Artisan Books & Bindery Newsletter

Merle Armitage: Designer, Author

Merle Armitage (1893-1975) was a man who wore many hats in a varied career that encompassed producing operas and theatrical events, managing tours of musical artists, and as a collector of modern art.  His greatest legacy, however, was his work as a book designer.  From the 1930s through his death in 1975 Armitage designed numerous books and magazines in a way that embraced type as a design element, combined it with color and negative space to create books and publications that are as fresh today as they were 80 years ago.

Armitage also had an eye for picking talent.  He published the first books on Edward and Brett Weston as well as early work on Rockwell Kent, George Gershwin, Martha Graham, Igor Stravinsky, modern art, and food.

I find him fascinating and his work even more so.  To that end, I have built a collection and list of his work that just gone “live” on my website.   To view the entire list, please click on this link:

Merle Armitage: Author, Designer

Below are a few samples from the list.

All the best,



Armitage, Merle; Thomas, John Charles (Foreword).
Accent on Life.
Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1964.
Hard Cover. First Edition. First Printing. xv, 386 pp. 8vo. Clean, crisp dust jacket now in mylar cover. Black cloth boards with titling to spine in red and black that mirrors dust jacket. Bright blue endpapers with a design by Robert Osborn.

A series of essays and reminiscences of Merle Armitage's life (1893-1975), the people he knew, collaborators, and subjects of his many books. Inscribed boldly on the half-title page to Doug McCann in Armitage's signature blue ink.
Price: $75.00  
Bellamy, Edwards; Elise (Artist); Armitag, Merle (Designer).
Looking Backward.
New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1941.
Hard Cover. Limited Edition. 388 pp. 8vo. Yellow cloth boards with futuristic, geometric design in red. Text block edges stained red which makes a wonderful contrast to the covers. Bright blue endpapers with an illustration of a compass/clock in white on front pastedown, hourglass on the rear . Includes clear plastic slipcase, book is free of slipcase due to a very tight fit. [LEC 126], [Purcell 55].

Designed and printed by legendary book designer and publisher, Merle Armitage (1893-1975) on behalf of The Limited Editions Club. Printed by the Ward Ritchie Press. This is #330 of 1,500 copies and signed by the illustrator, Elise on limitation page.
Price: $175.00  
Schmitz, E. Robert; Rodriguez, Jose (Editor) Armitage, Merle (Foreword & Design); Napolitano, Giovanni (Artist); Weston, Brett (Photographer).
The Capture of Inspiration.
New York: E. Weyhe, 1935.
Hardcover. Limited Edition. 111 pp. 8vo. An absolutely stunning design with a piano keyboard reproduced on the cover board, with very slight wear at edges. Interior is spiral bound as the book will lie flat which befits its subject on piano technique. Illustrated throughout with charts and graphs as well as the musculature in the arms and hands that support the effective pianist. Previous owner's name and city on first free endpaper. [Purcell 36].

Armitage at his best, designing a book that reflects its subject matter. Produced in an edition of 100 copies, 500 of which were signed, this is #382 and signed by Schmitz in May of 1935.
Price: $100.00  
Armitage, Merle; Marks, Robert; Gershwin, Ira (Association).
Merle Armitage Bibliography.
New York: E. Weyhe, 1956.
Hardcover. Limited Edition. 99 pp. 8vo. Red and white printed boards. Minor bumping to corners, slight scuffing. Clean within. No dust jacket as issued. Also contains essay, "Merle Armitage" by Robert Marks. Printed by the Cole-Holmquist Press in Los Angeles. [Purcell 104].

Early bibliography of Armitage's work. This copy is inscribed by Armitage to Ira Gerswhin (1896-1983) in his distinctive blue pen on the first free endpaper, "To my distinguished/friend-/Ira/for many, many/good reasons/Merle Armitage/1957". Armitage edited a book on Ira's brother, George Gershwin (1898-1937) in 1938 and also published his own biography of George in 1958, "George Gershwin: Man and Legend". Given Armitage's work in music and the performing arts throughout his career it stands to reason that Ira was a part of his circle of friends and acquaintances. Printed in an edition of 500 copies, one of the 350 that were hardbound.
Price: $250.00  
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