Monday, April 5, 2010

Morse’s Design for "The Woman's Book" and Its Adaptation for "The House and Home"

Morse’s book cover design for Stevenson’s Ballads was featured in two nearly identical woman’s guides, published by Scribner’s in 1894. Both include chapters on occupations for women, principles of housekeeping, the art of travel, house building and decoration, and books and reading. The Woman's Book and its successor, The House and Home, introduced Morse as an excellent example of the successful woman designer. In P. G. Hubert Jr.’s chapter titled “Occupations for Women,” the field of book-cover design was recommended as a viable occupation for women. The author buttressed his point by printing color illustrations of two woman-produced book covers: Morse’s Stevenson’s Ballads (Dubansky, 90-8); and Songs About Life, Love and Death, designed by Margaret Armstrong. Here is a link to Harvard University Library's digital copy of House and Home (1896). This later binding is entirely different from earlier printings. The book cover design is not attributed to Morse.
The unsigned cover design for The Woman’s Book can now be attributed to Morse, as a reference has been found in an issue of The Book Buyer from 1894-1895 (see reference below). The 1894 book cover design on House and Home is an adaptation of this cover. Only Morse's design for the outer border was reused for this cover. The central cartouche and border are omitted from its design. I have seen copies of House and Home in red cloth only.

Morse's signed personal copy of The Woman's Book has recently been identified by Jackie Killian, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Drawings and Prints, Cooper Hewitt Museum. It is in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum library, New York City.
Reference: The Book Buyer. Vol. 11, February 1894-January 1895, p. 484.
Seen on Google Books, March 30, 2010, p. 484.
On p. 701, a full page advertisement for The Woman's Book:

...The Woman’s Book is issued in Two royal octavo volumes. Bound in durable Boston Linen, with Design in silver by Miss Alice Morse. Price, $7.50: Half Morocco, $10.00. Sold only by Subscription. Agents Watnted Charles Scribner’s Sons, APublishers, 153-157 Fifth Ave., New York.

In the third paragraph: The work of those artists who are distinctly cover-designers is shown in the Scribner books, by Miss Margaret Armstrong upon the cover of "The Bird’s Calendar", and by Miss Alice Morse upon the covers of "Polly" and "The Woman’s Book".
This reference also mentions Morse’s design for Polly, which I speculate is the design on one of the four-volume set by Thomas Nelson Page. Morse is known to have designed the first title in this set, Marse Chan (See Dubansky 92-12).

Buy a copy of The Proper Decoration of Book Covers: The Life and Work of Alice C. Morse

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