This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.
Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 21:55.
To the best of our knowledge, the text of this
work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia.
HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work.
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
I began printing books with the hope of producing some which would have a definite claim to beauty, while at the same time they should be easy to read and should not dazzle the eye, or trouble the intellect of the reader by eccentricity of form in the letters. I have always been a great admirer of the calligraphy of the Middle Ages, & of the earlier printing which took its place. As to the fifteenth-century books, I had noticed that they were always beautiful by force of the mere typography, even without the added ornament, with which many of them are so lavishly supplied. And it was the essence of my undertaking to produce books which it would be a pleasure to look upon as pieces of printing and arrangement of type. Looking at my adventure from this point of view then, I found I had to consider chiefly the following things: the paper, the form of the type, the relative spacing of the letters, the words, and the lines; and lastly the position of the printed matter on the page. It was a matter of course that I should consider it necessary that the paper should be hand-made, both for the sake of durability and appearance. It would be a very false economy to stint in the quality of the paper as to price: so I had only to think about the kind of hand-made paper. On this head I came to two conclusions: 1st, that the paper must be wholly of linen (most hand-made papers are of cotton today), and must be quite ‘hard,’ i. e., thoroughly well sized; and 2nd, that, though it must be ‘laid’ and not ‘wove’ (i. e., made on a mould made of obvious wires), the lines caused by the wires of the mould must not be too strong, so as to give a ribbed appearance. I found that on these points I was at one with the practice of the paper-makers of the fifteenth century; so I took as my model a Bolognese paper of about 1473. My friend Mr. Batchelor, of Little Chart, Kent, carried out my views very satisfactorily, and produced from the first the excellent paper, which I still use.
Next as to type. By instinct rather than by conscious thinking it over, I began by getting myself a fount of Roman type. And here what I wanted was letter pure in form; severe, without needless excrescences; solid, without the thickening and thinning of the line, which is the essential fault of the ordinary modern type, and which makes it difficult to read; and not compressed laterally, as all later type has grown to be owing to commercial exigencies. There was only one source from which to take examples of this perfected Roman type, to wit, the works of the great Venetian printers of the fifteenth century, of whom Nicholas Jenson produced the completest and most Roman characters from 1470 to 1476. This type I studied with much care, getting it photographed to a big scale, and drawing it over many times before I began designing my own letter; so that though I think I mastered the essence of it, I did not copy it servilely; in fact, my Roman type, especially in the lower case, tends rather more to the Gothic than does Jenson’s.
After a while I felt that I must have a Gothic as well as a Roman fount; and herein the task I set myself was to redeem the Gothic character from the charge of unreadableness which is commonly brought against it. And I felt that this charge could not be reasonably brought against the types of the first two decades of printing: that Schoeffer at Mainz, Mentelin at Strasburg, and Gunther Zainer at Augsburg, avoided the spiky ends and undue compression which lay some of the later type open to the above charge. Only the earlier printers (naturally following therein the practice of their predecessors the scribes) were very liberal of contractions, and used an excess of ‘tied’ letters, which, by the way, are very useful to the compositor. So I entirely eschewed contractions, except for the ‘&,’ and had very few tied letters, in fact none but the absolutely necessary ones. Keeping my end steadily in view, I designed a black-letter type which I think I may claim to be as readable as a Roman one, and to say the truth I prefer it to the Roman. This type is of the size called Great Primer (the Roman type is of ‘English’ size); but later on I was driven by the necessities of the Chaucer (a double-columned book) to get a smaller Gothic type of Pica size.
The punches for all these types, I may mention, were cut for me with great intelligence and skill by Mr. E. P. Prince, and render my designs most satisfactorily.
Now as to the spacing: First, the ‘face’ of the letter should be as nearly conterminous with the ‘body’ as possible, so as to avoid undue whites between the letters. Next, the lateral spaces between the words should be (a) no more than is necessary to distinguish clearly the division into words, and (b) should be as nearly equal as possible. Modern printers, even the best, pay very little heed to these two essentials of seemly composition, and the inferior ones run riot in licentious spacing, thereby producing, inter alia, those ugly rivers of lines running about the page which are such a blemish to decent printing. Third, the whites between the lines should not be excessive; the modern practice of ‘leading’ should be used as little as possible, and never without some definite reason, such as marking some special piece of printing. The only leading I have allowed myself is in some cases a ‘thin’ lead between the lines of my Gothic pica type: in the Chaucer and the double-columned books I have used a ‘hair’ lead, and not even this in the 16mo books. Lastly, but by no means least, comes the position of the printed matter on the page. This should always leave the inner margin the narrowest, the top somewhat wider, the outside (fore-edge) wider still, and the bottom widest of all. This rule is never departed from in mediæval books, written or printed. Modern printers systematically transgress against it; thus apparently contradicting the fact that the unit of a book is not one page, but a pair of pages. A friend, the librarian of one of our most important private libraries, tells me that after careful testing he has come to the conclusion that the mediæval rule was to make a difference of 20 per cent. from margin to margin. Now these matters of spacing and position are of the greatest importance in the production of beautiful books; if they are properly considered they will make a book printed in quite ordinary type at least decent and pleasant to the eye. The disregard of them will spoil the effect of the best designed type.
