Laura Ethel Larcombe (known as Ethel, 1876-1940) was a British illustrator, typographer and book cover designer. She was active in the late 19th century and early 20th century, but her work is not very well known today. However, it is fascinating that she was able to build a design career in what was then a man’s world. This was a period when women couldn’t vote until 1918 and even then you had to be over 30 and own property.
In the early 1900s, she was employed as a freelancer by Talwin Morris, the Art Manager at Glasgow publishers Blackie & Sons. The ‘Glasgow Style’ was still popular, which had originated in 1890s with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret Macdonald, her sister Frances and her husband Herbert MacNair.
The Glasgow Style is evident in Ethel’s book covers for Blackie, which feature stylized roses, intertwining lines and grids. Below are two examples, What Katy Did (1912) and Marvellous Escapes from Peril (1915).
As well as working for Blackie, Ethel submitted work for The Studio magazine, a publication that featured fine and applied arts. She also worked on a couple of commercial commissions, with US department store Sears and UK furniture makers Neatby & Evans.