Only one trade binding can be ascribed to Arthur Hughes with certainty: his work for Tennyson’s Enoch Arden (1866). Hughes is identified as a designer on the verso of the title-page, leaving no doubt of his authorship. He has also been identified as the creator of other casings; none of these is signed, but can be attributed to him on the basis of stylistic analysis which links them to his illustrations. His work for Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1869) and Christina Rossetti’s collections of verse, Sing Song (1872) and Speaking Likenesses (1874), can all be categorized in this way.

More doubtful, but probably by Hughes, are the cloth liveries for F. T. Palgrave’s The Five Days Entertainments at Wentworth Grange (Macmillan, 1868), and for Thomas Woolner’s My Beautiful Lady (3rd. edition, Macmillan, 1866). Two factors suggest these bindings are by Hughes.

Left: Hughes’s design for Palgrave’s The Five Days Entertainments, and Right: Hughes’s delicate gilt motif for Woolner’s My Beautiful Lady.

First of all, it is important to note that all of the books mentioned here were published by Macmillan, who may have specified that the artist worked on the pages and on the volumes’ exteriors. The aim, presumably, was to create an aesthetic unity between the inside and outside. If this narrative is correct, it seems that My Beautiful Lady was the first in the sequence (1866), followed by Enoch Arden (1866), the Five Days (1868), Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1869) and the two volumes by Rossetti (1872, 1874).

This arrangement, of using the illustrator as the binding designer, would be consistent with other Macmillan imprints. For example, Dante Rossetti composed the pictorial frontispiece, title-page and bindings for Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market(1862) and The Prince’s Progress (1866), and Richard Doyle designed the illustrations and cover for Thomas Hughes’s The Scouring of the White Horse (1859). The practice might also have been followed by Hughes. At the same time, it is important to approach this speculation with care, because there were exceptions to what might be a rule: in the case of the visual embellishments for Thomas Hake’s Parables and Tales (Macmillan, 1872), notably, the illustrations are by Hughes but the binding by Rossetti. Nevertheless, it does seem probable that the presence of Hughes’s illustrations is an indication that the binding is by the artist as well.

Left: Hughes’s design for Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays, and Right: Hughes’s emblematic cover for Tennyson’s Enoch Arden.

Another factor which suggests authorship is the stylistic similarity between the covers and the graphic designs, as it is in Hughes’s work for Tennyson and Christina Rossetti. In The Five Days the connection is fairly unambiguous. The roundel on the front cover, showing two girls surrounded by stars, is clearly Hughes’s work. Douglas Ball suggests that it is only a repeat of a motif contained in the illustrations (87), but this is inaccurate; rather, it is an original design, intended to establish the book’s lyrical tone on its front board.

Left: Hughes’s design for Christina Rossetti’s Speaking Likenesses, and Right: Dante Rossetti’s famous livery for Hake’s Parables and Tales.

More problematic is the cover for My Beautiful Lady. This elegant design, composed of a budding sprig combined with a calligraphic title, is quite unlike Hughes’s other bindings: it bears no obvious relationship to his poetic symbolism for Enoch Arden and differs from the narrative motif appearing on Speaking Likenesses. Nevertheless, I ascribe this binding to Hughes for two reasons. In particular, its rustic imagery links it to the pictorial frontispiece, which shows the lady in a garden, inhaling fragrance from a flower. Many of his illustrations generally include imagery of flowers, and this could easily be his work. Hughes might therefore have created the simple motif on the cover to form a continuity, as in The Five Days, with his illustration, and with the text; it certainly establishes the lyricism of Woolner’s poem.

Hughes’s authorship might similarly be traced in the treatment of the title-script on the front cover. The ‘M’, particularly, recalls his monogram in the form of the combined ‘AH’. Only a graphologist could answer this question with certainty, but it seems to me that it is in Hughes’s hand. If that is so, My Beautiful Lady could be added, along with The Five Days Entertainments, to the list of attributions, forming a distinctive type of ‘Pre-Raphaelite trade binding’.

Links to Related Material



Hake, Thomas. Parables and Tales. London: Macmillan, 1872,

Hughes, Thomas. The Scouring of the White Horse. London: Macmillan, 1859.

Hughes, Thomas. Tom Brown’s Schooldays. London: Macmillan, 1869.

Palgrave, F. T. The Five Days [’] Entertainments at Wentworth Grange. London: Macmillan, 1868.

Rossetti, Christina. Goblin Market. London: Macmillan, 1862.

Rossetti, Christina. The Prince’s Progress. London: Macmillan, 1866.

Rossetti, Christina. Sing Song. London: Macmillan, 1872.

Rossetti, Christina. Speaking Likenesses. London: Macmillan, 1874.

Tennyson, Alfred. Enoch Arden. London: Macmillan, 1866.

Woolner, Thomas. My Beautiful Lady. London: Macmillan, 1866.


Ball, Douglas. Victorian Publishers’ Bindings. London: The Library Association, 1985.

Created 28 February 2023