It was only natural that I, a decorator by profession, should attempt to ornament my books suitably: about this matter, I will only say that I have always tried to keep in mind the necessity for making my decoration a part of the page of type. I may add that in designing the magnificent and inimitable woodcuts which have adorned several of my books, and will above all adorn the Chaucer which is now drawing near completion, my friend Sir Edward Burne-Jones has never lost sight of this important point, so that his work will not only give us a series of most beautiful and imaginative pictures, but form the most harmonious decoration possible to the printed book.
Kelmscott House, Upper Mall, Hammersmith. Nov. 11, 1895
The foregoing article was written at the request of a London bookseller for an American client who was about to read a paper on the Kelmscott Press. As the Press is now closing, and its seven years’ existence will soon be a matter of history, it seems fitting to set down some other facts concerning it while they can still be verified; the more so as statements founded on imperfect information have appeared from time to time in newspapers and reviews.
As early as 1866 an edition of The Earthly Paradise was projected, which was to have been a folio in double columns, profusely illustrated by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and typographically superior to the books of that time. The designs for the stories of Cupid and Psyche, Pygmalion and the Image, The Ring given to Venus, and the Hill of Venus, were finished, and forty-four of those for Cupid and Psyche were engraved on wood in line, somewhat in the manner of the early German masters. About thirty-five of the blocks were executed by William Morris himself, and the remainder by George Y. Wardle, G. F. Campfield, C. J. Faulkner, and Miss Elizabeth Burden. Specimen pages were set up in Caslon type, and in the Chiswick Press type afterwards used in The House of the Wolfings, but for various reasons the project went no further. Four or five years later there was a plan for an illustrated edition of Love is Enough, for which two initial L’s and seven side ornaments were drawn and engraved by William Morris. Another marginal ornament was engraved by him from a design by Sir E. Burne-Jones, who also drew a picture for the frontispiece, which has now been engraved by W. H. Hooper for the final page of the Kelmscott Press edition of the work. These side ornaments, three of which appear on the opposite page, are more delicate than any that were designed for the Kelmscott Press, but they show that when the Press was started the idea of reviving some of the decorative features of the earliest printed books had been long in its founder’s mind. At this same period, in the early seventies, he was much absorbed in the study of ancient manuscripts, and in writing out and illuminating various books, including a Horace and an Omar Khayyám, which may have led his thoughts away from printing. In any case, the plan of an illustrated Love is Enough, like that of the folio Earthly Paradise, was abandoned.
Although the books written by William Morris continued to be reasonably printed, it was not until about 1888 that he again paid much attention to typography. He was then, and for the rest of his life, when not away from Hammersmith, in daily communication with his friend and neighbour Emery Walker, whose views on the subject coincided with his own, and who had besides a practical knowledge of the technique of printing. These views were first expressed in an article by Mr. Walker in the catalogue of the exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, held at the New Gallery in the autumn of 1888. As a result of many conversations, The House of the Wolfings was printed at the Chiswick Press at this time, with a special type modelled on an old Basel fount, unleaded, and with due regard to proportion in the margins. The title-page was also carefully arranged. In the following year The Roots of the Mountains was printed with the same type (except the lower case e), but with a differently proportioned page, and with shoulder-notes instead of head-lines. This book was published in November, 1889, and its author declared it to be the best-looking book issued since the seventeenth century. Instead of large paper copies, which had been found unsatisfactory in the case of The House of the Wolfings, two hundred and fifty copies were printed on Whatman paper of about the same size as the paper of the ordinary copies. A small stock of this paper remained over, and in order to dispose of it seventy-five copies of the translation of the Gunnlaug Saga, which first appeared in the Fortnightly Review of January, 1869, and afterwards in Three Northern Love Stories, were printed at the Chiswick Press. The type used was a black-letter copied from one of Caxton’s founts, and the initials were left blank to be rubricated by hand. Three copies were printed on vellum. This little book was not however finished until November, 1890.
Meanwhile William Morris had resolved to design a type of his own. Immediately after The Roots of the Mountains appeared, he set to work upon it, and in December, 1889, he asked Mr. Walker to go into partnership with him as a printer. This offer was declined by Mr. Walker; but, though not concerned with the financial side of the enterprise, he was virtually a partner in the Kelmscott Press from its first beginnings to its end, and no important step was taken without his advice and approval. Indeed, the original intention was to have the books set up in Hammersmith and printed at his office in Clifford’s Inn. It was at this time that William Morris began to collect the mediæval books of which he formed so fine a library in the next six years. He had made a small collection of such books years before, but had parted with most of them, to his great regret. He now bought with the definite purpose of studying the type and methods of the early printers. Among the first books so acquired was a copy of Leonard of Arezzo’s History of Florence, printed at Venice by Jacobus Rubeus in 1476, in a Roman type very similar to that of Nicholas Jenson. Parts of this book and of Jenson’s Pliny of 1476 were enlarged by photography in order to bring out more clearly the characteristics of the various letters; and having mastered both their virtues and defects, William Morris proceeded to design the fount of type which, in the list of December, 1892, he named the Golden type, from The Golden Legend, which was to have been the first book printed with it. This fount consists of eighty-one designs, including stops, figures, and tied letters. The lower case alphabet was finished in a few months. The first letter having been cut in Great Primer size by Mr. Prince, was thought too large, and ‘English’ was the size resolved upon. By the middle of August, 1890, eleven punches had been cut. At the end of the year the fount was all but complete.
