standard edition will be case bound with photographic covers and satin mylar lamination.

The deluxe edition will include a specially bound version of the book, accompanied by a signed and numbered letterpress portfolio, housed together in a slipcase. The deluxe book will be bound in Dwiggins-designed decorated paper over boards and a genuine leather spine stamped with Dwiggins ornaments and hand lettering by Richard Lipton.

PLEASE NOTE: The print run of the deluxe edition will be based on the number of orders received from March 28 – April 28, 2017. After April 28, 2017, it will no longer be possible to order a copy of the deluxe edition.

Sample spreads from “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design”
Sample spreads from “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design”

Special Features

Letterpress Portfolio of Dwiggins’s Writings

Dwiggins’s visual inventiveness was matched by his verbal wit, and he left behind a number of charming stories and playful but potent essays that helped to define the fields of graphic, advertising, and book design. Using original Dwiggins typefaces for each piece, the portfolio will contain twenty pages of Dwiggins’s writings (some never before published), printed letterpress from Linotype cast metal slugs, and housed in a handsome portfolio that will accompany the deluxe edition of the book. 

The texts — five essays and two works of fiction, plus a title page and colophon — will be set on the Linotype in Dwiggins’s Caledonia, Electra, Eldorado, Metro, and the very rare Falcon, accompanied by an assortment of Caravan ornaments. Twenty-two illustrations, hand-lettered titles, and decorated initials (all made from original Dwiggins pen-and-ink artwork in the files of Boston Public Library) accompany the text, reproduced via high-quality copper photoengravings. The portfolio pages will be printed by letterpress on Mohawk Superfine, in single sheets and four-page folders. The colophon page will be signed by all members of the letterpress production team. The outer portfolio, made from Strathmore Grandee cover, will feature a Dwiggins ornament blind-embossed on the front cover. 

The author and publisher feel it is important for readers to see Dwiggins’s hot-metal types printed in the process for which they were designed. To capture the true typographic color of Dwiggins’s type designs and the impress of the letterpress printing, the pages of the letterpress portfolio will be photographed with raking light, then reproduced in offset using stochastic screening in both the standard and deluxe editions. 

Prototype of the letterpress portfolio that will accompany the deluxe edition
Prototype of the letterpress portfolio that will accompany the deluxe edition

New Digital Electra

To commemorate and renew Dwiggins’s contribution to twentieth-century typography, we have commissioned a revival of Electra, one his most important typefaces. Referring directly to authentic Linotype drawings in the collections of Letterform Archive and the Boston Public Library, master letterer and type designer Jim Parkinson digitally restored the sturdy yet elegant shapes, readability, and vigor of the metal original. Not only is this new Electra used for the book, but backers at certain levels will receive a commercial license for the three fonts: roman with small caps, italic (sloped roman), and cursive.

Original drawing for Dwiggins’s Electra typeface, 1930s (left), and Jim Parkinson’s process sketch, 2016 (right)
Original drawing for Dwiggins’s Electra typeface, 1930s (left), and Jim Parkinson’s process sketch, 2016 (right)

Additional Rewards

Backers at certain levels may elect to receive one or more of the following rewards:

Set of Postcards Featuring Dwiggins Illustrations and Designs

A set of nine generously sized (5 × 7 inch) postcards featuring an array of Dwiggins’s designs and illustrations. Perfect for display or correspondence, the postcards will use the same reproduction quality and printing technology as the book.

Set of nine postcards available as an additional reward for backers at certain levels
Set of nine postcards available as an additional reward for backers at certain levels

 Linotype Slug

A little piece of printing history. A paper weight. The perfect gift for someone who has everything. A token of our appreciation. Backers at certain levels will receive a Linotype slug used in the printing of the letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings that accompanies the deluxe edition of this book. 

Page proof from letterpress portfolio with Linotype slug
Page proof from letterpress portfolio with Linotype slug

Engravings

The letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings will be illustrated with twenty-two of his designs and illustrations, printed from copper photoengravings. These engravings — themselves beautiful, unique objects — will be available to backers at a premium level on a first-come-first-served basis. (Note: the engravings vary in size.)

