Monday, November 18, 2013

Morse's Window for Carnegie Hall

Notation on recto: Over Main Entrance - Music Hall (5 of these)
Cooper-Hewiit Museum, accession number 2009-6-2

As mentioned earlier in this blog, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum posesses a substantial collecton of original designs for book covers and stained glass windows by Alice C. Morse. As you may already know from reading this blog or my book, Morse was a stained glass designer before she designed book covers and she was one of the original 'Tiffany Girls', working for the Tiffany Glass Company from 1885-1889. From the addresses on the versos of the designs, it appears that Morse continued designing windows after leaving Tiffany. Morse felt that stained glass and book-cover design presented similar challenges and were akin to each other from a design standpoint.

Alice C. Morse originally donated these drawings in 1943 to the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. Among the stained glass designs are eight drawings of windows commissioned for Carnegie Hall, or the Music Hall, as it was origianlly named. Morse's notations on the drawings indicate the location and quantity for each window as well as her name and address, which assist us in dating the designs. To my knowledge, these designs have not been published, but they should be available through the Cooper-Hewitt website -- if not now, at some point. While they have not been published, Jacquellann Killian of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum has conducted original research on Morse's window designs and has presented a paper entitled The Stained Glass Designs of Alice Cordelia Morse.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Scenes from the Life of Christ in a 'New' Color Variant

Jessica Cone. Scenes from the Life of Christ Pictured in Holy Word and Sacred Art. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1892.

Scenes from the Life of Christ is one of Morse's least seen designs from my point of view. It's a beautiful gift book, origianlly stamped in gold on off-white or tan bookcloth. Before the age of the Internet, it took me many years to find any copy of this book. I was recently suprised to see this copy on Ebay, and despite it's rough condition, I purchased it. The dark blue stamping on this color variant clearly shows Morse's drawing acumen. The pages of this book have black, decorative borders that may have also been designed by Morse, but that is unproven at this time. She isn't mentioned on the title page. This book is described in The Proper Decoration of Book Covers: The Work and Life of Alice C. Morse, entry 92-7, pages 61-62.

Found, Yet Lost - An Adaptation of the Design from the Portia Series

E. P. Roe. Found, Yet Lost. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, n.d.

This adaptation of Alice C. Morse's design has recently been identified on the front cover of Found, Yet Lost . The original use of this plate was on the Portia Series, a five-volume series of self-help books for women, published by Dodd, Mead in 1891-1892 . Even within the Portia Series, several variants of Mores's design were used.  A detailed description of the binding variants for Dodd Mead's Portia Series can be read in The Proper Decoration of Book Covers: The Life and Work of Alice C. Morse, entry 91-2, p. 54.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Custom Book Blankies - Treat Your Books Like Babies

I thought I'd take this opportunity to let blog readers know about a product I've designed and have been using with great success. If you are collecting or conserving 19th century publishers' bindings, such as those designed by Alice C. Morse -- or any rare or fragile book, you will want to protect them by using book cradles and supports. Safe book handling procecedures are neccessary for the long life of books. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I have developed several styles of custom book supports and book weights that assist the reader and ensure that books can be safely read and displayed. As a conservator, I also use these to support books when I'm working on them.The supports I make are unique. I make two designs -- one design fits commercially available acrylic or foam book cradles and the other deisgn are a pair of long blankets that are used on their own, without cradles. Please see the Purchase Custom Book Supports page on this blog for details. If you have questions, or are interested in having these made for your collection, conservation lab or home library, please contact me at  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"House and Hearth" Design Re-used

Recently, I found two books with Morse's designs re-used on books published by Dodd Mead. Both of them were authored by E. P. Roe. The one shown below is A Brave Little Quakeress (1892), featuring a design originally created for House and Hearth (1891). The picture below is Alice Morse's exhibition cover that is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Deptarment of Drawings and Prints). To read more about Morse's book covers in on The Metropolitan Museum website, click here. The other book will be the subject of another post. This design is described in entry 91-3, Dubansky book.

