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Identifier: GA 10

Lynd Ward Collection


  • Majority of material found in 1929-1937 and undated

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of 355 wood engraving blocks by Lynd Ward, including 233 blocks from his wordless novel Vertigo, 9 from Ward's illustrations for Frankenstein, 77 related to a wordless novel that remained unfinished at Ward's death and 36 miscellaneous blocks that represent individual blocks from his other wordless novels, unidentified completed blocks and a number of partially cut and sketched blocks. Of the blocks related to the unfinished wordless novel, 26 have been published in Lynd Ward’s Last Unfinished Wordless Novel (New Brunswick, N.J.: New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, 2001). The remainder include possible alternate blocks and story lines, as well as draft and sketched blocks. Individual blocks for his other wordless novels include one from Gods' Man, one that appears to be an alternate block for Mad Man's Drum, one from Prelude to a Million Years and three related to Wild Pilgrimage. The blocks are accompanied by eight prints. Four of the prints correspond to images that were published in Vertigo. 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 Vertigo 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.


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


7.4 cubic feet, consisting of 50 flat boxes (19 are 15 x 12 x 1 1/2", 21 are 11 x 9 x 1 1/2", 1 box is 13 x 10 x 1 1/2" and 9 are 20 x 16 x 1 1/2").

Language of Materials



The collection consists of 355 wood engraving blocks by Lynd Ward, including 233 blocks from his wordless novel Vertigo, 9 from Ward's illustrations for Frankenstein, 77 related to a wordless novel that remained unfinished at Ward's death and 36 miscellaneous blocks. These blocks are accompanied by eight prints, four of which correspond to images in Vertigo as it was published and five which were not used in the novel.

Biographical Sketch

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.

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)

Arrangement Note

The blocks have been arranged in six series: Vertigo Blocks, Prints, Frankenstein Blocks, Unfinished Wordless Novel - Blocks for Printed Plates, Unfinished Wordless Novel - Incomplete and Alternate Blocks, and Other Blocks. In the Vertigo Blocks series, the blocks are in four sizes, and, physically, have been arranged according to size. Prints, Frankenstein Blocks and Unfinished Wordless Novel - Blocks For Printed Plates are arranged as in the published works. Unfinished Wordless Novel - Incomplete and Alternate Blocks are arranged as described in the description of "The Unfinished Blocks" by Michael Joseph that was published in Lynd Ward’s Last Unfinished Wordless Novel. Other Blocks are arranged by best fit in housing boxes. In the Other Blocks series, Box 50 contains blocks from Lynd Ward's other wordless novels, including Gods' Man, Mad Man's Drum, Prelude to a Million Years, and Wild Pilgrimage.

Processing Note

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, along with a number of other completed and unfinished blocks, many of which are unidentified. Additional blocks were donated by Tricia DePol from the estate of John DePol, an American twentieth century wood engraver. Many of these additional blocks appear to be associated with a wordless novel that remained incomplete at Ward's death. 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.

Guide to the Lynd Ward Collection
Michael Joseph and Elizabeth M. Phillips
2001, 2017
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Revision Statements

  • March 2009: Items listed as n.d. changed to undated, per DACS
  • September 2009: revised coding to add encoding analogs to some elements per the EAD report card