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.