“The Ghost in the Underblows”

"Ward Ritchie was an independent and adventurous publisher and printer who got his start just as modern design was gaining a foothold in Los Angeles. Alvin Lustig, whose celebrated career included time working for Ritchie, played a crucial role in giving American design a modern face. Lustig recognized California as a place free from the burden of the European cultural ideals that dominated the East Coast, and he credited this liberation for his ability to 'see freshly and unencumbered.' Their collaboration on The Ghost in the Underblows, a suite of books that contains the poem of this name by Alfred Young Fisher, was a project financed by collector subscriptions. Ritchie, who printed the book at his press, requested that Lustig design a different type-ornament composition for each of the books. According to Ritchie, while others had used 'printer’s flowers' for centuries, nothing comparable to Lustig’s arranging the texts themselves in decorative designs in lieu of illustrations had ever been done. 'He created a new art form, virile, abstract, and colorful,' Ritchie recalled. In the end, Fisher’s poem never found success equal to the design of its publication."—Louise Sandhaus, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986, pp. 50