Friday, 8 January 2016

Reginald Knowles and the decoration for Everyman’s Library books

A slight deviation from Victorian’ bindings, into mass production of edition bindings during the Edwardian period and onwards. 

The Wiki article on Reginald Knowles makes it clear that he and his brother Horace Knowles created high grade illustrations for books in the early twentieth century. The article on the history of the Everyman’s Library by David Campbell states, with an illustration, that the title pages and endpapers for the books in this series were designed by Reginald Knowles. This also stated in The Reader’s Guide to the Everyman’s Library, fourth edition of 1976, edited by Donald Armstrong Jones, which states on page xx: “In the first [instance, there areprinted on the endpapers and pastedowns] the grey-green, draped figure of Good Deeds, sister to knowledge, faces a scroll of the latter’s address to Everyman; in the second [instance] there are richly-wrought title opening pages, strong in black and white;[thirdly] in the binding a gold spine-deep filigree supports the hand-lettered title. The artist [of these] was Reginald L. Knowles (1879-1950) whose firm well-placed lettering and decoration was a distinguished feature for thirty years.”

The endpapers and pastedowns were designed by Knowles and used for many years. 

 Indeed, the initials: “RLK” [within a heart] and “1905” are printed near the right hand corner of the front endpaper and on the rear pastedown of every volume in Everyman’s Library.  

Spine blocking
From 1906 to 1928, the spines of Everyman’s Library were full gilt, with the filigree of flowers, stems and leaves running down the spine below the title, to the tail, where the imprint of J. M. Dent can be seen. Near the base of the filigree pattern, the initials “RK” can be clearly seen. 

The close near the base of the spine up shows the initials “RK”.


For works in the Everyman's Library printed after 1928, a simple vignette was blocked in gold underneath the title, replacing the earlier full spine length ‘filigree’ pattern. This vignette shows three flowers, two leaves, placed in symmetry just below the title for each book.

 The initials: “RK” are blocked in gold at the base of the vignette, as we see below.

Cover blocking
The same flowing “flower and stem”, art nouveau style design can be seen on the front cover of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, published in 1908 by Dent, as part of the English Idylls series, with twenty-four illustrations created by Charles Edmund Brock. On the front cover, we see a bouquet of flowers in a basket, with a long ribbon tied to its handle. The initials: “RK” are blocked in gold at the base of the basket. 

 Below, we see Knowles’s initials at the base of the basket.

As with UK edition bindings of a generation before, mass production of the same design on each spine, on the endpapers and on the title pages was certainly possible. The Everyman’s Library shows us how extensively Knowles’s designs were repeated. Other commissions from Dent permitted the re-use of motifs, such as the filigree of flowers and stems design, on a larger size of book, as we see with the Jane Austen novels in the English Idylls series of books.

Edmund M B King
January 2016
Twitter -  @embk11

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