Copeland and Day

In 1893, Herbert Copeland and Frederick H. Day founded a publishing company with the intention of establishing a press in the United States that would be the equal of the Kelmscott Press in England. They brought Morris’s private press aesthetic to a broader American audience by relying on more commercial materials and techniques, which lowered the overall cost of each book. As the distributer of the British avant-garde literary journal, The Yellow Book, Copeland and Day brought Aesthetic art and literature to America, fostering a generation of designers including Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, Will H. Bradley, and Ethel Reed, examples of which are included in this display.

By 1900, American commercial publishers began to market mass-printed books by promoting the concept of the integrated book with artist-designed bindings and interior layout. The new interest in books as works of art attracted the burgeoning middle class consumer with disposable income. Beautiful books were desirable, both for viewing pleasure and as a status symbol. Copeland and Day were at the forefront of this significant alteration in commercial book design and marketing.




The House of Life, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Boston: Copeland and Day, 1894)
Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

William Dana Orcutt, who oversaw the printing of this book for Copeland and Day, sought to emulate Morris’s aesthetic by carefully studying Kelmscott Press books before instructing his compositor. An early review praised the book for its designs, saying they “strongly suggest Mr. Morris’ work in their general appearance…the borders, in feeling with the poems, are exceedingly good, and are much better drawn than many of those from the Kelmscott press.” 







Esther: a Young Man’s Tragedy, Together with Love Sonnets of Proteus, by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (Boston: Copeland and Day, 1895)
Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Mark Samuels Lasner, 2017

This collection of poetry clearly illustrates the link between Morris’s Kelmscott Press books and those of American designers like Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the main designer at Copeland and Day.  The $3.00 sales price (roughly $80.00 today) was an investment, but not prohibitively expensive.








Sister Songs.jpg

Sister Songs: An Offering to Two Sisters, by Francis Thompson (London: John Lane, Boston: Copeland and Day, 1895)
Binding designed by Laurence Housman (1865-1959)
Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware

Housman’s minimalist cover and repeating leaf motif suggests Rossetti’s influence. This work looks dramatically different than Housman’s cover for Goblin Market, seen in the next case.








The Yellow Book, Volume 3 (London: John Lane, Boston: Copeland and Day, 1894)
Binding designed by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

The British literary periodical The Yellow Book became associated with the Aesthetic Movement, promoting artists and authors like Aubrey Beardsley, Oscar Wilde, and Max Beerbohm. Copeland and Day’s role as the American distributer contributed to Boston’s prominent role in the American Aesthetic Movement.








Meadow-Grass: Tales of New England Life, by Alice Brown (Boston: Copeland and Day, 1895)
Binding designed by Louis Rhead (1857-1926)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum Carol Jording Rare Book Acquisition Fund, 2016

Meadow-Grass was one of the most successful of all Copeland and Day books, with 1,000 copies printed in 1895 and 9,000 more in the next year. The firm’s publisher’s mark, with their motto “Sicut Lilium Inter Spinas” (A Lily among the Thorns), is worked into the grass at the edge of the bank.

Copeland and Day