On Jan. 12th, 1891, a cottage, No. 16, Upper Mall, was taken. Mr. William Bowden, a retired master-printer, had already been engaged to act as compositor and pressman. Enough type was then cast for a trial page, which was set up and printed on Saturday, Jan. 31st, on a sample of the paper that was being made for the Press by J. Batchelor and Son. About a fortnight later ten reams of paper were delivered. On Feb. 18th a good supply of type followed. Mr. W. H. Bowden, who subsequently became overseer, then joined his father as compositor, and the first chapters of The Glittering Plain were set up. The first sheet appears to have been printed on March 2nd, when the staff was increased to three by the addition of a pressman named Giles, who left as soon as the book was finished. A friend who saw William Morris on the day after the printing of the page above mentioned recalls his elation at the success of his new type. The first volume of the Saga Library, a creditable piece of printing, was brought out and put beside this trial page, which much more than held its own. The poet then declared his intention to set to work immediately on a black-letter fount; illness, however, intervened and it was not begun until June. The lower case alphabet was finished by the beginning of August, with the exception of the tied letters, the designs for which, with those for the capitals, were sent to Mr. Prince on September 11th. Early in November enough type was cast for two trial pages, the one consisting of twenty-six lines of Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale and the other of sixteen lines of Sigurd the Volsung. In each of these a capital I is used that was immediately discarded. On the last day of 1891 the full stock of Troy type was despatched from the foundry. Its first appearance was in a paragraph, announcing the book from which it took its name, in the list dated May, 1892.
This Troy type, which its designer preferred to either of the others, shows the influence of the beautiful early types of Peter Schoeffer of Mainz, Gunther Zainer of Augsburg, and Anthony Koburger of Nuremberg; but, even more than the Golden type, it has a strong character of its own, which differs largely from that of any mediæval fount. It has recently been pirated abroad, and is advertised by an enterprising German firm as ‘Die amerikanische Triumph-Gothisch.’ The Golden type has perhaps fared worse in being remodelled in the United States, whence, with much of its character lost, it has found its way back to England under the names ‘Venetian,’ ‘Italian,’ and ‘Jenson.’ It is strange that no one has yet had the good sense to have the actual type of Nicholas Jenson reproduced.
The third type used at the Kelmscott Press, called the ‘Chaucer,’ differs from the Troy type only in size, being Pica instead of Great Primer. It was cut by Mr. Prince between February and May, 1892, and was ready in June. Its first appearance is in the list of chapters and glossary of The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, which was issued on November 24th, 1892.
On June 2nd of that year, William Morris wrote to Mr. Prince: ‘I believe in about three months’ time I shall be ready with a new set of sketches for a fount of type on English body.’ These sketches were not forthcoming; but on Nov. 5th, 1892, he bought a copy of Augustinus De Civitate Dei, printed at the Monastery of Subiaco near Rome by Sweynheym and Pannartz, with a rather compressed type, which appears in only three known books. He at once designed a lower case alphabet on this model, but was not satisfied with it and did not have it cut. This was his last actual experiment in the designing of type, though he sometimes talked of designing a new fount, and of having the Golden type cut in a larger size.
Next in importance to the type are the initials, borders, and ornaments designed by William Morris. The first book contains a single recto border and twenty different initials. In the next book, Poems by the Way, the number of different initials is fifty-nine. These early initials, many of which were soon discarded, are for the most part suggestive, like the first border, of the ornament in Italian manuscripts of the fifteenth century. In Blunt’s Love Lyrics there are seven letters of a new alphabet, with backgrounds of naturalesque grapes and vine leaves, the result of a visit to Beauvais, where the great porches are carved with vines, in August, 1891. From that time onwards fresh designs were constantly added, the tendency being always towards larger foliage and lighter backgrounds, as the early initials were found to be sometimes too dark for the type. The total number of initials of various sizes designed for the Kelmscott Press, including a few that were engraved but never used, is three hundred and eighty-four. Of the letter T alone there are no less than thirty-four varieties.
