In the late nineteenth century, ideas largely spread through the printed word in books, journals, and magazines. The visual arts were closely tied to the literary ones, as books were often illustrated, and publishers used attractive cover designs to market their volumes.

Talwin Morris and Jessie Marion King, key figures in bringing the Glasgow Style to book design, were part of the circle of artists who regularly visited the Macdonald sisters’ studio. Morris and King were both influenced by the work of Aubrey Beardsley, yet each took the Glasgow Style into contrasting directions. Morris, who in 1893 was appointed art director at the Glasgow publisher Blackie & Son, created a modern brand identity for his employer using the stylized lines and graphic minimalism of the Spook School, whereas King worked independently in a distinctive energetic free-flowing style featuring an abundance of detailed flora.

King’s big break came in 1898 when a German department store owner wrote to The Glasgow School of Art asking for an artist working in the Glasgow Style to design for his new publishing venture. Francis Newbery, director of the School, recommended final-year student King, then only twenty-three. She would become the most prolific book designer and illustrator of all the Glasgow Style artists.

Blackie & Son

Publisher Blackie & Son focused on biography, educational and scientific titles, and fiction. As art director, Talwin Morris established a clear brand identity and tailored his book designs and manufacturing to suit the intended market and price range. To serve the needs of the company, Morris recruited fellow illustrators to contribute cover designs, helping to broaden the canon of the Glasgow Style. Morris himself produced some of his most elaborately designed covers for the Gresham Publishing Company, an independent subsidiary of Blackie’s created in 1898 to publish luxurious volumes by subscription.

The Hill House, ca. 1905–11
Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Stained wood, repoussé brass, glass, pencil, ink, and watercolor on paper
Glasgow Museums: Given by Walter W. Blackie, 1944, E.1944.4.b

Talwin Morris’s watercolor depicts the family home of his employer, the publisher Walter Blackie. The house, located in Helensburgh (a town not far from Glasgow), resembles a Scottish castle, viewed here from deep within its gardens. While this artwork with bespoke frame perhaps served as a housewarming gift, Morris’s role in the house’s creation was even more significant. He had introduced Blackie to his friend Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the meeting had resulted in the publisher commissioning Mackintosh to design The Hill House.

Ex Libris: The Pen Is Mightier Than Truth, printing proof, 1897
Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Ink on paper
Glasgow Museums: Given by Mrs. Alice Talwin Morris, 1946,

Books were central to the lives of designer Talwin Morris and his wife, Alice Marsh, a children’s book author. Together the pair created personal bookplate designs, like this one, which they peppered with symbols of their loving relationship. The serpentine line in the center of the composition depicts two heart-topped feather quills. They are poised in unison to make their mark on the open pages of a bound volume, the pages of which fan out as white diagonal lines to the right.

Christmas card, 1897
Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Stenciled water-based paint on card
Glasgow Museums: Given by Mrs. Alice Talwin Morris, 1946, PR.1977.13.x.1

This Christmas card reveals parallels between Talwin Morris’s ideas and those of The Four during their Spook School period. Morris’s hooded figure recalls Mackintosh’s human-plant hybrid in the giant Scottish Musical Review poster of 1896, seen earlier. Both designs use the motif of the sprouting seed, but here it forms the center of the figure’s body. The card was made using eight different stencils, one for each color. Morris finished the card with his customary shorthand signature: two dots—space—one dot.

Three sketchbooks belonging to Talwin Morris, ca. 1886–95
Glasgow Museums: Given by Mrs. Alice Talwin Morris, 1946
iPad presentation © Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums), 2019

Examine three full sketchbooks belonging to Talwin Morris in this digital slideshow to see his ideas, musings, inventions, and interests.

Some of Morris’s sketches contain details taken from the pages of nineteenth-century books on historic ornament: Owen Jones’s Grammar of Ornament (1856), Albert Racinet’s Modern Decoration in Polychromatic Ornament (1873), Christopher Dresser’s Studies in Design (1876), and John Leighton’s Suggestions in Design (1852–53).

Running time: approximately 7 minutes

Sketchbook belonging to the artist, 1893–95
Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Ink, watercolor, and pencil on paper, with linen hardcover
Glasgow Museums: Given by Mrs. Alice Talwin Morris, 1946,

A sketchbook is an artist’s diary—a record of things that catch the eye or come into the mind. This book comes from a busy period in Talwin Morris’s life when he was living and working first in London (at Field’s Court, Gray’s Inn) and then in Scotland (at Dunglass, Bowling, Dunbartonshire). The pages show him making notes from nature, playing with patterns and fantastical plant forms, and even recording mottoes that interested him. He later transformed some of these inked notes into designs for Blackie & Son.

The Book of Glasgow Cathedral, 1898
Cover designed by Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Published by Morison Brothers
Printed and debossed buckram hardcover, edition 134/1000
Glasgow City Archives: Trades House Collection, THL.126

Talwin Morris’s book designs are more than simply decorative. Like The Four, he devoted considerable thought and research to every line and motif, making sure that each mark could help animate the symbolic qualities of his work and communicate a book’s contents on the cover. For The Book of Glasgow Cathedral, Morris represented the church through the central cruciform and plant forms representing the Holy Trinity, flanked by two stylized thistles, the emblematic flower of Scotland in the border.

Queen Victoria: Her Life and Reign, volume 1, 1901
Cover designed by Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Published by Gresham Publishing Co.
Printed and debossed cloth hardcover, with gilt
Mitchell Library, Special Collections: Given by Dr. William Glen, 1959, MLSC.765075

This is one of Talwin Morris’s more elaborate designs for Blackie’s high-end imprint, Gresham Publishing Company, for a set of volumes commemorating the life of Queen Victoria, who had died in 1901. Roses cry and crowned hearts bleed over the death of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. The underlying compositional arrangement is centered around a large heart, suggested by the serpentine stalks of the roses.

