The One Hoss Shay

The One Hoss Shay was the result of another successful collaborative effort, this time between binding designer Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904), author Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), and illustrator Howard Pyle (1853-1911). Holmes’s poem memorializes the agile single-horse conveyance popular during the 19th century. Pyle’s relationship with Holmes was cordial, and Holmes was pleased with the illustrations, sending the artist a signed copy of the book upon publication. As a result, Pyle was commissioned to illustrate Holmes’s The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table two years later.

Holmes and Sarah Wyman Whitman were close personal friends, as was often the case for her commissions. When asked to write about binding designs, Whitman explained, “One wants to talk, not about book covers alone, but about the whole idea of the book.” It was collaborations such as this that produced the most clearly integrated design in the final collaboration.

 

 

The One Hoss Shay

The One Hoss Shay, by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1892)
Illustrated by Howard Pyle (1809-1894), designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Whitman’s binding for The One Hoss Shay references medieval designs in the bands across the spine and the suggestion of clasps at the edge. She wrote, “You should have respect to these traditions which are associated with book covers…we may give the effect of a clasp, which is not an imitation of the clasp but an allusion to it.” The design also calls to mind buckles used for the harness of a horse-drawn vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Design from The One Hoss Shay by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Cover Design, 1891, from The One Hoss Shay, by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1892)
Howard Pyle (1853-1911)

Ink, watercolor, and gouache on illustration board
Gift of Gertrude Brincklé, 1945
DAM 1945-18

Pyle wrote to Winthrop Saltonstall Scudder, the head of the Art Department at Houghton Mifflin, expressing his dislike of Whitman’s cover, “I do not like the suggestion of hinges and clasps. It seems to me… suggestive of affection.” It is unclear whether he ever submitted his own design to the publisher.

 

 

 

 

 

The One Hoss Shay Frontispiece from The One Hoss Shay

Frontispiece, Ye Deacon, from The One Hoss Shay, by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1892)
Illustrated by Howard Pyle (1809-1894)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

 

Frontispiece, Ye Deacon, from The One Hoss Shay, by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1905)
Illustrated by Howard Pyle (1809-1894)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

For the 1905 "Christmas edition" reissue, Pyle hand colored his original black and white illustrations, taking full advantage of advances in color print technology in their reproduction. 

 

 

 

 

 

She was a wonder, and nothing less, 1892, from The One Hoss Shay, by Oliver Wendell Holmes

She was a wonder, and nothing less, 1892, from The One Hoss Shay, by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1905)
Howard Pyle (1853-1911)

Ink and watercolor on paper
Gift of Willard S. Morse, 1923
DAM 1923-168

Pyle sent initial drawings for Holmes to review. In one in instance, Holmes commented, “only one criticism will you allow me to make. The old New England ‘Shay’ was a TWO wheeled never a four wheeled vehicle.” Pyle subsequently changed the drawings, as visible here.

The One Hoss Shay