Warren Chappell, An Artist With Remarkable Versatility
Many thousands of printers who have attended meetings of craftsmen throughout the country during the last dozen years of so are personally acquainted with at least one type designer—the only living, moving, drawing designer in the motion picture presented by the American Type Founders, entitled Type Speaks. That calm designer who is interrupted at his work by Ben Grauer and introduced to the viewers is Warren Chappell.
To most printers Chappell is known only as the designer of Lydian, one of the very popular types of the last 20 years—and the one used for the past nine years for heads in this publication. His skills as book designer, calligrapher, and illustrator, however, make him known to a far wider audience.
Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1904, Warren Chappell was graduated from the University of Richmond in 1926. He then enrolled in the Art Student’s League in New York City, singling out the graphic arts as his field of study. He worked for a time with the Chicago Tribune and then went to Germany as an apprentice to the world-famous type designer, Rudolf Koch.
It was with Koch that Mr. Chappell learned the craft of hand-cutting type punches in steel, a skill possessed by few living artists. Upon his return to the United States he wrote The Anatomy of Lettering, expressing his ideas on lettering as a creative art. This handsome and informative book, now out of print, was hand-set by the late Arthur Rushmore and was selected as one of the “Fifty Books of the Year.”
It was with the Lydian design, produced in 1938 by ATF, that Chappell came to prominence as a type designer. The calligraphic, broad-pen strokes of Lydian made it an instant success. The bold Chancery cursive form was added in 1940, and the condensed version in 1946.
In 1939 he cut Trajanus for the Stempel foundry in Frankfurt. This type did not become generally available until about 1949. It is still in somewhat limited use in the United States, although many typographers here admire the letter. It is available in many of the larger typographic plants. Trajanus has been produced by the German Linotype organization. The capital letters of Trajanus are modeled, as the name suggests, on the inscriptional Roman which has for so long been an inspiration to type designers. However, like Lydian, it has strong calligraphic lines. This is particularly noticeable in the lowercase. The italic follows the Chancery style.
Chappell has frequently designed and illustrated books for both the trade edition and limited edition field. He has made a unique contribution to the book arts by his ability to handle every aspect of the design problem. As an illustrator, he is known for his satirical and witty pen, compared to that of Daumier.
In spite of the fact that Warren Chappell is a recognized authority in his chosen field, he still considers himself an apprentice. He is, therefore, ready to learn and to apply new techniques to guarantee his continued growth as a craftsman.
This article first appeared in the January 1961 issue of PRINTER and LITHOGRAPHER.