Henry Mercer sourced a great many of his tile designs from book illustrations. The most notable designs being his “Tiles of the New World” derived from Justin Windsor’s “Narrative and Critical History of America”.
The Riverside Press, which was on the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts printed many of the books in Mercer’s collection. Riverside Press was known for the artistic quality of its elaborate editions. The frontispiece of many of these editions illustrate a young man sitting by the banks of the river playing his flutes charming a paper boat containing a lighted candle to the riverbank. Behind him is the Tree of Knowledge with a rising sun.
The original inspiration for this design was created by Elihu Vedder. In 1884 Vedder illustrated a young boy beside the river sailing paper boats, and included the French motto of the Riverside Press , Tout Bien Ou Rien “ (Do It) Well or Not at all”. By the end of that year another artist, Sidney L Smith had modified the design, adding the tree and sun.
It would seem appropriate that Mercer would find this appealing as he had used another analogous motto for a popular tile of his, Non Omnia Sed Bona et Bene “Not all things but those good and well done”. This Latin motto appears not only in his home, Fonthill, but also on the large decorated chimney of the Tile Works. This motto was included in many floors and fireplaces produced by the Tile Works.
In lieu of a newly designed Special Edition tile, this year’s tile is a re-release of Henry Mercer’s adaptation of this design that he created in the early 1900’s. Until the end of 2017 the funds obtained from the sale of this specific tile will go towards the restoration of the Tile Works. We hope to reintroduce more of these century old designs in the coming years.