Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The beginning of book design

Sarah Wyman Whitman, 1842 - 1904, the progenitor of modern book design. Do you see the first cover without a title? The great Walden by Thoreau. And do you see that spine on "The Great Remembrance"? The long sword piercing (or tipped with) a heart?

From The Boston Public Library's site:
Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904) pioneered the role of artist-designer in the book industry and in the process revolutionized trade bookbinding. A highly-regarded Boston artist and socialite who gathered around herself a salon comprised of many of the city and region’s best-known writers, she adopted the role of mediator between her author friends and the publisher George Mifflin, whom she knew socially. Her work echoed the Arts and Crafts Movement that viewed art and life as inseparable; she wrote that “all forms of labor are beautiful and sacred because…it all has the stamp of nobility, being essential to the world’s need.” As Betty Smith has noted, Whitman became “the first professional woman artist regularly employed by a Boston publisher to give their mass-produced book covers a sense of simple elegance through line, color, and lettering.”

All forms of labor are beautiful. All forms of labor are beautiful.

Book covers designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman, courtesy The Boston Public Library

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