Libraries & Centers: Special Collections and University Archives: Rare Books: John DePol Collection:

Lynd Ward: Collection of Blocks for the Graphic Novel, Vertigo


Print from unpublished
block to VERTIGO


Collection of Unidentified Blocks | Related Resources | Images From the Collection


Introduction

In the fall of 2000, Rutgers University Libraries received a complete set of extant woodblocks used to print Lynd Ward's last published and largest graphic novel, Vertigo (Random House, 1937). The blocks were donated by Ward's daughters, Robin Ward Savage and Nanda Ward Savage. The collection is now part of the John DePol Collection of American Wood Engraving. Ward was a longtime New Jersey resident. Rutgers University has a number of related collections, including a substantial collection of American prints located in the Zimmerli Art Museum.


Biographical Note

Lynd Ward was born on June 26, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the son of a Methodist minister, and spent his childhood in Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey. When he was in the first grade, Ward discovered that his last name spelled "draw" backwards, and decided that he wanted to be an artist. He studied fine arts at Columbia Teachers' College in New York. There he met his future wife, May McNeer, and they were married shortly after their graduation in 1926. The first year of their marriage was spent in Europe, where Ward studied printmaking and book design at the National Academy of Graphic Arts in Leipzig, Germany. While browsing in a bookstore in Leipzig, Ward came upon a book by the Belgian engraver Franz Masereel which told a story in woodcuts. This was the spark which inspired Ward to create his first graphic novel, Gods' Man, published in October of 1929, the same week the stock market crashed. It was the first novel-length story told in wood engravings to be published in the United States. He went on to publish five graphic novels in total, of which Vertigo was the last and the most ambitious. In addition to wood engraving, Ward also worked in watercolor, oil, brush and ink, lithography and mezzotint. Ward illustrated over a hundred children's books, several of which were collaborations with his wife, May McNeer. Starting in 1938, Ward became a frequent illustrator of the Heritage Limited Editions Club's series of classic works. He was well known for the political themes of his artwork, often addressing labor and class issues. In 1932 he founded Equinox Cooperative Press. He was a member of the Society of Illustrators, the Society of American Graphic Arts, and the National Academy of Design. He won a number of awards, including a Library of Congress Award for wood engraving, the Caldecott medal, and a Rutgers University award for Distinguished Contribution to Children's Literature. He illustrated six Newbery Honor Medal books and two Newbery Medal books. Ward retired to his home in Reston, Virginia, in 1974. He died on June 28, 1985.


References

Children's Literature Awards and Winners: A Directory of Prizes, Authors, and Illustrators, 2nd ed., p. 545

Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 22, pp. 326-33

Something About the Author, vol. 36, pp. 197-209

Storyteller Without Words: The Wood Engravings of Lynd Ward

Who Was Who in America, vol 8, 1982-1985, p. 414


Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of 233 blocks from Vertigo. These blocks are accompanied by 32 additional blocks unrelated to Vertigo, and eight prints. Four of the prints correspond to images in the published novel. These are numbers 18, 119, 176, and 228. The other four prints were made from blocks engraved as part of Vertigo but excluded from the published novel. We have only two of these blocks. Because some of these images represent story lines that are not evident in the final version of Vertigo, these prints provide valuable insight into Ward's creative process.

The Vertigo blocks were numbered, presumably by Ward, according to their placement in the story. There are a few exceptions. Blocks 35 and 43, which bear similar images, are misnumbered, and have been marked, respectively, "43" and "43 dupe." Blocks 85 and 148 have had their numbers reversed. There are two versions of block 7, and two versions of block 74. Sketches in ink appear on the backs of blocks 54 and 157. Block 145 is not numbered, and block 68 is missing entirely (unnumbered block 165 was donated to the Libraries subsequent to the initial acquisition). There is an unfinished, split block which appears to be an alternate version of block 211. A final unnumbered block bears an image which was excised from the scene portrayed in blocks 84-85. The blocks are in four sizes, and have been arranged according to size.


Container List

Blocks in box 1 (A Blocks) are 2" x 2"
1 40 A Blocks,
15 B Blocks
22, 23, 29, 30, 31 [inked back], 35 [misnumbered as 43], 43 [marked 43 dupe], 44, 58, 60, 76, 79, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 94, 96, 97, 101, 103, 112, 113, 121, 127, 132, 135, 140, 172, 173, 174, 180, 181, 191, 193, 198, 201, 206, 219, 183, 185, 187, 188, 189, 192, 197, 200, 202, 204, 208, 212, 215, 217, 218.
Blocks in boxes 2-3 (B Blocks) are 3 1/2" x 2"
2 36 B Blocks 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 27, 28, 34, 37, 38, 41, 42, 49, 50, 52, 57, 59, 64, 67, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74 [2 versions].
3 36 B Blocks 78, 83, 91, 100, 109, 111, 115, 117, 120, 123, 138, 139, 141, 142, 145 [unnumbered], 146, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, [165], 168, 169, 171, 175, 178.
Blocks in boxes 4-6 (C Blocks) are 3 1/2" x 3 1/2"
4 20 C Blocks 6, 8, 20, 21, 24, 26, 32, 33, 36, 40, 46, 47, 51, 53, 54, 55, 62, 77, 84, 85 [misnumbered as 148].
5 20 C Blocks 92, 98, 102, 106, 107, 110, 114, 118, 119, 122, 124 [unnumbered], 126, 128, 129, 130, 133, 136, 148 [misnumbered as 85], 167, 170.
6 13 C Blocks,
4 D Blocks
176, 186, 194, 196, 205, 210, 211, 213, 220, 225, 228, 223, 224, 227, 230, 3 unpublished Vertigo blocks [1 unfinished, 1 possibly to follow block 85].
Blocks in boxes 7-9 (D Blocks) are 5" x 3 1/2"
7 16 D Blocks,
3 B Blocks
5, 7 [2 versions], 25, 39, 45, 48, 56, 61, 63, 65, 66, 75, 80, 81, 222, 226, 229.
8 16 D Blocks 82, 93, 95, 99, 104, 105, 108, 116, 125, 131, 134, 137, 143, 144, 147.
9 16 D Blocks 149, 166, 177, 179, 182, 184, 190, 195, 199, 203, 207, 209, 214, 216, 221.
Blocks in box 10 (E Blocks) are various sizes
10 32 E Blocks Thirty-two unidentified blocks are housed in box 10.

Graphic Novels by Lynd Ward

1929 Gods' Man (New York: Cape & Smith, 1929; London: Cape, 1930)

1930 Madman's Drum (New York: Cape & Smith, 1930; London and Toronto: Cape, 1930)

1932 Wild Pilgrimage (New York: Smith & Haas, 1932)

1933 Prelude to a MillionYears (New York: Equinox, 1933)

1936 Song Without Words (New York: Random House, 1936)

1937 Vertigo (New York: Random House, 1937)


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