The total number of different borders engraved for the Press, including one that was not used, but excluding the three borders designed for The Earthly Paradise by R. Catterson-Smith, is fifty-seven. The first book to contain a marginal ornament, other than these full borders, was The Defence of Guenevere, which has a half-border on p. 74. There are two others in the preface to The Golden Legend. The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye is the first book in which there is a profusion of such ornament. One hundred and eight different designs for marginal ornaments were engraved. Besides the above-named designs, there are seven frames for the pictures in The Glittering Plain, one frame for those in a projected edition of The House of the Wolfings, nineteen frames for the pictures in the Chaucer (one of which was not used in the book), twenty-eight title-pages and inscriptions, twenty-six large initial words for the Chaucer, seven initial words for The Well at the World’s End and The Water of the Wondrous Isles, four line-endings, and three printer’s marks, making a total of six hundred and forty-four designs by William Morris, drawn and engraved within seven years. All the initials and ornaments that recur were printed from electrotypes, while most of the title-pages and initial words were printed direct from the wood. The illustrations by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Walter Crane, and C. M. Gere were also, with one or two exceptions, printed from the wood. The original designs by Sir E. Burne-Jones were nearly all in pencil, and were redrawn in ink by R. Catterson-Smith, and in a few cases by C. Fairfax Murray; they were then revised by the artist and transferred to the wood by means of photography. The twelve designs by A. J. Gaskin for Spenser’s Shepheardes Calendar, the map in The Sundering Flood, and the thirty-five reproductions in Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century, were printed from process blocks.
All the wood blocks for initials, ornaments, and illustrations, were engraved by W. H. Hooper, C. E. Keates, and W. Spielmeyer, except the twenty-three blocks for The Glittering Plain, which were engraved by A. Leverett, and a few of the earliest initials, engraved by G. F. Campfield. The whole of these wood blocks have been sent to the British Museum, and have been accepted with a condition that they shall not be reproduced or printed from for the space of a hundred years. The electrotypes have been destroyed. In taking this course, which was sanctioned by William Morris when the matter was talked of shortly before his death, the aim of the trustees has been to keep the series of Kelmscott Press books as a thing apart, and to prevent the designs becoming stale by constant repetition. Many of them have been stolen and parodied in America, but in this country they are fortunately copyright. The type remains in the hands of the trustees, and will be used for the printing of its designer’s works, should special editions be called for. Other books of which he would have approved may also be printed with it; the absence of initials and ornament will always distinguish them sufficiently from the books printed at the Kelmscott Press.
The nature of the English handmade paper used at the Press has been described by William Morris in the foregoing article. It was at first supplied in sheets of which the dimensions were sixteen inches by eleven. Each sheet had as a watermark a conventional primrose between the initials W. M. As stated above, The Golden Legend was to have been the first book put in hand, but as only two pages could have been printed at a time, and this would have made it very costly, paper of double the size was ordered for this work, and The Story of the Glittering Plain was begun instead. This book is a small quarto, as are its five immediate successors, each sheet being folded twice. The last ream of the smaller size of paper was used on The Order of Chivalry. All the other volumes of that series are printed in octavo, on paper of the double size. For the Chaucer a stouter and slightly larger paper was needed. This has for its watermark a Perch with a spray in its mouth. Many of the large quarto books were printed on this paper, of which the first two reams were delivered in February, 1893. Only one other size of paper was used at the Kelmscott Press. The watermark of this is an Apple, with the initials W. M., as in the other two watermarks. The books printed on this paper are The Earthly Paradise, The Floure and the Leafe, The Shepheardes Calender, and Sigurd the Volsung. The last-named is a folio, and the open book shows the size of the sheet, which is about eighteen inches by thirteen. The first supply of this Apple paper was delivered on March 15, 1895.
Except in the case of Blunt’s Love Lyrics, The Nature of Gothic, Biblia Innocentium, The Golden Legend, and The Book of Wisdom and Lies, a few copies of all the books were printed on vellum. The six copies of The Glittering Plain were printed on very fine vellum obtained from Rome, of which it was impossible to get a second supply as it was all required by the Vatican. The vellum for the other books, except for two or three copies of Poems by the Way, which were on the Roman vellum, was supplied by H. Band of Brentford, and by W. J. Turney & Co. of Stourbridge. There are three complete vellum sets in existence, and the extreme difficulty of completing a set after the copies are scattered, makes it unlikely that there will ever be a fourth.
The black ink which proved most satisfactory, after that of more than one English firm had been tried, was obtained from Hanover. William Morris often spoke of making his own ink, in order to be certain of the ingredients, but his intention was never carried out.
The binding of the books in vellum and in half-holland was from the first done by J. & J. Leighton. Most of the vellum used was white, or nearly so, but William Morris himself preferred it dark, and the skins showing brown hair-marks were reserved for the binding of his own copies of the books. The silk ties of four colours, red, blue, yellow, and green, were specially woven and dyed.
In the following section fifty-two works, in sixty-six volumes, are described as having been printed at the Kelmscott Press, besides the two pages of Froissart’s Chronicles. It is scarcely necessary to add that only hand presses have been used, of the type known as ‘Albion.’ In the early days there was only one press on which the books were printed, besides a small press for taking proofs. At the end of May, 1891, larger premises were taken at 14, Upper Mall, next door to the cottage already referred to, which was given up in June. In November, 1891, a second press was bought, as The Golden Legend was not yet half finished, and it seemed as though the last of its 1286 pages would never be reached. Three years later another small house was taken, No. 14 being still retained. This was No. 21, Upper Mall, overlooking the river, which acted as a reflector, so that there was an excellent light for printing. In January, 1895, a third press, specially made for the work, was set up here in order that two presses might be employed on the Chaucer. This press has already passed into other hands, and the little house, with its many associations, and its pleasant outlook towards Chiswick and Mortlake, is now being transformed into a granary. The last sheet printed there was that on which are the frontispiece and title of this book.
