Macmillan's Illustrated Standard Novels

Macmillan's Illustrated Standard Novels

In the late 1890s Turbayne designed several covers and the advertising poster for the “Peacock” edition of illustrated novels published by Macmillan. This is Turbayne's most well-known motif, described by one scholar as "an ostentatious design in which the peacock's head is moved to the top right hand corner and the tail, with its flame-like eyes, expands over the surface." The poster itself was so popular that it was sought after by collectors immediately upon its production. 

Despite being called the "Peacock" edition, only the books written by Thomas Love Peacock featured the bird on their covers, though the rest of the books in the series had the same design printed in yellow on their endpapers. One contemporary critic noted that this series "ranks among the most tasteful editions of standard works ever published in inexpensive form."

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Headlong Hall and Nightmare Abbey

Headlong Hall and Nightmare Abbey, by Thomas Love Peacock, 1896

The elaborate Art Nouveau peacock, slightly different than the one on the series poster, is a play on the author’s name. A book like this, with its heavy use of gold stamping on the cover and gilt on the top edges of the pages, would have been intended for the gift market. Even so, the price of 5 shillings (roughly 20 pounds today) for the "cloth elegant" edition was an affordable luxury. 

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Tom Cringle's Log

Tom Cringle's Log, by Michael Scott, 1895

Scholar Simon Cooke notes that the design on this binding exemplifies a key motif of Art Nouveau-- an emphasis on organic forms which blur the distinction between nature and art. 

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Ormond: A Tale

Ormond: A Tale, by Maria Edgewotth, 1895

Turbayne's version of Art Nouveau, says Cooke, "is one that unashamedly stresses splendour, animating the surface of the upper board and spine with elaborate, intricate designs. His bindings are nevertheless anything but formulaic, and his treatment of this idiom is complex and various."

Turbayne used an early, slightly more intricate version of his monogram on the Macmilllan books, as seen in the bottom center of Ormond.

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The King's Own

The King's Own, by Captain Frederick Marryat, 1896

Turbayne's nautical design was used for all of Marryat's books in the Macmillan series, a nod to the author's career in the Royal Navy. Every element of this highly stylized cover suggests movement and action, from the ship's prow cutting through the frothy waves to the swirling clouds and sea creatures encircling it above and below.

Macmillan's Illustrated Standard Novels