Book cover for House and Hearth, 1891
Designer: Alice C. Morse (American, 1863–1961); author: Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford (American, 1835–1921); publisher: Dodd, Mead & Company, New York
Beige cloth covered boards with light and dark brown and gold decoration
Overall 6 3/8 x 9 3/16 in. (16.2 x 23.4 cm), front cover 6 3/8 x 4 in. (16.2 x 10.1 cm), front cover and spine 6 3/8 x 5 1/4 in. (16.2 x 13.4 cm)
Gift of Alice C. Morse, 1923, transferred from the Library (56.522.50)

Here is the adaptation of Morse's design on A Brave Little Quakeress, by E. P. Roe, Dodd Mead, 1892. The color in this Ebay photograph is off. A more acurate photo may be forthcoming. The cloth is gold and the stamping orange-red. This design adaptation is not in the Dubansky book.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Occupations of Women: Book Ornamentation - Title Page Design

This lovely gouache painting in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum was described on the verso, by Morse, as a "book ornamentation - title page." As with most of Morse's drawings at the Cooper Hewitt, I have not seen this design in published form -- but I also haven't seen copies of either edition of a book that it may have been designed for entitled, What Women Can Earn: Compensations Occupations of Women and Their CompensationNew York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1899. I will be looking for copies of this book to see if Morse's title page is present and if you have copies in your collection or inventory, please look to see if you see it there and let me know what you find.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Morse's Designs for Art Amateur - Candy Dishes

While I did mention this design from Art Amateur in my book, I was not able to illustrate it. Here are Morse's designs for candy dishes from Art Amateur. 1897. Vol. 36, no.2. (Dubansky, page 39, note 52.)

Embroidery Design for Doilies, Another Design from Harper's Bazaar

Harper's Bazaar. October 17, 1896; 29, 42 (Proquest)

This is another one of several designs which Alice C. Morse created for embroideries, china painting and phyrography for Harper's Bazaar in the 1890s. Look closely and you can see her signature in the lower left corner of the design.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Embroidery Designs in Harper's Bazaar

In addition to designing book covers, Alice C. Morse produced designs for pyrography, china and embroideries for several periodicals, including Art Amateur and the Art Interchange, Corticelli Home Needlework and Harper's Bazaar (see Dubansky pp. 13-14).  Here are two of her designs with Chrismas and plant motifs for Harper's Bazaar in 1896.

From Harper's Bazaar; November 21, 1896. This periodical is available on Proquest.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Book Plate Design at the Cooper Hewitt Museum - 1895

This bookplate design by Alice C. Morse, dated 1895, is in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. (Accession number 2009-6-58). The media is pencil and ink on paper, with white paint used as a correction aid. It is the only known bookplate design by Morse, although she may have designed others. It is signed in the lower left corner of the design.

As with Morse's other original designs at Cooper Hewitt, this drawing gives us insight into Morse's process. Her underlying pencil sketch, areas where Morse used white paint to modify her drawing, and notes on size (2 1/2 x 2 3/4 in.) are evident. She obviously wanted this design returned to her, but we don't know to whom it may have been commissioned from or sent to on spec. The verso image has been color-corrected (or uncorrected) to show you more detail. The board is quite brittle and yellowed. The drawing paper is still white and in good condition. Perhaps one of us will one day find this bookplate in printed form in a book. If anyone does find one, please let me know, as it is now known if the plate was ever printed and used.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Men in a Boat. A Published Design Firmly Attributed to Morse

If you are collecting Morse covers you will be happy to know about this cover on a poplular text from the late 19th century. Gullans and Espy attributed a binding for Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1890) to Morse, but I was never quite sure if this was the cover because it seemed at the time, so unlike Morse's work, especially her early work -- which this is.

I was wrong, as this image in The American Bookmaker clearly attributes this design to Morse (May 1890, p. 127). The  pictorial design that Morse made for this book is not quite so successful on the published binding as it appears here. It is stamped in green on blue cloth. The stamping color is simlar in tone to the cloth color, making the detailed design difficult to decipher.  Not in Dubansky.

My copy of Three Men in a Boat


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Two Years in the French West Indies: An Alternate Design?