14, Upper Mall, Hammersmith, January 4, 1898.
Note: The borders are numbered as far as possible in the order of their first appearance, those which appear on a verso or left hand page being distinguished by the addition of the letter ‘a’ to the numbers of the recto borders of similar design.
1. THE STORY OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN. WHICH HAS BEEN ALSO CALLED THE LAND OF LIVING MEN OR THE ACRE OF THE UNDYING. WRITTEN BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Small 4to. Golden type. Border 1. 200 paper copies at two guineas, and 6 on vellum. Dated April 4, issued May 8, 1891. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in stiff vellum with washleather ties.
This book was set up from Nos. 81-4 of the English Illustrated Magazine, in which it first appeared; some of the chapter headings were re-arranged, and a few small corrections were made in the text. A trial page, the first printed at the Press, was struck off on January 31, 1891, but the first sheet was not printed until about a month later. The border was designed in January of the same year, and engraved by W. H. Hooper. Mr. Morris had four of the vellum copies bound in green vellum, three of which he gave to friends. Only two copies on vellum were sold, at twelve and fifteen guineas. This was the only book with washleather ties. All the other vellum-bound books have silk ties, except Shelley’s Poems and Hand and Soul, which have no ties.
2. POEMS BY THE WAY. WRITTEN BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Small 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Border 1. 300 paper copies at two guineas, 13 on vellum at about twelve guineas. Dated Sept. 24, issued Oct. 20, 1891. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in stiff vellum.
This was the first book printed at the Kelmscott Press in two colours, and the first book in which the smaller printer’s mark appeared. After The Glittering Plain was finished, at the beginning of April, no printing was done until May 11. In the meanwhile the compositors were busy setting up the early sheets of The Golden Legend. The printing of Poems by the Way, which its author first thought of calling Flores Atramenti, was not begun until July. The poems in it were written at various times. In the manuscript, Hafbur and Signy is dated February 4, 1870; Hildebrand and Hillilel, March 1, 1871; and Love’s Reward, Kelmscott, April 21, 1871. Meeting in Winter is a song from The Story of Orpheus, an unpublished poem intended for The Earthly Paradise. The last poem in the book, Goldilocks and Goldilocks, was written on May 20, 1891, for the purpose of adding to the bulk of the volume, which was then being prepared. A few of the vellum covers were stained at Merton red, yellow, indigo, and dark green, but the experiment was not successful.
3. THE LOVE-LYRICS AND SONGS OF PROTEUS BY WILFRID SCAWEN BLUNT WITH THE LOVE-SONNETS OF PROTEUS BY THE SAME AUTHOR NOW REPRINTED IN THEIR FULL TEXT WITH MANY SONNETS OMITTED FROM THE EARLIER EDITIONS. LONDON MDCCCXCII. Small 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Border 1. 300 paper copies at two guineas, none on vellum. Dated Jan. 26, issued Feb. 27, 1892. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in stiff vellum.
This is the only book in which the initials are printed in red. This was done by the author’s wish.
4. THE NATURE OF GOTHIC A CHAPTER OF THE STONES OF VENICE. BY JOHN RUSKIN. With a preface by William Morris. Small 4to. Golden type. Border 1. Diagrams in text. 500 paper copies at thirty shillings, none on vellum. Dated in preface February 15, issued March 22, 1892. Published by George Allen. Bound in stiff vellum.
This chapter of the Stones of Venice, which Ruskin always considered the most important in the book, was first printed separately in 1854 as a sixpenny pamphlet. Mr. Morris paid more than one tribute to it in Hopes and Fears for Art. Of him Ruskin said in 1887, ‘Morris is beaten gold.’
5. THE DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE, AND OTHER POEMS. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Small 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 2 and 1. 300 paper copies at two guineas, ten on vellum at about twelve guineas. Dated April 2, issued May 19, 1892. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.
This book was set up from a copy of the edition published by Reeves & Turner in 1889, the only alteration, except a few corrections, being in the 11th line of Summer Dawn. It is divided into three parts, the poems suggested by Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, the poems inspired by Froissart’s Chronicles, and poems on various subjects. The two first sections have borders, and the last has a half-border. The first sheet was printed on February 17, 1892. It was the first book bound in limp vellum, and the only one of which the title was inscribed by hand on the back.
6. A DREAM OF JOHN BALL AND A KING’S LESSON. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Small 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 3a, 4, and 2. With a woodcut designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 300 paper copies at thirty shillings, eleven on vellum at ten guineas. Dated May 13, issued Sept. 24, 1892. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.
This was set up with a few alterations from a copy of Reeves & Turner’s third edition, and the printing was begun on April 4, 1892. The frontispiece was redrawn from that to the first edition, and engraved on wood by W. H. Hooper, who engraved all Sir E. Burne-Jones’ designs for the Kelmscott Press, except those for The Wood beyond the World and The Life and Death of Jason. The inscription below the figures, and the narrow border, were designed by Mr. Morris, and engraved with the picture on one block, which was afterwards used on a leaflet printed for the Ancoats Brotherhood in February, 1894.
