City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
The Family Influence
Margaret was born in 1867 into the well-to-do Armstrong family. Her father, D. Maitland Armstrong, was a stained glass master and diplomat who encouraged his children in their crafts. Margaret’s sister, Helen, followed in their father’s footsteps and designed stained glass commissions; Margaret designed a few stained glass pieces in their shared studio, but devoted most of her time from the 1880s to the mid-1910s to book cover design. Her prolific career includes designing hundreds of covers; currently 314 book covers are attributed to her. Margaret’s interest in book covers most likely stemmed from her family’s proficiency in stained glass art and design. There are many correlations between the two mediums which make it an almost natural path for Margaret to forge. Both mediums require the artist to work in a contained, given space with focus on a strong outline; for stained glass artists their outline is necessary to hold individual pieces of glass together, while book designers work within the constraints of forms allowed with die stamping. These bold outlines divide broad areas of color for both mediums, but result in different graphic styles. Margaret’s proficiency in this style created stunning designs, and set her apart from other book cover designers at a young age.