Timeline of Publishers' Bindings: 1890-1899

This decade is considered the “era of the artist-designer,” as trained, professional artists began to turn their talents towards book design. It became possible for artists to work solely as book designers, and many were employed as in-house designers by major publishing firms. Some of the most successful and prolific designers were women, such as Sarah Wyman Whitman, Margaret Armstrong, and Alice C. Morse.

The elaborate, fussy covers of the 1870s and ‘80s gave way to thoughtful, simplified, and restrained layouts. A wide range of artistic movements influenced book design in this decade, including Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and the Poster style.

 

 

The seven seas

The Seven Seas, by Rudyard Kipling (New York: D. Appleton, 1896)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

This Art Nouveau-inspired binding design is signed “EMD” but the artist is unidentified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tattle-Tales of Cupid

Tattle-Tales of Cupid, by Paul Leicester Ford (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1898)
Binding designed by Alice C. Morse (1863-1961)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Morse, one of the leading binding designers of the decade, asserted that a book cover should suggest the contents of the volume: “A love story should be dainty, as a rule. Essays require something dignified and severe.” For Ford’s collection of lighthearted short stories and plays, Morse created a stylized Arts and Crafts-inspired design.

 

 

 

 

 

Cross trails The Market-Place

Cross Trails, by Victor Waite (Boston: L. C. Page and Company, 1898)
Binding designed by Amy M. Sacker (1872-1965)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

 

The Market-Place, by Harold Frederic (New York: F. A. Stokes Company, 1899)
Binding designed by F. Berkeley Smith (1869-1931)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

These two designs are in the Poster style, which is characterized by its flat, two-dimensional feel, limited number of colors, and simple, stylized features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walden

Walden, by Henry David Thoreau (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 1899)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

This binding was designed by the Decorative Designers, a firm founded by architect Henry Thayer in 1895. The firm employed a number of designers, each of whom was responsible for a different element of a book’s design.  The firm’s signature of conjoined Ds can be seen in the lower right corner.

 

Timeline of Publishers' Bindings: 1890-1899