University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Letters of
William Graily Hewitt
Sidney Feinberg

1944 - 1953


Manuscript Collection Number: 289
Accessioned: Purchase, 1993
Extent: 43 items (.1 linear ft.)
Content: Letters, photographs, and booklet
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: September 1993 by Anita A. Wellner

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(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

English calligrapher and illuminator William Graily Hewitt was born on July 20, 1864, in London. In January 1880, Hewitt was sent to Westminster School, having completed a year and a half at Wellington College. In 1883 he continued his education at Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1886 and on January 28, 1889 he was called to the bar, a profession chosen for Hewitt by his father.

Hewitt soon turned his attentions from law to literature and in 1892, his novel, The Making of Lawrence Westerton, was published under the pseudonym Freke Viggars. Following the novel, Hewitt wrote a number of short stories, collected in Knights of Cockayne (1894).

After a brief writing career, Graily Hewitt began studying manuscripts and experimenting with calligraphy. He became acquainted with the noted bookbinder Sydney Cockerell, who encouraged him to study with the noted calligrapher Edward Johnston. In 1900 Graily Hewitt became one of the first pupils in Johnston's newly established lettering class at the Central School of the Arts and Crafts in London. Sydney Cockerell continued to assist Hewitt in his new profession by helping him obtain commissions for his calligraphy through Cockerell's collector friends.

In 1901 Graily Hewitt succeeded Johnston at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where he eventually taught courses in lettering for over thirty years. Hewitt also wrote a number of books on handwriting, including Oxford Copy Books (1916), The Pen and Type Design (1928), Lettering (1930), The Treyford Writing Cards (1932), and Handwriting: Everyman's Craft (1938).

In addition to teaching and writing, Hewitt experimented with calligraphy and illumination. He is credited with reviving the methods, used during the Middle Ages, for gilding with gesso and gold leaf on vellum. Samples of Hewitt's gilding are included in numerous manuscript books, rolls of honor, and patents of nobility. He was also one of the founders of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators in 1921.

Graily Hewitt made connections between calligraphy and type design, believing that type should represent creations of the pen. The Treyford Type, used to print The Pen and Type Design, was designed by Hewitt. He also designed a number of initials for St. John Hornby's Ashendene Press, from 1902 until the press ceased publication in 1935.

Despite his failing eyesight and health, Graily Hewitt continued his calligraphy until his death on December 22, 1952, at the age of 88.


The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Peabody Institute Library, and The Walters Art Gallery. 2,000 Years of Calligraphy: A Three-Part Exhibition, June 6 - July 18, 1965. Baltimore: 1965. pp. 30, 140.

British Museum Quarterly. Volume XXXIII, Numbers 1-2. London: The Trustees of the British Museum, 1968. pp. 71-79.

Scope and Content Note

The 39 letters in this collection from English calligrapher and illuminator William Graily Hewitt to American book designer Sidney Feinberg, were written between 1944 and 1952. The correspondence was initiated by Feinberg when he was serving as a corporal in the U.S. Army and stationed in Great Britain during World War II. Feinberg's request for advice about his handwriting and his expression of interest in calligraphy and printing launched a friendship and correspondence with Hewitt which lasted until Hewitt's death in 1952.

The letters convey Hewitt's passion for the art of calligraphy and illumination in addition to providing specific instructions on these subjects. The letters detail how to hold a pen; the distinguishing features of various pens; Hewitt's preferences in inks, writing papers, and quills; how to cut and maintain quills; how to obtain legibility in calligraphy; and a recipe for a glaze used for gilding. Some of the instructions include sketched illustrations and references to Hewitt's books on the subjects.

In his letters, Hewitt also discusses his view that print design should be based on calligraphy, his satisfaction in creating what he terms as "word-units" with his calligraphy, his dislike of journalism, and his thoughts on philosophy and religion.

Hewitt's letters also contain discussions of the war and later, post-war shortages; descriptions of his calligraphic work during the period; mentions of his failing health and its effects on his work; reminiscences on how and why he became a calligrapher; and comments on his mentor, calligrapher Edward Johnston.

During the period in which Hewitt's letters were written he was commissioned to pen a number of war memorials, as well as various official documents for the King of England. His letters discuss these numerous projects. Hewitt especially enjoyed being calligrapher for a letter of patent which conferred the title, Duke of Edinburgh, on Prince Philip, on November 19, 1947, the day before his wedding to Princess Elizabeth. Hewitt delighted in keeping this much sought after secret from the press.

In his Christmas greetings of 1944 and 1948, Hewitt includes two small calligraphed notes and a booklet as Christmas gifts.

The collection also includes several letters from Emily New, Hewitt's longtime housekeeper, which report Hewitt's death and New's subsequent living arrangements. One of her letters encloses two photographs of Graily Hewitt.

One additional letter, from David Wacher, the executor of Hewitt's estate, includes a list of Hewitt's manuscripts which were for sale.

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

     Series I. William Graily Hewitt's Letters to Sidney 
     Feinberg, 1944-1952

F1   1944 May-Dec
     6 letters (10 pp.) The Christmas letter includes a small
     calligraphed booklet of "Adeste Fideles."

F2   1946 May-Dec
     4 letters (16 pp.) 
F3   1947 Jan-Dec
     7 letters (27 pp.) Includes one letter to Mrs. Naomi Feinberg. 
F4   1948 Feb-Dec
     5 letters (12 pp.) Includes two small calligraphy notes as Christmas gifts
     in the December letter. 
F5   1949 Feb-Nov
     4 letters (14 pp.) 
F6   1950 Feb-Nov
     5 letters (17 pp.) 
F7   1951 Feb-Dec
     5 letters (18 pp.) 
F8   1952 Mar-Sep
     3 letters (10 pp.)

     Series II. Letters from Angela Haughton, Emily New, and
     David Wacher to Sidney Feinberg, 1952-1953 
F9   Emily New and Angela Haughton, 1953
     Three letters from Emily New and one letter from Angela Haughton, New's granddaughter.
     One letter includes two photographs of Graily Hewitt. 
F10  David Wacher, 1953 May 4
     One letter from the executor of Hewitt's estate, with an enclosed list of
     Hewitt's manuscripts available for purchase. 

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