Books of Beauty: A Holistic Approach

Sarah Wyman Whitman’s “Golden Curl” Endpapers

Sarah Wyman Whitman designed these distinctive gold and white floral endpapers of 5 petal flowers scattered over a background of repeating curls. “[She] based her “golden curl” endpapers on an endpaper design by Dante Gabriel Rossetti of curls and flowers which he created for his ‘Poems’ of 1870.  She used these endpapers sparingly and choicely on only a few selected books.”

Kitts, Adrienne Horowitz. Allusion and Imagery in the Book Art of Sarah Wyman Whitman Catalogue 1. Austin Abbey Rare Books (2018), p. 20.


Margaret Armstrong and her Myrtle Reed Lavender Bindings

Myrtle Reed (1874-1911) was a prolific author, publishing 27 books in her lifetime in addition to several posthumous volumes.  She also wrote short pieces of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, including columns in newspapers, under a variety of pseudonyms. She was best known for her romances, which were so popular that each title typically sold 100,000 copies or more.

Her first novel, Love Letters of a Musician, was published in 1899 by G.P Putnam’s Sons, who hired Margaret Armstrong to design the binding. Armstrong continued to design bindings for Reed’s romances until 1913, creating a total of twelve iconic Art Nouveau bindings in a distinctive lavender cloth. The first book issued in the characteristic lavender was The Spinster Book (1901). Later printings of Love Letters were also issued in that same lavender cloth, having originally been bound in a light gray. It has been suggested that the lavender cloth color was synonymous with the “racy” content of Reed’s romances.


The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.

Pictured and Decorated By Louis Fairfax-Muckley. London, J.M. Dent and Co.,1897 edition. First published in its entirety in 1596.

Two volumes bound in cream silk with elaborate gilt decoration on the cover and spine. The volumes are extensively illustrated with black and white woodcuts by Fairfax-Muckley, who worked with William Morris during the early stages of the Kelmscott Press. This late nineteenth century edition draws its style from the contemporary Pre-Raphaelite movement, which sought a return to the medieval influences of abundant detail and complex compositions.  The work is influenced by William Morris, Howard Pyle, John Ruskin, and N.C. Wyeth.

The hand printing of this edition, a total of 1350 copies, took 15 months!

“Here endeth the Faerie Queene of Edmund Spenser, the re-imprinting of which was begun by Turnbull & Spears in Edinburgh on the fifth of May mdcccxcvi [1896] and finished on the thirteenth day of August mdcccxcvii [1897].”


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