Drawing. Book-Cover Design by Alice C. Morse
Cooper Hewitt Museum.
Accession number 1943-33-1-7
This draiwing in the Cooper Hewitt Museum could be an alternate design study for Lafcadio Hearn's Two Years in the French West Indies (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890; Dubansky entry 90-3). See Two Years in the French West Indies book cover in The Metropolitan Museum of Art website for an image of Morse's own cover. This design shares some of the same features as the published version, such as the strapwork design, the orange bough motifs and the color palette.

Possible Alternate Design for "In Blue Uniform" 1893

Putnam, George I. In Blue Uniform: An Army Novel.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1893.

Design for a Book Cover. Drawing.  Alice C. Morse, Designer.
Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.4 cm.
Cooper Hewitt Museum. Accession number 1943-33-1-12.  

In keeping with my effort to compare Morse's original drawings for book covers with known published Morse book covers, I pose that the drawing above may have been an alternate design for In Blue Uniform, a design origianlly attributed to Morse by Gullans and Espy. Dubansky entry 93-5.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013



The Book Buyer (Vol. 11, February 1894-January 1895, p. 561) credits Alice C. Morse with the design of this cover for Polly: A Christmas Recollection (Scribners, 1894).  Polly is one of a four-title set of books by Thomas Nelson Page. The first title in the set is Marse Chan, published in 1892. It is also unsigned but attributed to Morse. Morse's own book-cover for Marse Chan is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession number 56.522.79; See Dubansky entry 92-12.)
To see the Museum's Marse Chan, click on:

The other titles in this set are Meh Lady (1894) and Unc' Edinburgh (1895). These have not been attributed to Morse.

A Bow of Orange Ribbon - A Newly Attributed Design by Morse?

There are numerous book cover designs for A Bow of Orange Ribbon by Amelia Barr in the 1890s and Morse may have designed one or more of them. Although this cover is not signed, I always thought that Morse may have designed it. This is only one of the many variants I have seen it in. Upon browsing my notes from the Cooper Hewitt Morse collection, I notitced this small sketch on the back of  another design. Could it be an early sketch for this pubhsiled design. It certainly looks like it. Note the crossed swords, the rough bow design and the type layout.

Examples of Morse's Cloth Specifications

In an interview with Gilson Willets entitled "The Designing of Book-Covers" (Art Interchange, November 1894, pp. 118-119) Morse describes that she presented her publishers with two or three rough sketches. Once the publsher had chosen a design, Morse prepared a finished colored drawing, specifying the colors of the design and book cloth. Two of Morse's drawings for book covers at the Cooper Hewitt Museum feature cloth specifications on the versos. They are for cloths made by the Bancroft and Holliston Mills.

A Sketch for 'My Study Fire' at the Cooper Hewitt Museum

This post relates to Dubansky entry 99-3 (p. 82), Morse's publsihed design for My Study Fire, by Hamilton W. Mabie, published by Dodd, Mead & Co. in 1899. This sketch, a gouache painting, is one of Morse's original works in the Cooper Hewitt Museum. (Accession number 1943-33-1-9. Dimensions: 20.7 x 13.2 cm.) This design is a rare example of Morse's drawings at Cooper Hewitt that feature a book title. That is one of the reasons why I believe that it may be a design that Morse presented to her publisher for the cover of this book -- probably along with a drawing for the cover that was published. The published cover is quite similar. It features a cartouche much like this one, set into a rectangular panel design. Morse stated in an Art Interchange interview that she regularly presented two rough sketches to her publisher. I have not seen the original sketch for the published cover.   

Morse's book-cover design as published

Design in Poker-Work, A Footstool

Now that so many American periodicals are online, it's much easier to find Morse designs than it was when I was working on my book. This dynamic design, by Alice C. Morse, appeared in Harper's Bazaar on April 24, 1897 on page 348. It is included in the Proquest database. The design is for a pyrography footstool.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

'Crown of Straw'; Is 'Majesty of Man' a Series Binding?