Selection of copper photoengravings used to illustrate the letterpress portfolio
Selection of copper photoengravings used to illustrate the letterpress portfolio

Backstory

Bruce Kennett inserting a Linotype slug into a galley of type for the letterpress portfolio
Bruce Kennett inserting a Linotype slug into a galley of type for the letterpress portfolio

Author Bruce Kennett discovered the work of W. A. Dwiggins in 1972 and has drawn inspiration from it ever since, writing articles, essays, and lecturing widely about the man and his many talents. Bruce has been working steadily on this book since 2003. Letterform Archive’s founder Rob Saunders has been collecting Dwiggins since the 1970s, making the Archive’s collection one of the most comprehensive in the world. Two years ago, Kennett and Saunders joined forces in a united desire to produce a thorough overview of Dwiggins’s life and a complete chronicle of his work across a range of different arts. Using material from the collections of Letterform Archive, the Boston Public Library, and Kennett’s private holdings, this lavishly illustrated book will celebrate Dwiggins’s remarkable output using the most advanced photography and printing technology available.

Letterform Archive Reading Room, San Francisco, CA
Letterform Archive Reading Room, San Francisco, CA

 

W. A. Dwiggins in his studio, 1940s
W. A. Dwiggins in his studio, 1940s

 

W. A. Dwiggins, childhood drawing, late 1880s
W. A. Dwiggins, childhood drawing, late 1880s

 

Project Credits    

EDITORIAL

Bruce Kennett (author/designer) is a designer of books and exhibits, photographer, writer, and teacher. He studied calligraphy and book design with Austrian artist Friedrich Neugebauer, and later translated Neugebauer’s book The Mystic Art of Written Forms. Kennett also served as manager and book designer at Maine’s Anthoensen Press. His client list ranges from the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Grolier Club to L.L.Bean and the Mount Washington Observatory.  

Steven Heller (contributor) is cochair of the MFA Design: Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). He is the author or coauthor of over 170 books on design and popular culture, including biographies of Paul Rand and Alvin Lustig. 

Rob Saunders (publisher) is a designer, teacher, and management consultant with a lifelong interest in the letter arts. Rob taught at The Museum School in Boston, then published graphic design and children’s books through the Alphabet Press, Picture Book Studio, and Rabbit Ears Books imprints. After forty years of collecting graphic design and lettering, he founded Letterform Archive to make the collection available to students, designers, and admirers of the letter arts. 

Jennifer Sime (associate publisher) combines curatorial, publishing, and management expertise, having worked at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, William Stout Publishers, and — just prior to joining Letterform Archive last October — as executive director of the Book Club of California. 

Doris Troy (editor) brings decades of experience in copyediting and proofing books, magazines, catalogs, newsletters, and menus. 

This chart, from a 1919 Dwiggins essay on book production, is a good example of his wit
This chart, from a 1919 Dwiggins essay on book production, is a good example of his wit

BOOK PRODUCTION

Penmor Lithographers (printer) of Maine is a leading printer for education, fine arts, financial, and commercial clients. 

AcmeBinding (binder) has been central to Boston publishing since 1821, offering edition binding for trade publishers, hand binding, book restoration, and library services. 

Jim Parkinson (type designer) has been designing letterforms professionally for over fifty years, starting as a lettering artist for Hallmark Cards in 1964. Parkinson’s digital revival of Dwiggins’s Electra typeface was commissioned expressly for use in this book.

Richard Lipton (lettering artist) is a calligrapher and type designer associated with Font Bureau and Type Network. He teaches at Rhode Island School of Design. Richard will hand letter the spine of the deluxe edition.

Prototype dummies of standard (left) and deluxe (right) editions. Spine designs not yet completed
Prototype dummies of standard (left) and deluxe (right) editions. Spine designs not yet completed

LETTERPRESS PORTFOLIO PRODUCTION

Michael Babcock (Linotype compositor) is founder of interrobang letterpress, a traditional hot-metal printing shop. Michael will provide composition in Dwiggins’s Metro, Electra, Caledonia, Eldorado, and Caravan decorative units. 

