The Art of Book Design: Tanglewood Tales

Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, illustrations by Virginia Frances Sterrett; 1921; Philadelphia, Penn Publishing Company

As promised, today we’re looking at the second book illustrated by Virginia Sterrett, Tanglewood Tales by Hawthorne, and the artwork is just as beautiful as that in Sterrett ‘s first book, Old French Fairy Tales.  The soft flowing lines and attention to small details are still present, but there’s more boldness in the colour palette and, perhaps because of this, a different quality of light. Sterrett was only 20 when she completed this work and was already sick with the tuberculosis that would eventually take her life.

Enjoy! [Read more…]

The Art of Book Design: My Lady Nicotine

Barrie, James Matthew, My Lady Nicotine A Study in Smoke, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1890

A book written by the author of Peter Pan about his love affair with smoking. He had quit smoking when he wrote the book and had become contemptuous of it, but the series of 33 essays speak wistfully of his fond remembrances of the days when he enjoyed his pipe. The essay titles include, “His Wife’s Cigar,” “How Heroes Smoke.” and “The Perils of Not Smoking.”


via: Classic Literature Library

The Art of Book Design: The Book of Romance

Lang, Andrew. The Book of Romance. New York, Longmans, Green & co, 1902

This is one of the best-loved book of stories about the Legend of King Arthur. The cover is gorgeous, but there are some pretty sweet interior plates as well. The whole book is available at the link below if you’re interested.


via: The Internet Archive

The Art of Book Design: Easy Guide to the Constellations

Today’s book comes from Anne, Cranky Cat Lady and it’s absolutely charming. I’m pretty sure it’s a rare first edition and it looks to be in good shape for a book that’s 119 years old.

James Gall. An Easy Guide to The Constellations With A Miniature Atlas of The Stars. Gall and Inglis, London, 1900.

The Art of Book Design: Old French Fairy Tales

Old French Fairy Tales by Comtesse De Segur; illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett; 1920; The Penn publishing company, Philadelphia.

I’m not sure why, but Saturdays seem like a good day to showcase Fairy Tales. Perhaps because I spent every Saturday with my grandparents when I was young and my Opa loved to tell me stories.

Today’s story book is a classic of the Art Nouveau period and was illustrated by the incomparable Virgina Sterrett. Sterrett was only 20 when she received the commission to illustrate Old French Fairly Tales and the art she created is rich and full of colour and delicate details. Sterrett was diagnosed with tuberculosis shortly after the completion of this book and her failing health limited her ability to work. She did go on to complete the illustrations for two other books before her death at the age of 30. I will be showcasing those books over the next 2 Saturdays so make sure to tune in. But now, let’s just enjoy a few of the wonderful illustrations of Sterrett’s first book, Old French Fairy Tales.

The book comes to us from the Public Domain Review, but the entire book can be accessed at The Internet Archive.

Roslie saw before her eyes a tree of marvellous beauty

She threw her arms around the neck of Bonne-Biche

They were three months passing through the forest

A part of the wall crumbled with a terrible noise

They walked side by side during the rest of the evening

“Ah, ha! you are at last in my domain, little fool!”

Violette consented willingly to pass the night in the forest

The Art of Book Design: The Romance of Insect Life

The Romance of Insect Life, by Edmund Selous, with B&W illustrations by Lancelot Speed and Carton Moore-Park throughout. Natural history stories from the insect world, published by Seeley & Co, London, 1907

I’m confused by the bird on the cover. Is it a gift of love or an object of love?


via: The Reader’s Desire

The Art of Book Design: The Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky. Rules for Radicals. New York, Random House, 1971. ©Marcus Ranum, all rights reserved

Our book today comes from Marcus and I love the bright, quirky colours and design so typical of the 70’s.

Despite its age, this book is still relevant and contains Alinsky’s 13 Rules for Radicals which all political activists should be familiar with. Alinsky believed in working within the system and his philosophy was essentially one of non-violence. This book contains one of my favourite quotes:

“People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people.” Saul Alinsky, via: Open Culture