7. THE GOLDEN LEGEND. By Jacobus de Voragine. Translated by William Caxton. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 3 vols. Large 4to. Golden type. Borders 5a, 5, 6a, and 7. Woodcut title and two woodcuts designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 500 paper copies at five guineas, none on vellum. Dated Sept. 12, issued Nov. 3, 1892. Published by Bernard Quaritch. Bound in half-holland, with paper labels printed in the Troy type.
In July, 1890, when only a few letters of the Golden type had been cut, Mr. Morris bought a copy of this book, printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1527. He soon afterwards determined to print it, and on Sept. 11 entered into a formal agreement with Mr. Quaritch for its publication. It was only an unforeseen difficulty about the size of the first stock of paper that led to The Golden Legend not being the first book put in hand. It was set up from a transcript of Caxton’s first edition, lent by the Syndics of the Cambridge University Library for the purpose. A trial page was got out in March, 1891, and 50 pages were in type by May 11, the day on which the first sheet was printed. The first volume was finished, with the exception of the illustrations and the preliminary matter, in Oct., 1891. The two illustrations and the title (which was the first woodcut title designed by Mr. Morris) were not engraved until June and August, 1892, when the third volume was approaching completion. About half a dozen impressions of the illustrations were pulled on vellum. A slip asking owners of the book not to have it bound with pressure, nor to have the edges cut instead of merely trimmed, was inserted in each copy.
8. THE RECUYELL OF THE HISTORYES OF TROYE. By Raoul Lefevre. Translated by William Caxton. Edited by H. Halliday Sparling. 2 vols. Large 4to. Troy type, with table of chapters and glossary in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 5a, 5, and 8. Woodcut title. 300 paper copies at nine guineas, five on vellum at eighty pounds. Dated Oct. 14, issued Nov. 24, 1892. Published by Bernard Quaritch. Bound in limp vellum.
This book, begun in February, 1892, is the first book printed in Troy type, and the first in which Chaucer type appears. It is a reprint of the first book printed in English. It had long been a favourite with William Morris, who designed a great quantity of initials and ornaments for it, and wrote the following note for Mr. Quaritch’s catalogue: ‘As to the matter of the book, it makes a thoroughly amusing story, instinct with mediæval thought and manners. For though written at the end of the Middle Ages and dealing with classical mythology, it has in it no token of the coming Renaissance, but is merely mediæval. It is the last issue of that story of Troy which through the whole of the Middle Ages had such a hold on men’s imaginations; the story built up from a rumour of the Cyclic Poets, of the heroic City of Troy, defended by Priam and his gallant sons, led by Hector the Preux Chevalier, and beset by the violent and brutal Greeks, who were looked on as the necessary machinery for bringing about the undeniable tragedy of the fall of the city. Surely this is well worth reading, if only as a piece of undiluted mediævalism.’ 2000 copies of a 4to announcement, with specimen pages, were printed at the Kelmscott Press in December, 1892, for distribution by the publisher.
9. BIBLIA INNOCENTIUM: BEING THE STORY OF GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE BEFORE THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST UPON EARTH, WRITTEN ANEW FOR CHILDREN BY J. W. MACKAIL, SOMETIME FELLOW OF BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD. 8vo. Border 2. 200 on paper at a guinea, none on vellum. Dated Oct. 22, issued Dec. 9, 1892. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in stiff vellum.
This was the last book issued in stiff vellum except Hand and Soul, and the last with untrimmed edges. It was the first book printed in 8vo.
10. THE HISTORY OF REYNARD THE FOXE BY WILLIAM CAXTON. Reprinted from his edition of 1481. Edited by H. Halliday Sparling. Large 4to. Troy type, with glossary in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 5a and 7. Woodcut title. 300 on paper at three guineas, 10 on vellum at fifteen guineas. Dated Dec. 15, 1892, issued Jan. 25, 1893. Published by Bernard Quaritch. Bound in limp vellum.
About this book, which was first announced as in the press in the list dated July, 1892, William Morris wrote the following note for Mr. Quaritch’s catalogue: ‘This translation of Caxton’s is one of the very best of his works as to style; and being translated from a kindred tongue is delightful as mere language. In its rude joviality, and simple and direct delineation of character, it is a thoroughly good representative of the famous ancient Beast Epic.’ The edges of this book, and of all subsequent books, were trimmed in accordance with the invariable practice of the early printers. Mr. Morris much preferred the trimmed edges.
11. THE POEMS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, PRINTED AFTER THE ORIGINAL COPIES OF VENUS AND ADONIS, 1593. THE RAPE OF LUCRECE, 1594. SONNETS, 1609. THE LOVER’S COMPLAINT. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 1 and 2. 500 paper copies at 25 shillings, 10 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated Jan. 17, issued Feb. 13, 1893. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.
A trial page of this book was set up on Nov. 1, 1892. Though the number was large, this has become one of the rarest books issued from the Press.