Andrew Steeves (Linotype compositor) is a designer and printer of books, a writer, and a founder of Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Press. Andrew will provide composition in Dwiggins’s Falcon types. 

Darrell Hyder (letterpress printer) is a designer, compositor, and printer in central Massachusetts. His Sun Hill Press has worked with libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions since the 1980s. Darrell will print the portfolio on his Heidelberg cylinder press. 

Thank you card for Dwiggins’s private press, Püterschein-Hingham, 1952
Thank you card for Dwiggins’s private press, Püterschein-Hingham, 1952

 VIDEO PRODUCTION

Joseph McMahon (josephdanielmcmahon.com), a freelance editor and director based in Minneapolis, edited the video.

Vitamin Productions (vitaminproductions.com), a digital video production company based in San Francisco, produced the video footage.

Andrew Foreman (andrewforemanmusic.com), a freelance bassist living in Minneapolis, provided the soundtrack, “Stella by Starlight” (with Ben Abrahamson and Zach Schmidt).

Sam Thompson (squawkproductions.com) created the modular ornament animation in the Kickstarter video, as well as the stand-alone animation of Dwiggins’s modular ornament process.

A spread from the chapter on Dwiggins’s marionettes
A spread from the chapter on Dwiggins’s marionettes

Press Materials

For high-res images, sample spreads, and a prospectus visit http://bit.ly/dwigginspress.

Project Schedule 

Fonts and licenses will be distributed in August 2017; all other rewards will ship with the books.

Book printing will begin in August 2017; binding in September 2017.

Standard edition books will ship October 2017.

Deluxe copies, each with a signed and numbered letterpress portfolio and handmade slipcase, will ship November 2017.

Risks and challenges

This book has been throughly researched, beautifully written and designed, carefully edited, and is in the final stages of development. In his work as a book designer, author Bruce Kennett has collaborated for more than thirty years with Penmor Lithographers and Acme Bookbinding, who will be printing and binding the book. This, combined with the extensive publishing experience of the team at Letterform Archive, will ensure the success of this project. We see very little risk for backers of this publication.

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    Postcards

    Backers at this level will receive a set of nine 5×7" postcards featuring illustrations and designs by Dwiggins, printed in color with the same high-precision stochastic technology used in the book.

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    New digital Electra fonts

    Designed by Dwiggins in the 1930s, the readable and lively Electra has been a popular book typeface for decades. Jim Parkinson lovingly revived the family in digital form for this book. Backers at this level will receive a commercial license for three fonts: roman with small caps, italic (sloped roman), and cursive.

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    The book

    Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition). 9×11 inches, 480 pages, 88,000 words, 1200 illustrations, hardcover, sewn construction, protective lamination.

    Includes:
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    • Acknowledgement in the published book
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    Book + Linotype slug

    Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition), accompanied by a Linotype slug used to print the letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings that accompanies the deluxe edition.

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    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition)
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    Book + postcards

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    Book + postcards + digital Electra fonts

    Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition), a set of nine postcards featuring Dwiggins designs and illustrations, and Jim Parkinson’s revival of Dwiggins’s Electra type (three digital fonts).

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition)
    • Set of nine postcards
    • Jim Parkinson’s Electra revival (three digital fonts)
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
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    Book + postcards + fonts + Linotype slug

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    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition)
    • Set of nine postcards
    • Jim Parkinson’s Electra revival (three digital fonts)
    • A Linotype slug used to print the letterpress portfolio
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    Two-book special (standard edition)

    Based on feedback from our amazing community of backers, we are adding an option for ordering two books at once. This is a good idea for multiple reasons: as type designer David Jonathan Ross advises: “Order two books because you’re going to drool all over the first.” Also, two books ship more efficiently than one. Order with a friend and cut your shipping costs in half. If you’ve already ordered but would like to upgrade, please do so now.

