The Edge of the Black Country Coburn, Alvin Langdon  (American, 1882-1966)

This is one of the finest examples of the photographically illustrated book and among the few where the photographer himself produced the photogravures. An oversize volume, it includes the main tale of a door that leads to immortal realities, plus seven shorter stories by Wells. The Door in the Wall was a true three-way collaboration between the author, the photographer and the typographer, Frederic W. Goudy, who specifically produced his Kennerely Old Style typeface for this book. Designed in the elegant Arts-and-Crafts style, it was printed on French hand-made paper at Goudy’s Village Press in an edition of 600 copies. In fact, only 300 copies contain the full complement of Coburn’s rich photogravures, due to some being damaged in shipment and being replaced by aquatones. The photographer personally prepared the gravure plates, pulled proofs and oversaw the printing of the edition.

The "Door in the Wall" has been described by more than one authority as "a landmark in the history of the photographically illustrated book, representing the first true collaboration of author, photo-illustrator and typographer."

Set at `The Village Press, ‘ this book was set by Bertha S. Goudy, wife of the designer of the types and decorations, Frederic W. Goudy, and printed under his supervision by Norman T. A. Munder & Company in Baltimore. Goudy produced his first `hit, ‘ Kennerley Old Style, for this book. A typographical error is hand corrected in ink on page 150 by Frederic W. Goudy and initialed `FWG’ by the famed type designer. Bertha Goudy had worked as a bookkeeper at the same firm with Frederic W. Goudy and was still perfecting her typesetting skills in 1911. Obviously Frederic W. Goudy was also still perfecting his proofreading skills to let this error proceed as far as the bound copies.

"Between 1902 and 1911 Goudy designed many of his typefaces not for type foundries but for businesses. He pioneered the idea of the custom or bespoke typeface with his work for the Pabst Brewing Company, the clothier Kuppenheimer & Company, Mandel Brothers department store, financial news publisher Clarence Barron, Baltimore printer Norman Munder and, most importantly of all, book publisher Mitchell Kennerley.* Essentially Goudy took the notion of the private press typeface inaugurated by William Morris and extended it beyond the insular Arts & Crafts community to the larger world of commerce. Kennerley, the typeface designed for The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells (published by Mitchell Kennerley, 1911), was the turning point in his career, the moment when type design began to overtake lettering and private press printing as his principal activity."( paulshawletterdesign.com)

Reproduced / Exhibited

Coburn, Alvin L. Alvin Langdon Coburn and H.g. Wells: The Photographer and the Novelist. Champaign, Ill: University Library and Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1997.

Coburn, Alvin L, Karl Steinorth, Nancy Newhall, and Anthony Bannon. Alvin Langdon Coburn – Photographs, 1900-1924. Zürich: Stemmle, 1998. Plate 81.