Dedicated to the legacy of Edward Stratemeyer, author & founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate

What the Font — 1950s Nancy Drew

Part 1 of this series explored Stratemeyer Syndicate series book typefaces of the 1920s through the mid-1940s.

In 1946 the appearance of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew  were changed dramatically.  The dust jackets adopted a new design which collectors call a “wraparound” dust jacket.  The illustration is wider and starts on the front panel and continues to form a background for the spine of the jacket.

The art director of Grosset & Dunlap, who joined the firm around 1944, was Anthony Philip “Ted” Tedesco.  He graduated from Harvard in 1923.  He worked with a Boston advertising company and Doubleday, Doran as its art director until 1944.  In his new role at Grosset & Dunlap, he led projects to redesign many books on the publisher’s backlist and new volumes in the juvenile series. 

During World War II there were many restrictions on the materials used to produce books.  This included paper, copper for electrotype printing plates, lead for line casting (Linotype), chlorine for processing paper, and cloth for book covers.  Each of these materials was needed for the wartime effort and were rationed by the War Production Board.  Grosset & Dunlap books published in 1943, 1944, and part of 1945 routinely had a message like this on the title page and sometimes the dust jacket:

High-acid wood pulp paper was used on most Grosset & Dunlap books starting in 1942 and continuing for years after the war into 1948.  This paper, much like newsprint paper, turns brown and brittle as it is exposed to heat, light, and air.  How brown and brittle it becomes depends on its exposure.

National support for the war effort in the United States and elsewhere meant that many products did not change dramatically.  However, after the war, there was consumer interest in new things, including newly packaged products such as books.  Changing the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series in 1946 was a reflection of the publisher’s response to the demand they perceived.  Here are the jacket designs for the 1945 and 1946 Nancy Drew titles and one can see the dramatic change from the “white spine” jacket format with hand lettering of the title on the artwork to the “wraparound” dust jacket design with typeset titles.

The change was significant.  In Tedesco’s book on The Relationship Between Type and Illustration on Books and Book Jackets (1948), he noted that a redesign of the cover and page layout for a book could double the sales of the new edition.  In that slender volume he noted some of the typefaces used in the new designs.

Lydian typeface from The Kingsport Book of Type Faces, volume 3, Display Faces (1960).

The new typeface for the Nancy Drew titles was Lydian Bold, designed by Warren Chappell in 1938 for the American Type Foundry, a supplier of metal type for printing.  It was named for his wife, Lydia, and was part of a small family of typefaces that were used on several books in the middle of the Twentieth Century, including the Vicki Barr series also published by Grosset & Dunlap.

The choice to use a typeface for the titles was combined with a change that separated the lettering from the cover art.  The lettering was placed on a separate plastic sheet and this was used with the artwork to produce the printing plate for each of the four process colors. 

One of the reasons for separating the title from the artwork was to permit updates in the lettering type, or even changes in the title, at a later date.  Even more importantly, Grosset & Dunlap was beginning to license foreign publishers the opportunity to translate and publish books they handled in other countries.  An early example of this is DAMM of Norway who inquired about publishing Nancy Drew and Dana Girls books in the fall of 1945.  They used different cover art by local artists for their editions and Nancy Drew was a successful series there.  However, if G&D could provide artwork to a publisher where printing plates with a local title could be produced, it would lower costs, especially if G&D could supply copies of the electrotype plates without the lettering and the foreign publisher only needed to add a plate with the title in the local language.

Today, modern inkjet printers and other four-color printing methods use CMYK — Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black.  An example of color separation can be seen below with the four colors.  These are considered to be complementary secondary colors and nearly any color can be produced on paper from them.

These need to be printed in a specific order on the surface.  To ensure that the product will be reproduced as expected, proof prints are created that show individual colors and combinations of 2, 3, or all 4 colors.  This way, if one of the plates needs a slight change, such as tooling the surface, or the color separation plate needs to be remade, it can be seen where the work is required.

This is a printer’s proof from a late Nancy Drew dust jacket published in 1959.  It is a stack of paper with the color samples printed singly or in combination.  It was obtained from the artist, Rudy Nappi and was signed by him on the bottom edge.

Of particular note is the difference of two of the colors.  Instead of Cyan, it uses Blue.  Red is used instead of Magenta.  Indeed, the printing plates made for books produced during this period state this.  This copper electrotype printing plate from a private collection for the dust jacket of A Three-Cornered Mystery in the reissue of the Dana Girls series, is marked as a plate for Blue ink along the bottom edge, outside the crop box.

Obviously, if halftone process printing plates designed for Red-Blue-Yellow-Black ink are used with different colors of ink such as Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black, the final product can be very different.  Similarly, if the colors are printed in an order other from what is prescribed, the result can be different from what is desired or expected.

The page layout and typeface selection inside the books also changed.  Instead of De Vinne which was used on Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew volumes since the beginning of those series in 1927 and 1930, an even older typeface was selected called Baskerville.  It was designed in the 1750s by John Baskerville.  It is considered to be a “transitional” typeface between classical and modern designs.  Note the difference in the shape of the capital letter Q between Baskerville and De Vinne.  There are other differences, of course.

Baskerville typeface used on several Grosset & Dunlap series beginning in the 1940s.

As with De Vinne, it is possible to get computer fonts that implement these metal typeface designs.  Both Lydian and Baskerville can be downloaded and installed.  Sometimes these are available in multiple versions and styles.

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Keeline

James D. Keeline has been researching Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate since 1988. He has written many dozens of articles and conference presentations on these topics and has several books in progress, including a Series Book Encyclopedia, a full biography of Edward Stratemeyer, and Stratemeyer Syndicate Ghostwriters. He has also edited and published several Stratemeyer texts in illustrated and annotated editions under the 24 Palmer Street Press imprint at Lulu.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Jack Hastings Jack Hastings
    August 20, 2018    

    By sheer coincidence I had been researching alphabets and fonts over the past several weeks as I wished to accurately describe a portion of the endpapers of several series books. At the very least, I wanted to determine if the alphabet was Greek or Roman. As I was unable to identify the alphabet or the fort, I chose a different approach and described the letters and characters as decorative letters and symbols. I admit that I felt rather foolish when I realized that one of the characters was actually the symbol for pi. Perhaps, because I had been visiting so many alphabet and font sites my computer decided that I would be interested in your two recent postings relating to fonts that arrived in my mail box out of the blue. I am not sorry that I received these two blogs as I learned some bits of information that may be useful. Sincere regards, Jack

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