Special Collections: Talwin Morris

The Heart of Mid-Lothian by Sir Walter Scott, with binding by Talwin Morris (GSA Mackintosh Library, Talwin Morris Collection)

The Heart of Mid-Lothian by Sir Walter Scott, with binding by Talwin Morris (GSA Library, Special Collections)

Talwin Morris (1865-1911) was a prolific book designer and decorative artist working in Glasgow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is particularly known for his Glasgow Style book designs, furniture and metalwork. We hold an extensive collection of book designs by Morris, across all periods of his output.

Life and Influence

From 1891 Morris took up post as sub art-editor under M. H. Spielmann for Black and White, a weekly magazine published by Cassell, designing many of its decorative initials and headpieces. By 1892 he had also designed the masthead of Cassell’s Saturday Journal. Responding to an advertisement for an Art Director for publishers Blackie and Son, he moved to Glasgow in May 1893 where he soon made the acquaintance of the artists and designers associated with the Glasgow School of Art. Although he never attended the School, Morris soon became friends with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries, and his own work quickly began to incorporate Glasgow Style motifs.

From 5 October-5 December 1896 he exhibited three book cover designs at the fifth exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society at the New Gallery, London. He also produced metalwork, jewellery and furniture, which he exhibited at the 1902 Exhibition of Modern British Furniture at the National Museum of Industrial Art in Budapest. Also in 1902, his work was selected for exhibition alongside those of his contemporaries at the influential Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna held in Turin, at which he sold several pieces. In 1902 also he introduced Mackintosh to his employer Walter Blackie, which led to Mackintosh receiving the commission to design Blackie’s home, Hill House, Helensburgh. In 1910 he designed the memorial of his employers the Blackie Family in Glasgow Necropolis.

Morris became hugely influential in Victorian book design by moving away from the popular narrative bindings of the time to a more modern Art Nouveau approach where line, curve and decoration are used to entice the reader. At Blackie and Son his output was prolific, producing many designs that could be printed in different colourways across series such as the Red Letter Library and Library of Famous Books. He also designed books for Morison Brothers of Glasgow, Cassell, J. G. Cotta of Stuttgart, F. Volckmar, Mudie’s Select Library, and from 1898 the Blackie subsidiary Gresham. In 1906 he also supplied the cover design of the influential German magazine Dekorative Kunst. Though many of his book designs are unsigned, some feature his ‘signature’ of a single dot followed, after a pause, by a further two dots (a stylised rendition of his initials in morse code which would comprise a long dash, followed by two shorted dashes). Others feature a stylised elongated TM monogram. During his tenure, Morris also commissioned book designs by designers such as Ethel Larcombe and Silver Studio.