Margaret Armstrong

Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944) was one of the first professional binding designers in the United States and arguably the most famous. Born and raised in New York City, she designed over 270 covers, mainly for Scribner’s. She often employed floral motifs in her designs, and went on to write and illustrate a book on Western American wildflowers. When asked whether, “attention be given to having the cover appropriate to the contents of the book?” she replied, “yes, I think so. Pretty covers for cheap books have never been done until now.”

Armstrong created a strong visual identity for individual authors, making them easily recognizable for the consumer. The dark blue book cloth for the works of Henry van Dyke, and lavender for those of Myrtle Reed, made their work easily identifiable at a quick glance. Armstrong was able to accommodate the important marketing tool of brand identity while maintaining high quality design.

 

 

The Blue Flower

The Blue Flower, by Henry Van Dyke (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1902)
Binding designed by Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Hamilton Fish Armstrong, Margaret’s brother, wrote of her work, “she started a vogue for making the book covers themselves artistic and distinctive, and her covers became a sort of identity tag for the author. Whenever I see the dark blue and gold design on the spine of some book on a library shelf I have recognized it as Henry Van Dyke’s even before Margaret’s distinctive lettering tells me so.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fisherman's Luck

Fisherman’s Luck, and Some Other Uncertain Things, by Henry Van Dyke (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1905)
Binding designed by Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp-Fires and Guide-Posts

Camp-Fires and Guide-Posts, by Henry Van Dyke (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1921)
Binding designed by Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum
Carol Jording Rare Book Acquisition Fund, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flower of the Dusk

Flower of the Dusk, by Myrtle Reed (New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1908)
Binding designed by Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Regarding his sister's designs for Myrtle Reed's books, Hamilton Fish Armstrong wrote, "In most cases she could follow her own wishes, but occasionally was called upon to match her style to that of the author, which might be terrible. Thus the saccharin mauve cover which she devised for the first Myrtle Reed novel was so exactly right that she had to perpetuate it with variations through all the rest of that immensely popular and long-forgotten author's string of works."

 

 

 

 

Master of the Vineyard

Master of the Vineyard, by Myrtle Reed (New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1910)
Binding designed by Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa Passes

Pippa Passes, by Robert Browning (New York: Dodd Mead & Company, 1903)
Binding designed by Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Margaret Armstrong