The Art of American Book Covers – Peacocks
By Richard Minsky
The first post to this blog in August 2009 was about a book with a peacock feather stamped in gold on the cover, The New Day by Richard Watson Gilder [Scribner, Armstrong, 1876]. It's worth re-reading that story, because there is a connection to Margaret Armstrong, whose peacock designs are below. Here's a photo of that book to refresh your memory. Click it to read the original post.
(picture: The New Day, A poem in Songs and Sonnets by Richard Watson Gilder. Illustrations engraved by Henry Marsh, New York: Scribner, Armstrong, and Company, 1876. 17.8 x 13.5 cm. Design often attributed to Helena DeKay Gilder)
Peacocks and peacock feathers were a pervasive image of the Aesthetic Movement, a symbol of beauty in nature. Whistler's Peacock Room of 1877 was a monumental tribute to this theme.
Albert Angus Turbayne is sometimes thought of as a British designer, but he was a native of Boston, born in 1866. He lived and worked in England for much of his career, and was considered among the top book artists, creating designs for trade bindings and fine bindings with gauffered edges.
The September, 1900 edition of The Artist [vol. 28, No. 248, pp. 212-217] has a nice illustrated feature titled "A. A. Turbayne's Book-Bindings at the Paris Exhibition" that will give you a sense of his work and stature at that time. Look particularly at the "'Maiolica' fore-edge by A. A. Turbayne" on p. 215.
His most familiar work is an Art Nouveau peacock binding done for Macmillan's series of books by Thomas Love Peacock. The stamping die is engraved with fine lines that reflect at different angles, so parts of the image light up differently as you move past the book or turn it in your hands. This is a variant of the technique that lit up the 1876 cover of The New Day.
Turbayne was a master at monograms, and was the primary designer/artist of the book Monograms & Ciphers [London: T.C.& E.C. Jack, 1906]. At various times he worked for the London County Council School of Photoengraving and Lithography, for Carlton Studio, and as a book designer for Oxford University Press. His own cipher is (here).
(picture: A. A Turbayne, Gryll Grange by Thomas Love Peacock, London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1896)
(picture: Paul Woodroffe, Ivory Apes & Peacocks by Israfel (Gertrude Hudson) New York, London: P Mansfield & A Wessels; At the Sign of the Unicorn, 1899)
Margaret Armstrong, perhaps the most collected American book cover artist of the golden age, was also a stained glass designer, having studied with John LaFarge (as did Sarah Whitman and Alice Morse). She made a horizontally symmetrical peacock design in 1903 for Appleton's book on housekeeping for the wealthy. This cover uses bright and matte gold to achieve a lighting effect similar to the engraving on Turbayne's design, but here it is achieved by texturing the matte gold rather than hand engraving lines.
(picture: Margaret Armstrong, Millionaire Households by Mary Elizabeth Carter. New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1903)
She reprised the concept a decade later for Crowell.
(picture: Margaret Armstrong, Twenty Centuries of Paris by Mabell S.C. Smith. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1913)
ILAB is proud to present a series of most interesting articles originally published on Richard Minsky’s blog The Art of American Book Covers.
Richard Minsky has been making and remaking artists’ books for over fifty years. His tremendous work is documented in The Book Art of Richard Minsky, published by George Braziller Inc. in 2011. Richard Minsky founded the Center for Book Arts in 1974. His work has been shown around the world and remains in public collections, including the National Gallery of Art and The Victoria and Albert Museum. He has received many fellowships, grants and awards of recognition, including several from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Text and images Copyright © 2014 Richard Minsky. All rights reserved. Used with permission.