Project: Red Letter Days, for Beverly Warren-Leigh

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Beverly Warren-Leigh
Red Letter Days

A private history of the Second World War

Red Letter Days, edited by Beverly Warren-Leigh, was our first large-scale foray into historical text design. The two-volume set, which contains every extant letter Ms. Warren-Leigh’s father wrote and received from his childhood to the end of the Second World War, weighs in just shy of 1,000 profusely-illustrated pages.

The bulk of the book is concerned with the war, where Cameron Warren earned three Silver Stars as an officer in the Second Armored Division, and makes for an engaging and intimate social history of the period as it follows Mr. Warren’s from his childhood in Catholic boarding schools to his return from Europe and marriage in 1946.

Mr. Warren was a prodigious correspondent and at his death left an archive of hundreds of letters, photographs and related ephemera. His daughter, having been trained as a designer, made an initial attempt to get them into book form, but found that the less familiar duties of compilation and editing were daunting enough. She commissioned us to look at organizing the free-ranging manuscript into an orderly, coherent, and pleasant-reading volume.

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Cover and slipcase

The book is broken into two volumes of between 400-500 pages each, sewn and bound in cloth, and kept in a slipcase. One one side of the case is a picture of Mr. Warren as a college student; the other shows Mr. Warren on his return to Normandy as an older man.

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Full title

Screened back is an excerpt from one of Mr. Warren’s letters that gave the book its title.

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Section divider

Typical section divider. This photograph shows Mr. Warren at boarding school, at the age of seven.

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Section opening

We designed the book on a five-column grid, with the bulk of the content occupying four columns, leaving one column free for labeling and ephemera: small images, enclosures from the letters, editor’s comments.

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Early letters

Although Ms. Warren-Leigh faithfully transcribed all of the letters, there were some that begged to be included also in facsimile, such as this letter from the six-year-old Mr. Warren, at boarding school, to his single mother.

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Ephemera

Many of the letters contained news clippings or other ephemera included by Mr. Warren’s or his relatives. Those enclosures were included in the book as well; here we have his citation for the Purple Heart, and a menu for the English hospital where he convalesced.

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Typography

The letters defied standardization. Some were one-line telegrams, some ran for several pages. Whenever possible, Ms. Warren-Leigh wanted to preserve as much of the context of the original letter as possible: hotel letterheads, marginalia, enclosures. Moreover, she felt as if the idiosyncratic spelling and grammar of each letter and envelope should be maintained. The material was transcribed character-for-character, which meant no mechanical help. No spell-check. No find-and-replace.

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Inline layout

Typical layout, showing asymmetrical text area with images running inline among the letters. Photograph shows Gen. Omar Bradley during an inspection of Mr. Warren’s outfit.

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Maps

Pages showing inclusion of Mr. Warren’s combat maps, with his route and locations of engagement highlighted. The book might have benefited from a color section – many of the maps had seen hard use, which is difficult to get across in one color.

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Credits/colophon
Creative director
Adam McIsaac
Designers
Adam McIsaac
Jaime Barrett
Heather Anderson
Jerry Channell
Printing
Print Vision
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