An intro to Ethel Reed's commercial books

I was exposed to Ethel Reed's work when I was asked to repair a copy of a volume she designed and illustrated, The Arabella and Araminta Stories (Boston: Copeland & Day, 1895). I was totally enchanted--and as you probably know, I am not that interested in commercial bindings, so it was a book I'll never forget! 

I'll share a couple photos of the binding and end leaves but do yourself a solid and see it in person at a special collections near you. That way you see the great illustrations too. Or buy a copy - they range from only $2,500 to $30,000 for a signed, large format deluxe edition. There are reprints though. At the very least, you have to check it out on William S. Peterson's exceptional blog, Ethel Reed: Boston Poster Artist

Bold, balanced and refined

Gertrude Smith, The Arabella and Araminta Stories (Boston: Copeland & Day, 1895).

Fun and charming cover for a book about twin girls

Smith, Gertrude, “Arabella and Araminta Stories,” Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives Online Exhibitions, accessed July 9, 2017,

Thank you for exhibiting the book opened!

Ethel Reed is more well known for her posters, and you will enjoy what you find when you dig deeper. Start with the aforementioned Ethel Reed blog (and the accompanying biography, Vanished in the Fog!), the recent exhibition THE COVER SELLS THE BOOK: TRANSFORMATIONS IN COMMERCIAL BOOK PUBLISHING, 1860-1920 by the Delware Art Museum, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Here's a poster for another book she illustrated and designed from 1896, which was to commissioned to be in a similar style to Arabella and Araminta

Super end leaves

Louise Chandler Moulton, In Childhood’s Country (Boston: Copeland & Day, 1896; London: James Bowden, 1896)

The Round Rabbit (1898) (embedded above from the Internet Archive) has plain end leaves, which work just fine too. Granted it is a children's book, but the design is more than just playful - the pattern is fun, simple and charming.

Not sure if the 1901 reprint, embedded below from HathiTrust, was updated by Reed, but the rabbits look similar to the earlier copy and the end leaves were previously used for In Chilhood's Country. Maybe the publisher pieced together Reed's previous designs, which they owned, without Reed's input. In any case, the single rabbit on the back cover certainly is cheeky!

I began this post hoping to get into a discussion of the works of a few other designers highlighted from the recent Delaware Art Museum exhibition "The Cover Sells the Book: Transformations in Commercial Book Publishing, 1860-1920" and Publisher's Bindings Online 1815-1930 hosted at the University of Alabama. But maybe next time!