MS Typ 897
Benson, John Howard, 1901-1956. John Howard Benson papers concerning The first writing
book, 1953-1955: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: MS Typ 897
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Benson, John Howard, 1901-1956.
Title: John Howard Benson papers concerning The first writing book,
Quantity: 1 collection (1 volume (.25 linear feet)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Holograph manuscripts, notes, and proofs concerning American artist John Benson's
The first writing book: an English translation and facsimile text of Arrighi's Operina,
the first manual of the chancery hand.
84M-201. Gift of Philip Hofer; received: 1954.
There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open
John Howard Benson Papers Concerning The First Writing Book, 1953-1955 (MS Typ 897). Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Benson was an American artist, calligrapher, sculptor, and designer of incised letters.
In 1955, he published an English translation and facsimile printing of Ludovico degli
Arrighi's Operina titled The first writing book: an English translation and facsimile text of Arrighi's Operina,
the first manual of the chancery hand, with introduction and notes by John Howard
Organized into the following series:
- I. Preliminary matter and notes
- II. Italian text and English translation of Arrighi's Operina
- III. Correspondence
Includes holograph manuscripts on the instruction for writing in calligraphy and chancery,
the joys of calligraphy, a translation of Arrhigi's Operina concerning handwriting
skills, notes for book including drafts of the foreword, dummy book binding, and proofs.
Collection also contains correspondence between Benson and Philip Hofer of the Houghton
Library concerning the production of the book, publishing the book, issues concerning
the title, and matters relating to Benson's work.
- Series: I. Preliminary matter and notes
- (1). Page listing the book as the, "Second of the Studies in the/History of Calligraphy/Harvard
College Library/Cambridge/The Newberry Library/Chicago. Page 1 (leaf manuscript).
- (2). Small piece of paper reading, "Studies in the History of Calligraphy," for printer
to produce the negative of it to print on title page (pg. 1) (leaf manuscript).
- (3). Title page top 3/4 of pg. 3 (leaf manuscript).
- (4). Small piece of paper reading, "Yale University Press/for/Harvard College Library/&
The Newberry Library. Bottom 1/4 of page 3. (leaf manuscript; imprint for first edition).
- (5). Copyright page, Dedication page and Acknowledgment page. Pp. (4-6) (leaf manuscript).
- (6). Foreword, by Philip Hofer, and Introduction pp., vii-xv (leaf manuscripts).
- (7). Notes, Bibliography and Colophon pp. 33-48 (leaf manuscripts).
- (8). Imprint for later edition, "Chiswick Book Shop/New York City/Yale University Press/New
Haven, Conn.," (leaf manuscript).
- (9). Imprint for later edition, "London/Oxford University Press/Geoffrey Cumberlege/New
Haven Yale University Press/1955," (leaf manuscript).
- (10). Imprint for later edition, "New Haven/Yale University Press/London, Geoffrey Cumberlege/Oxford
University Press," (leaf manuscript).
- (11). Page displaying the way Mr. Benson wanted the page numbers to appear on the Italian text.
- Series: II. Italian text and English translation of Arrighi's Operina
- (12). Title page for English translation, pg. 1 (leaf manuscript).
- (13). Title page for English translation, pg. 1 (practice sheet).
- (14). Content page for English translation, pg. 2 (leaf manuscript).
- (15). Content page for English translation, pg. 2 (practice sheet).
- (16). Slip of paper reading, "Virtue surely outdoes all things," (practice sheet for page 17).
- (17). Arrighi's Operina, pp. 3-32 (leaf manuscripts).
- (18). Blue cloth dummy binding with title on spine.
- (19). Proof of the first two pages of the book inside the dummy binding.
- Series: III. Correspondence
- (20). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson. Mr. Hofer tells Mr. Benson that in his office he found the silver medal Mr. Benson
designed for Yale, and is sending it to him. Mr. Hofer remarks that he had heard that
a show of writing books at Rhode Island School of Design had gone well and is glad
(Mr. Benson may have had something in it). Letter dated January 12, 1953.
- (21). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer stapled to the following letter. Explains he cannot meet at a time they had planned.
Proposes another day. Postmarked February 26, 1953.
- (22). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer to reschedule a date to meet. Letter dated February 27, 1953.
- (23). Note reading, "Benson/(unreadable word) Hayden. Wm. F./3-4-53/re: photos (?) project. No date.
- (24). Note to Ellie (Eleanor M. Garvey, Mr. Hofer's assistant) from C.E.J. saying that he/she had told Mr. Benson that Mr. Hofer will be back on the 25th, and for Ellie to make arrangements for a
meeting between the two.
- (25). Letter from Mr. Benson to William Jackson of the Houghton Library. Mr. Benson inquires if someone could arrange a meeting between
him and Mr. Hofer after he returns from a trip. Letter dated July 14, 1953.
- (26). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson telling Mr. Benson that Cambridge University press is, "eager for your manuscript."
Letter dated August 7, 1953.
