Talwin Morris I

The Library has just discovered a rather important bookplate by Talwin and Alice Morris, revealed during an audit of the folios in our bookstore. The bookplate depicts a pastoral scene of a young seated lady, reading books and accompanied by a cat and an hour glass. The landscape behind includes a river with setting sun and obelisk. Both Alice’s and Talwin’s initials are touchingly included in conjoined hearts above, with the motto “There lyeth more in ye telling than in ye tale” below.
Talwin Morris (1865-1911) is an important figure in the history and development of Glasgow Style design at the turn of the 20th century. He knew many people who attended the Glasgow School of Art, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh who he recommended as an architect to publisher Walter Blackie. The result of that commission is the celebrated Hill House in Helensburgh.
The Library holds a number of Glasgow Style bookbindings by Morris in its special collections, designed by him during his tenure as Art Director at Blackie & Son publishers. Between 1892 and 1909 Morris was a prolific designer of bindings for the company and its subsidiary, Gresham Publishing. He was hugely influential in moving design away from Victorian narrative bindings to a more modern Art Nouveau approach where line, curve and decoration are used to entice the reader.
Talwin married Alice, a prolific author and illustrator in her own right, in 1892. The Morris scholar and expert Gerald Cinamon exhibited this bookplate design in an exhibition devoted to Talwin Morris in 1983, held at the William Morris Gallery. He dates the design to 1893, and notes that its pastoral view of a river and setting sun may have been inspired by his and Alice’s recent move to their new home at Dunglass Castle on the Clyde.


  1. This is wonderful! I have no doubt that the Lady in the bookplate is Alice Talwin Morris, the river is the Clyde, and the obelisk is the Monument to Henry Bell. I have studied as much of Gerald Cinamon’s writing on TM as I can. and found no mention of this bookplate, or I may just have missed it. This is the first representation of Alice I have encountered. It’s a shame the image is a little blurry and the lighting is inconsistent. Is it possible the image can be re-done, or can you advise if a better image is available for purchase?
    If the Lady is holding a pen in her hand, it would be a great confirmation of the possibility of being Alice the Authoress.
    Many thanks for this!
    PS; correction required in post

    • Many thanks for your enthusiastic comment Alan. A copy of this bookplate was exhibited at Cinamon’s exhibition on Talwin Morris at the William Morris Gallery in 1983. You can access the full record of the book in which our bookplate appears on our Library Catalogue here http://prism.talis.com/gsa/items/32335.

      We have a very large collection of Glasgow Style bookbindings by Talwin Morris, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Ethel Larcombe, and Jessie M. King in our Special Collections. More information here http://www2.gsa.ac.uk/library/special_collections.html. We’d certainly be happy to rephotograph the bookplate for you, though unfortunately it cannot be accessed currently due to refurbishment works. Could I ask you to remind me in October at d.chappell@gsa.ac.uk, at which point our building works will be completed?

      Best wishes
      Duncan Chappell
      GSA Librarian

      • Duncan, thank you for your kind reply and the links. I shall certainly send an email to remind you in October. There is a lot of symbolism in the bookplate, including an hourglass on its side. If Gerald is correct with the 1893 date, on which I concur, this is a recently married couple, who are still clearly very much in love. The Lady does not appear to have a pen in hand, but I still think the Lady depicted is Alice Talwin Morris as she would not yet have been an authoress at this early date.
        I shall endeavour to locate a catalogue for Gerald Cinamon’s exhibition on Talwin Morris at the William Morris Gallery in 1983.
        Many Thanks once again!

      • Hi Alan,I shall email you a photo of the entry in Cinamon’s catalogue. In the meantime you might be interested to know that an exhibition of Cinamon’s own work as a book designer for Penguin is opening at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts soon.

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