Towards a Reform of the Paper Currency:

particularly in point of its design

The great American type and book designer W.A. Dwiggins never much liked our currency and harbored particular disdain for the US Printing Office, which he considered little better than a hack service operation that showed little evidence of taste or graphic sensibility. All through the twenties, this prejudice festered until in 1932, at the very depth of the Great Depression, he convinced George Macy, the founder and primum mobile of the Limited Editions Club, to print a little manifesto he had put together on how everything from the paper money to the design of stamps in this country could be improved. Macy reluctantly agreed, on the condition that he would print only as many copies as their customers might order. The count came in at 522, and the legendary critique was issued.

Michael Russem at the Kat Ran Press has issued this classic of graphic revisionism, incorporating all the material included in Dwiggins’ original as well as a new Introduction by Bruce Kennett, facsimiles of the American paper currency in 1928 which he found so objectionable, and reproductions of the period stamps he so disliked. The currency is still as lousy as ever, although the stamps have shown a marked improvement. And Dwiggins’ text, articulate, opinionated, convincing, reads as well today as it did 73 years ago.

William Addison Dwiggins was one of the most important print designers of the twentieth century. He is credited with coining the now ubiquitous term “graphic designer” to describe a person who, like himself, was involved in various aspects of printed design, including typography, illustration, calligraphy, and book design. He also created several widely-used typefaces, including Electra and Caledonia. The highest award of the Bookbuilders of Boston is named the W.A. Dwiggins Award in his honor.