- (27). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Benson writes asking Mr. Hofer to please send down the manuscript with his Foreword
so Mr. Arnold Banks, who is writing the introduction of the Newberry-Harvard edition, can read it. Postmarked
August 26, 1953
- (28). Letter from Eleanor M. Garvey to Mr. Benson telling him she is enclosing a copy of Mr. Hofer's introduction, "to your Arrighi book." (The First Writing Book) Letter dated August 29, 1953.
- (29). Three (3) typed copies of Mr. Hofer's Foreword to The First Writing Book, and a handwritten (final?) draft of the foreword. No date.
- (30). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson requesting that Mr. Benson consider putting a note on the title page of The First Writing Book that will explain the book is the second in a series of books on the History of Calligraphy
for Harvard. Mr. Benson explains why this would be helpful. Letter dated October 26,
- (31). Letter to Mr. Hofer from Mr. Benson in reply to the previous letter saying he would prefer that the page explaining that
the book is second in a series be put opposite the title page or on the first page
of the book. Mr. Benson tells Mr. Hofer that he has left a "dummy" of the book with
Cambridge, and implies that he has sent a dummy along with the letter to Mr. Hofer.
Letter dated November 5, 1953.
- (32). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson. Mr. Hofer apologizes for not returning the dummy that he had previously sent. Says
he is sending it with the letter. Mr. Hofer requests that the Harvard-Newberry notice
be put on page two, opposite the title page. Letter dated November 11, 1953.
- (33). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer saying he is sure he gave Mr. Hofer a first edition copy of The Instruments of Writing He says he is allowed in the shop some, but he is still ill. The two are stapled together.
Postmarked March 11, 1954.
- (34). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson. Mr. Hofer gives his regards to Mr. Benson, who is quite, "ailing." Mr. Hofer mentions
he cannot find a copy of the first edition of Mr. Benson's Instruments in Writing, but has received the second edition. Mr. Hofer says he has talked to Mansbridge in
New York and they will be cooperative. Then he says, "not only is it a matter of costs
in England being far lower for offset reproduction than in America," and that the
Cambridge press is uncomfortable producing a book for merchandise, which has no relation
to English or England. But Cambridge would be eager to have the book if there was
a way to get around the latter problem. Letter dated March 15, 1997.
- (35). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Benson tells him he will send up another copy of the first edition of The Instruments of Writing. He apologizes for the delay in publishing the Arrighi book. He says that there is
a unhappy misunderstanding between the two, for Mr. Benson thought they had agreed
to have Harold Hugo print a small edition on good paper. Mr. Benson states that he
is upset that they have not settled up, "on 1533 Arrighi." The limestone and silver
plate do not come up to its value." He then says he is saving the original manuscript,
and they should discuss the whole matter when he gets up to Boston next. Discusses
the shop's capability to run on its own although he's sick, and that he is not working
very much, but resting. Undated, but clearly precedes the next letter (37).
- (36). Slip of paper listing the prices of silver and limestone, as well as the price for
the manuscript and the notes. No date.
- (37). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson. Mr. Hofer makes it clear that Mr. Benson should rest and not worry about the book
at all. He mentions having suggested to the Fogg Museum that Mr. Benson's shop do
some plaques for them. Letter dated March 31, 1954.
- (38). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson. Mr. Hofer tells Mr. Benson that has directed several Harvard jobs to his shop, but
Mr. Benson needn't do the cutting, but just make a few suggestions. Letter dated April
- (39). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Benson thanks Mr. Hofer for the two recent jobs he sent down, and he has already
hand lettered them. He writes that his wife is going to drive him to Long Island for
a few days. Postmarked May 1, 1954
- (40). Postcard from Nancy (Mr. Benson's assistant) to Mr. Hofer saying that the shop won't be able to come up for a few weeks to inspect the walls
on which the plaques are to be hung on. She says that Mr. Benson feels that, "the
boxes will have to be put off." Dated and postmarked May 8, 1997.
- (41). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Benson tells Mr. Hofer that the shop is very backed up and busy, and he will not
be able to come up until the beginning of May. He mentions he still has the balance
of the Arrighi book on his mind. He says that he doesn't think he can handle the metal
plates for the two boxes right now as the shop is too busy. Letter dated May 8, 1997.
- (42). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Benson writes that the Yale University press sold the first 300 copies (of The First Writing Book) on Arches paper to the Chiswick Book Shop. He mentions he discussed with Herman
Cohen the possibility that Harvard and Newberry might each want to buy 100 copies.
He discusses some of the price possibilities and his royalties. Mr. Benson then asks
Mr. Hofer if he still wants the Newberry-Harvard notice on his copies, and if the
Yale notice should be removed. Letter dated June 1, 1954.
- (43). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson saying that he has offered the idea of a Newberry-Harvard notice to Mr. Stanley Pargellis, and thinks he will agree. Mr. Hofer also wrote he is satisfied to have
Yale's name on the title page. Letter dated June 3, 1954.
