Graphic Arts | Rare Books and Special Collections | Princeton University Library
Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders and Book Designers    
      thumbnail gallery   Name   Occupation   Timeline  


Margaret Armstrong
American, 1867-1944

Publisher's bindings designed by trained artists are a relatively recent phenomenon, and Margaret Armstrong is among the first women whose work can be so identified. She was privately educated (her father was the stained-glass artist Maitland Armstrong), and also took drawing lessons from Susan Hale and Rhoda Holmes Nicholls, among others. According to her bibliographers Charles Gullans and John Espey, Armstrong designed more than 300 bindings between 1890-1940, the majority for Scribner's. Her best work balances the graceful symmetry and natural motifs of the Art Nouveau style, as in the cover of this guidebook to ferns.

Armstrong was also an author in her own right. Her Field Book of Western Wild Flowers (New York: Putnam, 1915), which includes 500 black-and-white illustrations and 48 plates in color, all drawn "from nature" by Armstrong, is considered the first comprehensive guide to these plants. Her research trip for this book was phenomenal in another way: she and her traveling companions are alleged to be the first women ever to descend to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, which they did in July 1911, "after much persuasion of the canyon authorities and guides" (Charles Gullans and John Espey, Margaret Armstrong and American Trade Bindings, Los Angeles: UCLA Library Department of Special Collections, 1991, p. 51).

Margaret Armstrong: How To Know the Ferns: A Guide to the Names, Haunts, and Habits of Our Common Ferns

How To Know the Ferns: A Guide to the Names, Haunts, and Habits of Our Common Ferns, by Frances Theodora Parsons. Illustrated by Marion Satterlee and Alice Josephine Smith. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899.
Firestone Library


Princeton University Library, Graphic Arts Collection
Rebecca W. Davidson, Curator of Graphic Arts
Tel: (609) 258-3197
Last Modified: February 13, 2004