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William Morris

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer

Hammersmith, Middlesex, England: Kelmscott Press, 1896. (facsimile: Basilisk Press, 1974). Stk. ++ PR 1850 1975.

After listening to a lecture on printing by Emery Walker in London on 15 November 1888, William Morris became so enthused that he proclaimed: ‘Let’s make a new fount of type.’ So begun his ‘little typographical adventure’ which resulted in the formation of his Kelmscott Press, from which 53 books were printed during a seven-year period (1891 to 1898). Morris used medieval manuscripts and well printed 15th and 16th century books as exemplars ‘to re-attain a long-lost standard of craftsmanship of book printing.’ He rejected the publications of the 19th century, with their shoddy materials (paper, bindings) and awful design. With an Albion press (and competent pressmen), hand-made Batchelor paper, inks, and typefaces of his own design, he produced his magnum opus, the Kelmscott Chaucer, which contained 87 wood engravings by his friend Edward Burne-Jones. Four hundred and twenty-five paper and 13 vellum copies were printed and sold at £20 and 120 guineas respectively. The work, of which this is a modern facsimile, was called ‘the greatest triumph of English typography.’ It is simply stunning.