A Landmark of High Victorian Design: The Grammar of Ornament

Owen Jones (1809-1879) made a significant contribution to design and color theory with his great encyclopedic work The Grammar of Ornament (1856). An architect and decorator by trade, he joined the handful of British design reformers who rallied around Prince Albert and the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace. Seeking a publication that would be adopted and deployed in British art schools, Jones laid out a list of thirty-seven propositions for good ornamental design in the text of his Grammar. He chose a wide range of representative illustrations of ornamental patterns from every historical period and certain specific geographical areas. The book was enthusiastically received and utilized well into the 20th century, with reissues in 1867 and 1910. The one hundred plates in this rare first edition are remarkable examples of High Victorian chromolithography, and served as an influential source for Art Nouveau and other early Modernist designers applying surface patterns on paintings, textiles, and decorative objects.


Owen Jones. The Grammar of Ornament. London: Day and Son, 1856.
The New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Art & Architecture Collection.


More Images from The Grammar of Ornament

Collection Guide: Ornament and Pattern: Pre-Victorian to Art Deco

About the Art & Architecture Collection

Library Catalog Record