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In Full Bloom: Margaret Armstrong's Decorated Publishers' Bindings Revisited

June 2–September 21, 2022
Free with Museum admission

Margaret Armstrong (1867–1944) was an author, book cover designer, field collector, and botanical illustrator. She was among the most influential designers of her time and a source of inspiration for other female book cover designers including Amy M. Sacker, Lee Thayer, and Marion Louise Peabody.

Armstrong’s first book cover design, for Sweet William by Marguerite Bouvet, was published in 1890. Early in her career she faced reluctance placing her designs with publishers, as the field of book cover design was dominated by men. To surmount this challenge, she signed her early submissions “M.N. Armstrong.” However, the years 1892–93 were groundbreaking for women book cover designers: several important exhibitions in prominent clubs and at the World’s Columbian Exposition featured women designers and paved the way for the success they enjoyed during the next decades.

As Armstrong’s career as a book designer progressed, her designs became more fluid and individualized, reflecting the books’ subjects. With her increasingly colorful, striking book covers, she was in demand as a designer and worked for twenty-one different publishers, producing approximately 270 book cover designs.

In Full Bloom: Margaret Armstrong's Decorated Publishers' Bindings Revisited brings back nearly all the books from Watson Library’s 2020 exhibition Spring Blossoms: Margaret Armstrong’s Decorated Publishers’ Bindings and includes over thirty additional titles. The exhibition features book covers designed by Armstrong from the 1890s to 1927, and highlights six themes: designs that invoke the patterns of stained glass; designs featuring flowers and plant forms; design variants; lesser-known designs; yellow and blue designs selected to honor the victims of the war in Ukraine; and the lavender series of publications by Myrtle Reed.

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Marquee: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, 1899, G.P. Putnam's Sons and Knickerbocker Press, publishers. United States, New York. Illustrated book, 91 pages, [8] leaves of plates., H. 20 cm. Thomas J. Watson Library (Publishers Bindings 760)