Set of three printing plates for the spine of Blackie’s Red Letter Series, ca. 1902
Designed by Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Private collection

This set of printing plates for the spine of Blackie & Son’s Red Letter Series reveals the tools needed to create debossed book covers, which artisans produce by applying heavy pressure to sink inked metal plates into cloth-covered boards. The largest plate of this set carries the main outline design, and the space within it accommodates the title plate, in this case for a volume by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The third plate was used to apply the color overlay for the roses of the main design.

The Golden Book of Children’s Verse, 1925 imprint
Cover designed by Talwin Morris (1865–1911), ca. 1905
Published by Blackie & Son
Printed and debossed cloth hardcover
Mitchell Library, Special Collections: Bought 1936, MLSC.CC.944581

Printing plate for the cover of The Golden Book of Children’s Verse, undated
Designed by Talwin Morris (1865–1911), ca. 1905
Private collection

A pair of happy singing birds facing each other is a quintessential Glasgow Style motif. Morris first applied this arrangement on his book designs in 1896, and Mackintosh incorporated a veritable avian choir in his poster for The Scottish Musical Review (seen earlier in this exhibition). Here Morris combines the birds with other variations of his favorite design elements, including stems of Glasgow Style roses and a kidney-shaped sun that rises above the horizon.

The printing plate is for the outline of the cover design. Somewhat ironically, Glasgow’s Mitchell Library pressed its ownership stamp on this copy over Morris’s debossed cover image.

The Poetical Works of Robert Burns, 1909
Cover designed by Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Published by Gresham Publishing Co.
Printed and debossed cloth hardcover
Mitchell Library, Special Collections: Scottish Poetry Collection, 1909, MLSC.BNS.1

Interlocking pattern, ca. 1908–9
Talwin Morris (1865–1911)
Pencil on tracing paper
Glasgow Museums: Given by Mrs. Alice Talwin Morris, 1946,

The cover for The Poetical Works of Robert Burns is one of the last Talwin Morris designed for Blackie & Son before he fell terminally ill. The colored pencil sketch beside it shows how he developed the interlocking design. Morris selected the plainest treatment with the solid gold ovals, which allowed the repeating pattern to take center stage. The focus on fluid rhythmic lines for the cover possibly alludes to the lyrical undulations and intonations of Burns’s poetry, written in Scots dialect.

Jessie Marion King

Jessie Marion King became the most commercially successful Glasgow Style artist and designer, creating illustrations for all kinds of materials, including advertising, bookplates, greeting cards, menu cards, and postcards. Published in color or black and white, King’s drawings enhanced the content and visibility of countless printed objects.

The Secret of the Wondrous Rose, ca. 1894–96
Jessie Marion King (1875–1949)
Pen and ink on paper
Glasgow Museums: Bought with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, 2004, E.2005.1.54

Jessie Marion King used Aubrey Beardsley’s 1893 Salomé as a compositional starting point for this early drawing. The bejeweled turban-like hair and costume suggest North African influences that are also evoked through the background architecture. King treats the sky in the same way that Mackintosh does in his architectural perspective drawings after 1896, seen earlier in this exhibition. The date of this drawing is unknown—our estimate based only on stylistic grounds—so we should therefore ask, who influenced whom?

Tailpiece illustration for The High History of the Holy Graal, 1902–3
Jessie Marion King (1875–1949)
Published by Dent and Dutton
Ink on vellum
Glasgow Museums: Bought with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, 2004, E.2005.1.61.1

Design for books was not confined to the cover. An artist could devise and draw endpapers, illustrative plates, and internal page decorations. In this Arthurian romance published by Dent and Dutton, King provided all the artwork, including this tailpiece—an illustration positioned at the end of a chapter. For its front cover, she drew an image of a gallant young knight and his lady.

Album von Berlin, March 1900
Cover designed by Jessie Marion King (1875–1949), 1899
Published by Globus Verlag
Printed ink on paper
Glasgow Museums: Bought with grant aid from the National Fund for Acquisitions, funded by the Scottish Government and the Friends of Glasgow Museums, 2018, GML.2018.4.50

This cover design by Jessie Marion King is for a souvenir album of photographs depicting the architecture of Berlin. It is the fourth cover in a series of such albums she created for the German publisher Globus Verlag from 1898. King employs a symmetrical linear design, animated with an abundance of looping and fruiting flowering plants, blue stars, and speeding bluebirds.

Menu card for Miss Cranston’s Lunch and Tea Rooms, ca. 1906
Cover designed by Jessie Marion King (1875–1949), ca. 1903
Printed ink on card
Glasgow Museums: Bought with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, 2004, E.2005.1.103

Jessie Marion King designed this menu card for use in Miss Cranston’s dining establishments, employing motifs and stylistic ideas that were prevalent in the designer’s work after 1901. Her female figures have long, flowing hair, and she haloes their heads with a star-edged nimbus (King claimed to see people’s auras). Roses cascade down medieval gowns, and the swooping lines of flying birds add movement. Many fine lines drawn with tiny dots enliven the composition.

Greeting card: Kind Thoughts Like Winged Birds . . . , ca. 1906–10
Designed by Jessie Marion King (1875–1949)
Ink and metallic ink on vellum
Glasgow Museums: Bought with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, 2004, E.2005.1.67

From 1906 onward Jessie Marion King’s style became vivaciously opulent. This is one of several luxuriously illuminated greeting cards that she produced with encrusted borders, cascades of free-flowing flowers depicted in minute detail, and metallic inks in gold and silver. She often tied the inner and outer pages together with ribbon. Clusters of winged birds, printed in gold in the four corners of the inner margins, take flight as part of this design.

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