The Cover Sells the Book: Transformations in Commercial Book Publishing, 1860-1920 at Delaware Art Museum, through August 27, 2017

“The years 1860-1920 witnessed sweeping changes in book design, inspired by technological developments, marketing strategies, and shifting ideas about art. Commercial publishers used these advances to mass-produce books that emulated the aesthetics of private presses, with attractive layouts and decorative bindings, and marketed them to the growing literate public on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2009, Mary G. Sawyer gifted more than 3,000 books that represent this unique moment in the history of the book to the Delaware Art Museum’s Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives. This incredible collection, coupled with the Museum’s strong holdings in books and renowned Pre-Raphaelite collection, inspired the summer 2017 exhibition “The Cover Sells the Book”: Transformations in Commercial Book Publishing, 1860-1920.

The exhibition features over 50 books that illustrate the ways in which the aesthetics and ideals of private presses, such as William Morris’s Kelmscott Press, were translated by commercial publishers. Although many of these styles did not ultimately become the dominant method of book design, their influence on publishers and readers alike was profound.

In addition to books, the exhibition includes book prospectuses, advertising posters, and original illustrations, including Frank Schoonover’s Kidnapped. Books on view also include The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Earthly Paradise by William Morris, The Prince’s Progress by Christina Rossetti and designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and The Romance of Zion Chapel by Richard Le Gallienne and designed by Will H. Bradley. — Delaware Art Museum

Miss Träumerei, 1895, Advertising poster for the novel Miss Träumerei: A Weimar Idyl, by Albert Morris Bagby (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe & Co., 1895). 
Ethel Reed (1874–1912).
Three-color commercial lithograph, 20 1/2 × 15 3/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of David and Lucinda Pollack, 2015

The Chap-Book, 1896, Advertisement for The Chap-Book, Frank Hazenplug, (1874–1931). Twocolor lithograph, composition: 13 1/4 × 7 7/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Helen Farr Sloan, 1977

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1892. Binding designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Goblin Market, by Christina Rossetti (London: Macmillan & Co., 1893). Binding designed by Laurence Housman (1865-1959). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

The Prince’s Progress and other Poems, by Christina Rossetti (London: Macmillan and Co., 1866). Binding design by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

The Prince’s Progress and other Poems, by Christina Rossetti (London: Macmillan and Co., 1866). Binding design by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

The Romance of Zion Chapel, by Richard Le Gallienne (London and New York: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1898). Binding designed by Will H. Bradley (1868-1962). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

The Earthly Paradise, by William Morris (London: Reeves and Turner, Ballantyne Press, 1890). Designed by William Morris (1834-1896). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Parables and Tales, by Thomas Gordon Hake (London: Chapman and Hall, 1872). Binding designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882. Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Camp-Fires and Guide-Posts, by Henry Van Dyke (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1921). Binding designed by Margaret Armstrong (1867-1904). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Images courtesy Delaware Art Museum.