Friday, July 7, 2017

Margaret Armstrong's Great Series; Cloth Color part 2

In the last post we began to look at cloth color as an aspect of trade binding design.  We also took a brief look at publishing practices such as the role of electrotyping in keeping books available for long periods, and “case binding” and how this method of bookbinding allowed publishers to meet increased consumer demand quickly and economically.  We examined several designs by two of the masters of trade binding design, Margaret Armstrong and Sarah Wyman Whitman, and why some books were published in differently colored cloth simultaneously--with John Greenleaf Whittier’s The Tent on the Beach issued in at least four different cloth colors.  We saw how cloth color alone can vary a design’s impact, sometimes dramatically, and how the color of the cloth used was not random, but was made by choice of the designer and/or the publisher, to serve both the design and the book buying public’s preferences.  






As promised, in this post we’ll look at the use of cloth color for “series” (or “editions”) of individual authors.  Since there will be lots of bindings to look at I’ve decided to limit myself to two Margaret Armstrong series, each of which uses the same cloth color to define the series; the different (though related) designs on each book distinguishes the individual titles.  With apologies for turning this topic into a saga, I’m now planning one or two more posts in this series.  In the next post I’ll look at one of my favorite series.  Since this one focuses on the use of one cloth color to “brand” an author, the next will examine how different cloth colors can complement designs for a single author series, by emphasizing the subject of each book.  I’ll also return to the “and beyond” in the title of our blog by discussing how we represent cloth color when we prepare descriptions for bindings in our collection.  A final post will focus on the concept of series as much as that of cloth color, with examples drawn from other Margaret Armstrong “series” in all their variety.   


It seems appropriate to let a family member begin our consideration of Margaret Armstrong’s great series.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Ace up a Designer's Sleeve: Cloth Color part 1

For our next two posts, let’s talk about color.  Cloth color.  It’s one of the three inescapable features of trade bindings from their beginnings in 1820s England through the 1920s, and one of two that continue to this day.  The other two are cloth graining, which was seldom done after the 1910s (I’d say never but there might be some holdovers), and stamping, which today is almost completely reduced to title, author and publisher lettering on the spine.  Stamping on the covers is a topic which comes up in every post; cloth graining has made appearances in past posts and is will be covered in more detail in the future.



I’ll be breaking down my remarks on color into two parts:  in this first I’ll be considering it in the context of designs on several individual titles and how color alone can vary the impact of a design.  In a later post we’ll look at the use of cloth color in designs for “series” or “editions,” that is, series of books by individual authors with different designs on each volume, as well as series with identical designs for different titles.  In both, most examples will be taken from the work of Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944) who frequently appears in this blog.(1)  She is one of the best (many would say the best) cover designer of the late 19th and early 20th century, and is certainly one of the most collected, thanks to the work of Charles Gullans and John Espey. (2)