Arts & Crafts Influence on Book Publishing
by Jessica Kosinski
This month I thought it would be fun to do something a little different. Since this issue is all about the Arts & Crafts Movement, I thought we’d take a peek at how the Movement influenced one of my favorite things, books. It had a huge impact on the books of the time, as well as books published later. Children’s books were especially changed by it.
The Origins of the Arts & Crafts Movement
In order to understand how the two are connected, you need to know a bit about the major players in the Arts & Crafts Movement, which spanned multiple continents. It all began in Britain in the 1800s. Many citizens were repulsed by the flashy and showy designs of the Victorian Age. Instead, they wanted to get back to basics a bit. And, they wanted to place emphasis on individual craftsmanship and quality work, as opposed to mass production. That eventually led to a revolution that spanned everything from building design to furniture and all things in between, including books. The movement influenced designs in England and Europe, followed quickly by the United States, eventually spreading to more countries including Japan and Australia where it first appeared in the 1920’s.
The Arts and Crafts Movement in England and North America
The birth of the British Arts and Crafts movement was heavily influenced by the architectural ideas of Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), but it also had its origins rooted in the art of William Morris (1834-1896) and the writings of John Ruskin (1819-1900). William Morris was particularly influential in the movement due to his skills in multiple fields, including poetry and textile design. In fact, he became the figurehead of the Arts & Crafts Movement, and his influences were heavily felt in the Movement within the United States as well.
The Arts and Crafts Movement and Technology Combining to Influence Literature
As the Arts & Crafts Movement was in full swing on both continents, certain technological advancements were also occurring. For example, shortly before the Arts and Crafts movement an Englishman named Edmund Evans, who was an expert wood engraver, developed a line of toy books using a woodblock printing technique (chromoxylography) and printing them in full color sometimes using up to a dozen color blocks for a single image. He produced the books from the 1860s until he died in 1905.
Throughout the success of the Evans line of toy books he employed several different illustrators, including Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway. Mr. Crane was quite attracted to the design influences of William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement which could be seen in many of the children’s picture books that he illustrated.
How the Arts and Crafts Movement Influenced a Beloved Children’s Classic
As far as how the Arts & Crafts Movement influenced children’s books here in the United States, there can be no greater example than how “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” came about. In 1871 the city of Chicago experienced a crippling fire. During their rebirth period many artisans working in different mediums came to the city, and so did L. Frank Baum. In 1899, he and William Wallace Denslow collaborated to produce what was an incredibly innovative children’s book at the time, “Father Goose: His Book.” It featured beautiful illustrations, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in that area before.
Both Baum and Denslow were heavily influenced by the artistic renaissance going on around them in Chicago and the design ideas of the Arts & Crafts Movement. They rode the success of having the best-selling children’s book of 1899 and soon started a new project together, which became the Oz series that we all know and love to this day, beginning with the 1900 publication of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
The Arts and Crafts Movement’s Influences on Entire Publishing Companies
L. Frank Baum was far from the only American author influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement. It’s also important to note that entire publishing companies were heavily influenced by it, as well. Many of the most famous American publishing companies of the time period were enamored with Morris and his Kelmscott Press, which was established outside London, England in 1891 and produced many books of high quality with lovely illustrations. Morris’ books weren’t just about pretty illustrations. Everything from the handmade paper used to create many of them to their bindings were influenced by the ideas of the Movement and the desire to turn books into true labors of love and works of art.
While many of the American printing companies influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement were commercial, some were privately owned and operated. One of the most successful of those was Roycroft Press, which was started in New York by Elbert Hubbard in 1893.
Collecting Books Influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement
Collecting books influenced by the Arts & Crafts Movement can be a lot of fun because many of them, especially the children’s books, are high-quality and have incredibly detailed illustrations and bindings. After all, the major point of the Movement was to place more value on craftsmanship and less on speed or mass production. If you want to collect books with an Arts & Crafts style or influence, local antiques shops can be a wealth of information, and so can specialty book websites that can help you learn about each of the authors and illustrators and how the Arts & Crafts Movement influenced them.