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.