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    • Acknowledgement in the published book
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    Deluxe book

    Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition). The deluxe edition will be accompanied by a signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s essays and fiction, both housed together in a slipcase. NOTE: this edition will be limited to copies ordered by April 28, 2017.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
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    Deluxe book + postcards + fonts

    Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition) accompanied by a signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s essays and fiction, both housed together in a slipcase, plus a set of nine postcards featuring Dwiggins designs and illustrations, and Jim Parkinson’s revival of Dwiggins’s Electra type (three digital fonts)

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings
    • Set of nine postcards
    • Jim Parkinson’s Electra revival (three digital fonts)
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    Two-book "can't decide" special

    Can't decide on standard or deluxe? Order both! Also, two books ship more efficiently than one. Order with a friend and cut your shipping costs in half. If you’ve already ordered but would like to upgrade, please do so now.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
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    The Complete Deluxe Package w/ engraving

    Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition) accompanied by a signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s essays and fiction, both housed together in a slipcase. Backers at this level will also receive one of twenty-two copper photoengravings used to print the letterpress portfolio, Jim Parkinson’s revival of Dwiggins’s Electra type (three digital fonts), a set of nine postcards featuring illustrations and designs by Dwiggins, and a Linotype slug used to print the letterpress portfolio.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings
    • Photoengraving (1 of 22 blocks used to illustrate the portfolio)
    • Jim Parkinson’s Electra revival (three digital fonts)
    • Set of nine postcards
    • A Linotype slug used to print the letterpress portfolio
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    Two-book special (deluxe edition)

    Two books are better than one! Also, two books ship more efficiently. Order with a friend and cut your shipping costs in half. If you’ve already ordered but would like to upgrade, please do so now.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    Be our guest for dinner!

    You and your +1 will be our guests at a special dinner with the author and publisher after the publication party in either New York or San Francisco. Exact date TBD. Transportation not included.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings
    • Jim Parkinson’s Electra revival (three digital fonts)
    • Set of nine postcards
    • A Linotype slug used to print the letterpress portfolio
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    Cocktail reception for twenty

    You and your guests will be treated to a lavish cocktail reception at Letterform Archive’s beautiful San Francisco headquarters. Includes remarks and a thank you from the publisher, private tour, special exhibition of Dwiggins materials, food and drink for twenty people, and a commemorative keepsake for all attendees. Exact date TBD. Transportation not included.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings
    • Jim Parkinson’s Electra revival (three digital fonts)
    • Set of nine postcards
    • A Linotype slug used to print the letterpress portfolio
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    EARLY BACKER SPECIAL – Standard edition

    FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition) at the special discounted price. 9×11 inches, 480 pages, 88,000 words, 1200 illustrations, hardcover, sewn construction, protective lamination.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition)
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    EARLY BACKER two-book special

    Based on feedback from our amazing community of backers, we are adding an option for ordering two books at once. This is a good idea for multiple reasons: as type designer David Jonathan Ross advises: “Order two books because you’re going to drool all over the first.” Also, two books ship more efficiently than one. Order with a friend and cut your shipping costs in half. If you’ve already ordered but would like to upgrade, please do so now while we’re still offering the early bird pricing.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition)
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    EARLY BACKER SPECIAL – Deluxe edition

    FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Receive a copy of “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition) at the discounted price. The deluxe edition will be accompanied by a signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s essays and fiction, both housed together in a slipcase. NOTE: this edition will be limited to copies ordered by April 28, 2017.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Signed and numbered letterpress portfolio of Dwiggins’s writings
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
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    EARLY BACKER "can't decide" special

    Can't decide on standard or deluxe? Order both! Also, two books ship more efficiently than one. Order with a friend and cut your shipping costs in half. If you’ve already ordered but would like to upgrade, please do so now while we’re still offering the early bird pricing.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (standard edition)
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 2 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  23. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $590 or more About $590

    EARLY BACKER two-book special (deluxe)

    Based on feedback from our amazing community of backers, we are adding an option for ordering two books at once. This is a good idea for multiple reasons: as type designer David Jonathan Ross advises: “Order two books because you’re going to drool all over the first.” Also, two books ship more efficiently than one. Order with a friend and cut your shipping costs in half. If you’ve already ordered but would like to upgrade, please do so now while we’re still offering the early bird pricing.

    Includes:
    • “W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” (deluxe edition)
    • Acknowledgement in the published book
    • Thank you from the publisher
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 2 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.