Thanks go to Richard Minsky and John Lehner who both let me know about this Morse-designed cover for Allen Upward's Crown of Straw (Dodd Mead, 1896). It is the same cover for Alien's Majesty of Man, also Dodd Mead, 1896. So, it is probably a series binding (if two constitutes a series -- or set?) but more homework is required. Below is a photograph of Alice C. Morse's own cover for this book that she left to the Museum in 1924. Link to MMA catalog record. I admire this design so much that you may have noticed that I used it for the cover of my book on Morse, only in red. Notice how there is a problem with the green stamping on the reverse diagonal-rib bookcloth.

A clue to the fact that this may have been a series cover is that the lettering is not hand done, but stamped from type.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Heads or Tails? Morse designs in the American Bookmaker

In earlier posts I mentioned what a wonderful primary resource the American Bookmaker is for information about American decorated book covers, book decorations, illustrations and other subjects of book history. Fortunately, now many issues of the magazine are online and easily search-able. Several years ago, I found these by spending Christmas Eve day in the rare book library at Columbia University looking through all of the issues from the late 1880s through the 1890s. It was transporting to look at the actual magazines; it felt like I could have been in the 1890s just getting up to date with the latest book info. Here are two Morse designs for you to enjoy from the American Bookmaker

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Venetian June

 Here is a lovely grotesque book cover design by Morse that is not in my book, but was discovered in time for the Grolier Club exhibition. As you can see, it is signed AM under the author's name, within the curly leaves of the lower part of the design.

Below is a review of the design in The Bookman, Volume 4. The review also attributes Morse as a designer for some of the volumes in Century's 'Thumbnail Series' and for the singular, classical design of Harper's 'Odd Number Series' and includes a picture of A Venetian June. While we now know that Morse designed at least two of the books for The Thumbnail series (Writing to Rosina and Tracings [see Tracings in an earlier posting), it still remains for me to locate the rest of the books in the series and see which can be attributed to Morse.

Anna Fuller
A Venetian June
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1896
Printer: The Knickerbocker Press
155 x 110 x 20 mm

Thursday, April 4, 2013

R. L. Stevenson's, Island Nights Entertainments - A Possible Morse Design

Robert Louis Stevenson. 
Island Night's Entertainments. 
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1893

Awhile back, Christina Kraus sent a picture of this unsigned book cover, thinking it might be by Alice C. Morse. It looks compatible with Morse's work but I haven't found any proof of its designer as yet. Morse did design the cover of Stevenson's  The Wrecker for  Scribner's, published in 1892. (See Dubansky entry 92-13.)

Christine of the Hills

Richard Minsky and John Lehner identified this cover as a Morse design and it certainly looks like one. It is signed in the lower right corner of the front cover illustration, but the monogram is not typical of Morse as it is missing the crossbar in the 'A'. This could just be artistic licence. The more pictorial covers we find of Morse's, the more we have a sense of her pictorial style -- and that list is growing. As Morse worked in so many styles (grotesque, art nouveau, arts and crafts, classical, etc.) it can be a challenge to identify her work if it is not signed -- and pretty much everything before 1894 is not signed. (Morse was designing book covers since 1887). I have not yet looked for a published reference that would verify that Morse designed Christine of the Hills. I plan to, but if you find anything, let me know.

Max Pemberton
Christine of the Hills
New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1897
University Press: John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.
181 x 127 x 27 mm
Photo Credit: Richard Minsky

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Singer of the Sea - A Variant of a Cover Used on Paul Dunbar's Lyrics of Love and Laughter

Those of you familiar with Alice C. Morse will recongnize this pretty design from its appearance on two other titles in The Proper Decoration of Book Covers:

 My Lady's Slipper by Dora Sigerson (Dubansky entry 99-4).
Lyrics of Love and Laughter by Paul Dunbar (Dubansky entry 03-1)

Thanks to Valinda Carroll for discovering it.

And the variants just keep on coming and characteristically deteriorate in quality. 

