Cabinet 16: Private Presses - Revival of Initials

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Golden Cockerel Press

Eric Gill (1882-1940) was a type designer, typographer, and letter cutter. During his career he designed lettering and ornaments for Golden Cockerel Press. Harold M. Taylor founded the Press in 1920. The aim of this private press was to "make finely produced books available to the public at reasonable prices" (Glaister). Robert Gibbings joined the press in 1924. Robert and Moira Gibbings printed the text for The Phaedo of Plato and Eric Gill designed its initials and ornaments. The curvy lines of the foliage which the initial W blends into combined with the use of contrasting red ink make this design pleasing to the eye. The Phaedo of Plato was published by the Golden Cockerel Press as a limited edition of 500 copies. Special Collections has copy number 158.

Plato, The Phaedo of Plato [translated into English by William [i.e. Benjamin] Jowett.]. Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berkshire : Golden Cockerel Press, 1930. Special + B379.A5 JV6

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Kelmscott Press

William Morris (1834-1896) founded the Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith in 1891. Morris felt there has been a decline in typography standards and aimed to improve book design and production. He designed his own type based on that of early printers. Strongly influenced by medieval styles, Morris's books were ornate with decorative initials, and occasionally had heavy decorative borders. On display is a facsimile of a page from The Works of Chaucer printed at Kelmscott Press in 1896. The type - known as 'Chaucer' - borders and initial letters were all designed by Morris. Chaucer has been referred to as the "most splendid book which has ever been printed" (Newdigate). The influence of Morris's Kelmscott Press productions can still be seen in modern private press productions. Kelmscott Press closed in 1898.

Bernard H. Newdigate, "British types for Printing Books", in The Art of the Book. Studio, 1914. Leith Jnls N1.S88 spec. 1914