WAD's Marionettes

When I was working on an exhibition of W.A. Dwiggins’ design (download keepsake here) with Louise Fili and Dorothy Abbe, the most enjoyable discoveries were his marionettes and basement theater in his studio in Hingham, Mass. Dwig or WAD designed everything from the light fixtures and shades to the tickets to the scenery to the stage itself. And, of course, the finely crafted and often quite comic, fully articulated marionettes were the principal feature. All this was beautifully documented in The Dwiggins Marionettes: A Complete Experimental Theater in Miniature published by Harry N. Abrams in 1970, and sadly long out of print and quite rare.

Yet anyone visiting Boston can view some of the characters as well as an amber-encased replication of his studio and tools in three separate rooms in the Boston Public Library. Dwiggins was an essential member of the Boston book-builders establishment, and this reliquary is a testament to that. Here is a description of Dwig’s and Dorothy Abbe’s, his colleague and friend, BPL collections.

DWIGGINS (WILLIAM ADDISON) COLLECTION:  Received in 1967 as a gift from the widow of William Addison Dwiggins, noted typographer, book designer, and illustrator, this collection encompasses “all products, examples, and tools” of Dwiggins’ “art activities.” His famous marionette theatre and hand-made marionettes are exhibited in two rooms. His workbench and tools, self-designed and manufactured furniture, original drawings for 19 typefaces, and more than 400 sketches for his book illustrations and typographic icons, 300 books designed by Dwiggins, correspondence, layouts, job folders, and memorabilia complete the collections. An inventory to the printed collection is available; the manuscripts can be located in the on-line catalog.

ABBE (DOROTHY) COLLECTION:  This collection represents the life’s work of Dorothy Abbe, printer, graphic designer and photographer, who with William Addison Dwiggins founded and ran the Püterschein-Hingham Press (1947-1956) in Hingham, Massachusetts. After his death, Abbe lectured widely on behalf of Dwiggins and published two important books on him and his work. She also widely collected fine press book from other printers of her generation. Along with these works is her correspondence with the various printers, book designers and photographers. This voluminous collection complements and completes the department’s Dwiggins collection.

Boston Public Library / Collections / Rare Books Department / 3rd Floor, McKim Building, Central Library / 617-859-2225

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2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great post, I’m always surprised people haven’t heard of him since he coined the term “graphic designer”.
    I researched and designed a book on Dwiggins for my final design project for my undergraduate degree and I loved that he kept up so many hobbies alongside his design work. I always wondered what the miniature marionette of him looked like.