12. NEWS FROM NOWHERE: OR, AN EPOCH OF REST, BEING SOME CHAPTERS FROM A UTOPIAN ROMANCE, BY WILLIAM MORRIS. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 9a and 4, and a woodcut engraved by W. H. Hooper from a design by C. M. Gere. 300 on paper at two guineas, 10 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated Nov. 22, 1892, issued March 24, 1893. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.
The text of this book was printed before Shakespeare’s Poems and Sonnets, but it was kept back for the frontispiece, which is a picture of the old manor-house in the village of Kelmscott by the upper Thames, from which the Press took its name. It was set up from a copy of one of Reeves & Turner’s editions, and in reading it for the press the author made a few slight corrections. It was the last except the Savonarola (No. 31) in which he used the old paragraph mark which was discarded in favour of the leaves, which had already been used in the two large 4to books printed in the Troy type.
13. THE ORDER OF CHIVALRY. Translated from the French by William Caxton and reprinted from his edition of 1484. Edited by F. S. Ellis. And L’ORDENE DE CHEVALERIE, WITH TRANSLATION BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Small 4to. Chaucer type, in black and red. Borders 9a and 4, and a woodcut designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 10 on vellum at ten guineas. The Order of Chivalry dated Nov. 10, 1892, L’Ordene de Chevalerie dated February 24, 1893, issued April 12, 1893. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.
This was the last book printed in small 4to. The last section is in 8vo. It was the first book printed in Chaucer type. The reprint from Caxton was finished while News from Nowhere was in the press, and before Shakespeare’s Poems and Sonnets was begun. The French poem and its translation were added as an after-thought, and have a separate colophon. Some of the three-line initials, which were designed for The Well at the World’s End, are used in the French poem, and this is their first appearance. The translation was begun on Dec. 3, 1892, and the border round the frontispiece was designed on Feb. 13, 1893.
14. THE LIFE OF THOMAS WOLSEY, CARDINAL ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, WRITTEN BY GEORGE CAVENDISH. Edited by F. S. Ellis from the author’s autograph MS. 8vo. Golden type. Border 1. 250 on paper at two guineas, 6 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated March 30, issued May 3, 1893. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.
15. THE HISTORY OF GODEFREY OF BOLOYNE AND OF THE CONQUEST OF IHERUSALEM. Reprinted from Caxton’s edition of 1481. Edited by H. Halliday Sparling. Large 4to. Troy type, with list of chapter headings and glossary in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 5a and 5, and woodcut title. 300 on paper at six guineas, 6 on vellum at 20 guineas. Dated April 27, issued May 24, 1893. Published by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
This was the fifth and last of the Caxton reprints, with many new ornaments and initials, and a new printer’s mark. It was first announced as in the press in the list dated Dec., 1892. It was the first book published and sold at the Kelmscott Press. An announcement and order form, with two different specimen pages, was printed at the Press, besides a special invoice. A few copies were bound in half holland, not for sale.
16. UTOPIA, WRITTEN BY SIR THOMAS MORE. A reprint of the 2nd edition of Ralph Robinson’s translation, with a foreword by William Morris. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Chaucer type, with the reprinted title in Troy type. In black and red. Borders 4 and 2. 300 on paper at thirty shillings, 8 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated August 4, issued September 8, 1893. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.
This book was first announced as in the press in the list dated May 20, 1893.
17. MAUD, A MONODRAMA. BY ALFRED LORD TENNYSON. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 10a and 10, and woodcut title. 500 on paper at two guineas, 5 on vellum not for sale. Dated Aug. 11, issued Sept. 30, 1893. Published by Macmillan & Co. Bound in limp vellum.
The borders were specially designed for this book. They were both used again in the Keats, and one of them appears in The Sundering Flood. It is the first of the 8vo books with a woodcut title.
18. GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE: A LECTURE FOR THE ARTS AND CRAFTS EXHIBITION SOCIETY, BY WILLIAM MORRIS. 16mo. Golden type. In black and red. 1500 on paper at two shillings and sixpence, 45 on vellum at ten and fifteen shillings. Bound in half holland.
This lecture was set up at Hammersmith and printed at the New Gallery during the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in October and November, 1893. The first copies were ready on October 21, and the book was twice reprinted before the Exhibition closed. It was the first book printed in 16mo. The four-line initials used in it appear here for the first time. The vellum copies were sold during the Exhibition at ten shillings, and the price was subsequently raised to fifteen shillings.
19. SIDONIA THE SORCERESS, BY WILLIAM MEINHOLD, TRANSLATED BY FRANCESCA SPERANZA LADY WILDE. Large 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Border 8. 300 paper copies at four guineas, 10 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated Sept. 15, issued November 1, 1893. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
Before the publication of this book a large 4to announcement and order form was issued, with a specimen page and an interesting description of the book and its author, written and signed by William Morris. Some copies were bound in half holland, not for sale.
20. BALLADS AND NARRATIVE POEMS BY DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and woodcut title. 310 on paper at two guineas, 6 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated Oct. 14, issued in November, 1893. Published by Ellis & Elvey. Bound in limp vellum.