- (44). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer saying he has sent back his, "scribble," for the title page, etc. He writes that the
trade edition will not be out until Spring of 1955 so that the Limited Edition will
have a head start. He also agrees with Mr. Hofer's idea to keep the Newberry-Harvard
notice in the trade edition. Letter dated June 8, 1954.
- (45). The page of, "scribbles," for the title page, etc. that Mr. Benson had sent to Mr. Hofer that is mentioned in both letters 43 and 44.
- (46). Letter from Ms. Eleanor M. Garvey to Mr. Benson. Letter implies Mr. Benson wrote requesting to see Mr. Hofer on the sixteenth of June. She writes that he will have gone to his son's wedding on
the fifteenth and may not return until the sixteenth, but that Mr. Hofer will probably
rearrange things so they can meet. Letter dated June 9, 1954.
- (47). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Ms. Garvey thanking her for her note, but asking that Mr. Hofer doesn't, "upset his plans," for the sixteenth. Postmarked June 10, 1954.
- (48). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson. Mr. Hofer writes that he thinks the book is a superb masterpiece. He also writes that
he has heard from Herman Cohen that it is possible to print a special edition in sixteens,
with an added cost of fifty cents for a nice binding. He asks for Mr. Benson to send
the manuscript up so he can have it specially bound. Letter dated June 25, 1954.
- (49). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Benson agrees that the Arrighi book is going well, but suggests that he not number
the edition by hand. He lists his reasons why and expresses hope that Mr. Hofer will
agree with him. Letter dated June 29, 1954.
- (50). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Benson writes that he would gladly sign all the copies, and he thinks that will
solve the problem nicely. Postmarked July 1, 1954.
- (51). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. He writes that Oxford, Yale's representative will handle the trade edition. He also
writes that he is rechecking and rewriting some of the title pages, the copyright
and the colophon for the new edition. He says he will not be able to send up the manuscript
yet. Postmarked July 7, 1954.
- (52). Envelope and contents from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer. Includes the proofs of the title as it will appear on the spine, the title and the
subtitle pages. Includes a letter explaining the contents and excusing the lack of
clarity in some of the proofs. Mr. Benson says, "All the corrections have gone off
to Yale." Postmarked July 16, 1954.
- (53). Postcard from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer saying that Mr. Benson is glad that Mr. Hofer liked the proofs. Mr. Benson writes
that he has the draft of the prospectus and plans only to make minor changes. Postmarked
July 21, 1954.
- (54). Slip of paper from the Chiswick Book Shop to "Harold" (presumably E. Harold Hugo of the Meriden Gravure Company). The writer writes that is too bad that Yale has been
slow ordering the paper and therefore the book's schedule will be thrown off date.
The writer asks that the publication date in the book be changed to October 27, 1954.
Note dated August 24, 1954.
- (55). Letter from Mr. E. Harold Hugo to Mr. Hofer. Mr. Hugo writes that he is sending the proofs of the Harvard-Newberry title page.
He writes that he must wait and see if Mr. Benson agrees before he sends Mr. Hofer the Van Dyke proofs with John Benson's corrections.
Letter dated August 26, 1954.
- (56). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer asking him to send a prospectus to Daniel Sargent. He mentions that he is back in
bed again. Then Mr. Benson asks if he was able to get five, "sets of sheets of the
book," if Mr. Hofer would bind them when Arnold Werner binds Mr. Hofer's. (Believed
to be in refererence to the edition of 30 extra books that are bound with a leaf of
original manuscript in them, and the large bound copy of the manuscript). Mr. Benson
asks that Mr. Hofer send out the prospectus to a few places for him. Letter dated
October 1, 1954.
- (57). Envelope from letter number 38 sent by Mr. Benson to Philip Hofer. A PPS on the outside reads, "I have asked HH to send you the corrected Van Dykes.
JHB." Postmarked Oct. 2, 1954.
- (58). Letter from Mr. Hofer to Mr. Benson. Mr. Hofer says he will have the copies bound at no extra charge for Mr. Benson. He
gives his regards to Mr. Benson who is ill and in bed. He thanks Mr. Benson for the
Van Dykes and the manuscript and says they will remain at Harvard in a John Howard
Benson Collection. Letter dated October 4, 1954.
- (59). Letter from Mr. Benson to Mr. Hofer saying the copies of the First Writing Book have arrived and he congratulates him on the book. Letter dated October 15, 1954.
- (60). Four page prospectus displaying the title page, page four of the English translation
of the Operina, page four of Arrighi's Italian text and a page describing Mr. Benson's work and the books contents and the work that went into it. Inside is a typed note
card listing the price of the book and the address to order from.
- (61). Index card listing the next contents are proofs from Yale University Press.
- (62). Proofs of the Title page, the Acknowledgments page, the Foreword pages, pp. 34 and
35 of the Introduction, pp. 15 and 32 of the Italian text, pp. four and five of the
English translation, pp. 4 and 5 of the Italian text and pp. 44 and 45 of the Notes