Talwin Morris worked as a book designer from 1893 to 1911, the year of his death. Born in 1865 in Winchester, England, he moved to Glasgow in 1893 to become the Art Director for the publisher Blackie & Son. As of 1898, he also designed books for Blackie & Son’s subsidiary, Gresham Publishing.
Morris befriended Charles Rennie Mackintosh and other proponents of the Glasgow Style, a particularly Scottish expression of Art Nouveau. In fact, one of Mackintosh’s better known buildings, Hill House, designed for Walter Blackie, came about due to Morris’ influence (Macleod 90). He introduced Mackintosh to Walter Blackie and championed his work.
Morris also commissioned book designs from Mackintosh and from a number of other artists in the Glasgow Style circle. His designs also reflected many of the stylistic forms and symbols found in the others’ works. Those forms draw on natural shapes such as roses, stems and feathers but Morris also used linear and architectural motifs in his designs.
Blackie & Son sold popular books, including children’s books, school texts, theological and philosophical works, popular novels, and poetry. They also published science texts, dictionaries, and encyclopedias. Gresham Publishing also sold popular material in addition to reference texts and manuals. The books aimed for general readership and both publishers were important suppliers to book purchasers in Great Britain.
Morris worked during a very dynamic period of book design. Bookbinding technology permitted increasingly elaborate and colourful designs, and Morris took advantage of the possibilities as they developed. His later designs incorporate different colours and bolder shapes, reflecting improvements in binding craft.