Amelia E. Barr
A Singer From the Sea
New York: Dodd, Mead & Co.
copyright 1893; no date on book
160 x 107 x 27 mm

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Puritan's Wife - (Almost) Everything Makes Sense

The binding for A Purtian's Wife (I.A.N.A., 1901; Dubansky entry 01-1), never made sense to me. It looks like a later adaptation of Morse's design. The mystery is at least somewhat solved by the appearance of the book cover shown here, that has Morse's lettering and spine design. I still feel that there may be an earlier variant of this cover somewhere out there because something still irks me about this one. The color of the stamping in relation to the cloth doesn't work well and I don't think it would have been Morse's choice. The copyright date on this book is 1896. That's where I think another design will eventually surface. Just a guess. Both books, entry 01-1 and the one shown here have the same title page.

Max Pemberton
A Puritan's Wife
180 x 112 x 22 mm

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Rose of a Hundred Leaves - Another Variant

Entry 91-1 in The Proper Decoration of Book Covers is Alice C. Morse's beautiful book cover design for A Rose of a Hundred Leaves. It is a lovely design depicting a wreath of pink roses gold-stamped on a white paper onlay. Another, smaller variant, much reduced in quality is also displayed. Today, I found yet a third variant with the same design, further simplified, but with a dust jacket. It isn't a newly discovered design, but it does illustrate how publishers continued to reinvent and reproduce cover designs, in smaller sizes for books in series.   

Amelia Huddleston Barr
A Rose of a Hundred Leaves: A Love Story
New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1891
Buy a copy of The Proper Decoration of Book Covers: The Life and Work of Alice C. Morse

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Missing Link, Century Company's Thumb-Nail Series

Morse's cover design for Writing to Rosina, published in 1894 by Century Co. (Dubansky entry 94-1) remained somewhat a mystery to me until now. The mystery began to unravel when Christina Kraus sent me a photograph of Tracings by E. Scott O'Connor as a Christmas email (thank you Christina!). I had always thought that Rosina was from a series and I did see some pictures of books online that looked very much like it in format but not necessarily by design. Fortunately Morse signed her cover for Tracings, so that it can easily be attributed to her. It took me awhile to get to the business of finding a copy for my Morse collection, but a few weeks ago, I devoted myself to the task and found one in excellent condition, as it was still in its original box! That was lucky for many reasons, but in particular, the printed label on the box was titled The Thumb-Nail Series and it listed the titles of the entire series, including Writing to Rosina. So now I can say with authority that both books are part of this charming series of small, decorative, blind-stamped bindings. It is possible that Morse designed others in the series, but that will take some time to determine.

Thumb-Nail Series
E. Scott O'Connor
Tracings, or a Reflection on Nature
New York: The Century Co., 1899
Printer: The De Vinne Press, New York
130 x 72 x 12 mm

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

A Dust Jacket for the Gypsy Series

It's a rare and wonderful occurance to find an Alice C. Morse book with a dust jacket, so of course I was thrilled to find one for Dodd, Mead & Company's Gypsy Series, published from 1894-1897(Dubansky entry 94-8). The occurance is so rare, in fact, that I only have one other book with a printed paper dust jacket in my collection. It is for a book that is yet another post-book discovery, A Singer of the Sea, by Amelia E. Barr. The Series, written by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps included four titles. Gypsy's Cousin Joy is the second book of the Gypsy Series, published in 1895. The design of the dust jacket is the same as the book's cover. The book is bound in a gold reverse cloth with green and orange stamping, with the title and author's name stamped in gold with an orange shadow.

A Newly Discovered Design - In Honor's Cause

Browsing recently on Ebay, I serendipitously discovered this book. Immediately, I recognized it as a possible Morse design and I started to look closely for a signature. Fortunately there was one, signed A. M., embedded in the title panel in the lower left corner and you can see a detail of it below, In Honour's Cause is a children's book and  looks very much like the cover published a year later for The Missing Prince (Dodd Mead, 1897; Dubansky entry 97-3). It is the second book found for a work by Fenn; the other being First in the Field, posted two entries ago. There are very few pictorial covers designed by Morse and these are logically found on books of children's literature. What stands out to me about their design is the wiggly (for lack of a better word) character of her drawing, the way she blocks out form and also the lettering style. If you look at enough of her designs, you will recognize them as well. 

George Manville Fenn
In Honor's Cause. A Tale of the Days of George the First.
Illustrations by Lancelot Speed
New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1896
Burr Printing House, New York
202 x 140 x 30 mm

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