Lynd Ward Wood Engravings and Other Graphic Art, circa 1920-1975

9392

Collection Overview

Title:
Lynd Ward Wood Engravings and Other Graphic Art
Dates (Inclusive):
circa 1920-1975
Creator:
Ward, Lynd
Abstract:
Lynd Ward (1905–1985) was one of the foremost wood engravers and graphic book artists of 20th-century America. The Lynd Ward Collection of Wood Engravings and Other Graphic Art includes some 5,000 wood engravings, proof sheets, wood-engraving blocks, and original illustrations for many of his books. Highlights include wood engravings for Ward's novels without words (notably Gods' Man, Vertigo, and Madman's Drum) and many of the wood blocks and proof sheets for his illustrations to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Also in the collection are original illustrations for a number of his children's books, including The Silver Pony and The Biggest Bear.
Collection Number:
9392
Size:
34 Linear Feet
Location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the  library catalog.
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical Note

Lynd Ward (1905–1985) was one of the foremost wood engravers and graphic book artists of 20th-century America. His work was influential both on the development of graphic novels and on the mid-century revolution in children's literature. His books, prints, and artwork are held by major museums and libraries worldwide. Lynd Kendall Ward was born in Chicago on June 26, 1905, the son of Harry Frederick Ward and Daisy Kendall Ward. His family lived near the stockyards in Chicago because his Methodist minister father was active in the settlement-house movement. Lynd was sickly as an infant, and his parents made a decision on behalf of his health to move to a newly built log cabin on Lonely Lake in the northern Ontario wilderness. The summers spent in Canada would bring him a lifetime inspiration, providing settings for many of his books.

He studied art at Teachers College, Columbia University. He married May Yonge McNeer the week before both received their diplomas, and they sailed for Europe to begin Ward's studies at Leipzig Academy for Graphic Arts, where he studied wood engraving with Hans Mueller and was exposed to the work and ideas of the Belgian artist Frans Masereel and the German Otto Nuckel. Both of these men were exploring the limits of telling stories with pictures and no words, and their influence made an indelible impact on Ward and his career. Upon returning to the U.S., Ward planned his first novel without words, Gods' Man (1929), which told the story of an artist's struggle with his craft, his seduction and subsequent abuse by money and power, and his escape to innocence. It was in its third printing by January of 1930 and was the first work of its kind published in America, a groundbreaking book hailed by many as a precursor for the development of today's graphic novels. By 1937, Ward had produced five additional novels in wood engravings (Madman's Drum, Wild Pilgrimage, Prelude to a Million Years, Song without Words, and Vertigo). In 1972 Harry Abrams published Storyteller without Words, a book that included Ward's six novels plus an assortment of his illustrations from other books. (Ward broke his silence and wrote brief prologues to each of the works.) In 2010 the Library of America published a boxed set, Six Novels in Woodcuts.

Over the course of his career, Ward also illustrated over a hundred children's books, and about a third were collaborations with wife May McNeer, who was a widely respected writer and second bread-winner for the family. They had two daughters, Robin and Nanda. In 1979 Ward and McNeer retired to their home in Reston, Virginia. Ward died in 1985 at the age of 80.

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Scope and Contents

The Lynd Ward Collection of Wood Engravings and Other Graphic Art includes ca. 5,000 wood engravings, proof sheets, wood-engraving blocks, and original illustrations for many of Ward's books, as well as some prints not associated with his published work. There are also lithographs and charcoal drawings.

Highlights include many of the wood blocks and proof sheets for Ward's illustrations to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1934). Also of particular interest are two unique items, including the original mock-up or "dummy" of 117 wood engravings on proof tissue for Ward's most influential novel without words, Madman's Drum, as well as a presentation portfolio, which he either sent or personally presented to potential clients. It is a complete package in a self-created binding of cloth over batik covers, containing 22 original prints (etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, and wood engravings). This visually powerful portfolio provides a rare opportunity for scholarly insight into the artist's work. While Lynd Ward's most extensive and well-known achievements were in the printmaking technique of wood engraving, his unique talents as an illustrator also extended into the realm of children's books. Highlights in the collection include original illustrations for both The Silver Pony and The Biggest Bear. The Biggest Bear (Houghton Mifflin, 1952), which Ward wrote and illustrated, tells the story of Johnny Orchard and the bear cub who comes to love him. For this book Ward received the 1953 Randolph Caldecott Medal, given to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children by the American Library Association.

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Item Title], Lynd Ward Wood Engravings and Other Graphic Art, 9392, Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received as a gift in a number of installments beginning in 2005 from Robin Ward Savage, daughter of the late Lynd Ward; her sister, Nanda Ward; and other members of the Ward family. Ten original illustrations for The Biggest Bear were purchased from Bromer Booksellers in 2012.

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Collection Inventory

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42
BoxFolder

2715
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42

42
BoxFolder

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278
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262
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311

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331
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244

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216

122

123

143

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221

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389
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3812

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3

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