Booksworth Books

Signed, Limited & Collectible Editions

Home   Books   Authors   Publishers   Illustrators  

T. M. Cleland

Thomas Maitland Cleland (1880-1964)

The following came from Time Magazine's archive of an article from 1929...

A boy once looked so long and ardently in the window of Scribner's Manhattan bookstore that a clerk stepped to the door and invited him in. Poor, shy, the boy hesitated, but the kindly clerk inveigled him to an inner room, laid before him the very window display at which he had been gazing—a copy of the works of Chaucer, designed and made at William Morris's famed Kelmscott Press, with typography as virile and rich as the pungent medieval poetry which the letters spelled out. The boy lingered while the clerk drew many another fastidiously wrought volume from Scribner's most valued shelves.

Last week a book was published which, could he have foreseen its elegance, would have delighted that boy. Its title, boldly stamped in gold upon a black cover, is the boy's name: T. M. CLELAND.

Since he looked into Scribner's window, Thomas Maitland Cleland† has himself enriched many a book, has become a great designer and typographer. Last week's publication is a collection of his best work. For five years it has been in preparation by Manhattan's Pynson Printers, who fashioned it with the deliberate, careful excitement of Cellini shaping a silver vessel.

Because it is delicate rather than garish, scholarly rather than smart, the work of Cleland escapes the casual observer of U. S. advertising pages. But famed was his General Motors series (1924), black and white pictorial decorations for statistics—Labor, Car Sales, Assets, Freight, etc.—drawn with such refinement that they seemed like engravings. Famed also was his Cadillac catalog (1927) in which sleek, pastel-tinted automobiles were pictured in great vaulted salons or beneath the towers of fabulous cities. Most numerous of Cleland's work are borders and title pages in the Renaissance spirit—filigrees of twining tendrils, urns, cherubs, plaques, a gay, lacy profusion of Italianate ornament. Of these his book is full, together with title pages, vignettes, elaborate initials, bookplates, watercolors. It is a book to delight lovers of meticulous, traditional beauty.

Son of a Scotch doctor and a U. S. mother, he lived as a boy in Manhattan, attended public schools, shone in elocution rather than drawing. At 15 he entered art school as an excuse to be lazy, which he was, until he watched a fellow student draw classical ornament. Then he felt the fascination which determined all his later work. Soon he was designing alphabets, typography, title pages, serving as apprentice to a profane, drunken, expert pressman in a tiny Manhattan printing shop.

The Scribner incident was important, for the friendly clerk was Lewis Hatch, who became a great bibliophile and continued to befriend the young window-gazer. After a number of disastrous printing ventures, Cleland came under the tutelage and iron discipline of able Daniel Berkeley Updike, whose work at Boston's famed Merrymount Press raised the entire level of U. S. printing. The true printer's quiet love for arranging type and ornament has never left him—he still supervises the lettering and printing processes of all his work.

When he first went to Europe, in 1904, he traveled chiefly in Italy where his taste became fixed for the delicacies of the Renaissance. After the War he abandoned all other interests for design. A luxurious Locomobile brochure astonished advertisers. He has since prospered.

Now 49, he is silver-haired, florid, handsome.* In his Manhattan office he sits at a drawing board on a raised dais, gazes regally down on callers. He is a connoisseur of dress, food, coffee. At his home in Danbury, Conn. he makes his own electricity, tinkers with household machinery, plays Bach and Mozart on the phonograph. He also tells innumerable stories in dialect, including the Finnish.

Books Illustrated by T. Cleland

© Booksworth Books all rights reserved.    Contact