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The Talwin Morris Collection: Glasgow School of Art Library

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The whispering winds : and the tales that they told / by Mary H. Debenham ; with twenty-five illustrations by Paul Hardy. Front cover by Talwin Morris. Image rights owner: Glasgow School of Art Library

Talwin Morris, Book Designer

Art Nouveau designs for books and publications by Talwin Morris (1865-1911)

Talwin Morris (1865-1911) was a prolific book designer and artist working in Glasgow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is particularly known for his Glasgow Style book designs, although he also worked in furniture, metalwork, and other decorative arts.

An architect by training, he began his graphic design career in 1891 when he became sub art-editor for the weekly magazine Black & White, designing many of its decorative initials and headpieces. By 1892 he had also designed the masthead for Cassell’s Saturday Journal. But today he is best remembered for his book designs for the Glasgow publishers Blackie & Son.

Morris’s book designs became hugely influential by moving away from the pictorial bindings of the Victorian era to a modern approach where line, curve and decoration are used to entice the reader. At Blackie & 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 Bros of Glasgow, Cassell, J. G. Cotta of Stuttgart, F. Volckmar, Mudie’s Select Library, and the Blackie subsidiary Gresham. In 1906 he also supplied the cover of the influential German arts magazine Dekorative Kunst.

Her friend and mine : a story of two sisters / by Florence Coombe ; with three illustrations by William Rainey.  Front cover by Talwin Morris.  Image rights owner: Glasgow School of Art Library

Though most of his 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), or an elongated TM monogram.

Talwin Morris and the Glasgow School of art

Responding to an advertisement for Art Director at Blackie & Son, Morris moved to Glasgow in 1893 and soon made the acquaintance of the artists and designers associated with the Glasgow School of Art. Although he never attended the School himself, Morris became close friends with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries, and his own work quickly began to incorporate a Glasgow Style sensibility.

In 1902, his work was selected for exhibition alongside those of his Glasgow contemporaries at the influential International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts held in Turin, at which he sold several pieces. It was this exhibition in particular that exposed the so-called Glasgow Style to international audiences and secured the reputations of its main protagonists.

That same year he introduced Mackintosh to his employer Walter Blackie, which led to Mackintosh receiving the commission to design Blackie’s home Hill House in Helensburgh, near Glasgow. Morris eventually retired from Blackie’s through ill-health in 1909, and died in 1911 at just 45 years old. His body lies in Dumbarton Cemetery, marked by a gravestone designed by his friend Mackintosh. The inscription reads "Love is more great than we conceive / and death is the keeper of unknown redemptions".

The Library at Glasgow School of Art holds one of the largest collections of Morris’s works in the world, spanning all periods of his output. These works now form a Special Collection within the Library, and are available for research and study by prior appointment.

Contact Details

For further information please see https://lib.gsa.ac.uk/special-collections, or contact Duncan Chappell, Librarian, at d.chappell@gsa.ac.uk

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