This book was announced as in preparation in the list of August 1, 1893.
21. THE TALE OF KING FLORUS AND THE FAIR JEHANE. Translated by William Morris from the French of the 13th century. 16mo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 11a and 11, and woodcut title. 350 on paper at seven shillings and sixpence, 15 on vellum at thirty shillings. Dated Dec. 16, issued Dec. 28, 1893. Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland.
This story, like the three other translations with which it is uniform, was taken from a little volume called Nouvelles Françoises en prose du XIIIe siècle. Paris, Jannet, 1856. They were first announced as in preparation under the heading ‘French Tales’ in the list dated May 20, 1893. Eighty-five copies of King Florus were bought by J. and M. L. Tregaskis, who had them bound in all parts of the world. These are now in the Rylands Library at Manchester.
22. THE STORY OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN WHICH HAS BEEN ALSO CALLED THE LAND OF LIVING MEN OR THE ACRE OF THE UNDYING. WRITTEN BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to. Troy type, with list of chapters in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 12a and 12, 23 designs by Walter Crane, engraved by A. Leverett, and a woodcut title. 250 on paper at five guineas, 7 on vellum at twenty pounds. Dated Jan. 13, issued Feb. 17, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
Neither the borders in this book nor six out of the seven frames round the illustrations appear in any other book. The seventh is used round the second picture in Love is Enough. A few copies were bound in half holland.
23. OF THE FRIENDSHIP OF AMIS AND AMILE. Done out of the ancient French by William Morris. 16mo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 11a and 11, and woodcut title. 500 on paper at seven shillings and sixpence, 15 on vellum at thirty shillings. Dated March 13, issued April 4, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland.
A poem entitled Amys and Amillion, founded on this story, was originally to have appeared in the second volume of The Earthly Paradise, but, like some other poems announced at the same time, it was not included in the book.
20a. SONNETS AND LYRICAL POEMS BY DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 1a and 1, and woodcut title. 310 on paper at two guineas, 6 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated Feb. 20, issued April 21, 1894. Published by Ellis & Elvey. Bound in limp vellum.
This book is uniform with No. 20, to which it forms a sequel. Both volumes were read for the press by Mr. W. M. Rossetti.
24. THE POEMS OF JOHN KEATS. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 10a and 10, and woodcut title. 300 on paper at thirty shillings, 7 on vellum at nine guineas. Dated March 7, issued May 8, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
This is now (Jan., 1898) the most sought after of all the smaller Kelmscott Press books. It was announced as in preparation in the lists of May 27 and August 1, 1893, and as in the press in that of March 31, 1894, when the woodcut title still remained to be printed.
25. ATALANTA IN CALYDON: A TRAGEDY. BY ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE. Large 4to. Troy type, with argument and dramatis personæ in Chaucer type; the dedication and quotation from Euripides in Greek type designed by Selwyn Image. In black and red. Borders 5a and 5, and woodcut title. 250 on paper at two guineas, 8 on vellum at twelve guineas. Dated May 4, issued July 24, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
In the vellum copies of this book the colophon is not on the 82nd page as in the paper copies, but on the following page.
26. THE TALE OF THE EMPEROR COUSTANS AND OF OVER SEA. Done out of ancient French by William Morris. 16mo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 11a and 11, both twice, and two woodcut titles. 525 on paper at seven shillings and sixpence, 20 on vellum at two guineas. Dated August 30, issued Sept. 26, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland.
The first of these stories, which was the source of The Man born to be King, in The Earthly Paradise, was announced as in preparation in the list of March 31, 1894.
27. THE WOOD BEYOND THE WORLD. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 13a and 13, and a frontispiece designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones, and engraved on wood by W. Spielmeyer. 350 on paper at two guineas, 8 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated May 30, issued Oct. 16, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
The borders in this book, as well as the ten half-borders, are here used for the first time. It was first announced as in the press in the list of March 31, 1894. Another edition was published by Lawrence & Bullen in 1895.
28. THE BOOK OF WISDOM AND LIES. A book of traditional stories from Georgia in Asia. Translated by Oliver Wardrop from the original of Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and woodcut title. 250 on paper at two guineas, none on vellum. Finished Sept. 29, issued Oct. 29, 1894. Published by Bernard Quaritch. Bound in limp vellum.
The arms of Georgia, consisting of the Holy Coat, appear in the woodcut title of this book.
29. THE POETICAL WORKS OF PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY. VOLUME I. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. Borders 1a and 1, and woodcut title. 250 on paper at twenty-five shillings, 6 on vellum at eight guineas. Not dated, issued Nov. 29, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum without ties.
Red ink is not used in this volume, though it is used in the second volume, and more sparingly in the third. Some of the half-borders designed for The Wood beyond the World reappear before the longer poems. The Shelley was first announced as in the press in the list of March 31, 1894.
30. PSALMI PENITENTIALES. An English rhymed version of the Seven Penitential Psalms. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. 300 on paper at seven shillings and sixpence, 12 on vellum at three guineas. Dated Nov. 15, issued Dec. 10, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland.
These verses were taken from a manuscript Book of Hours written at Gloucester in the first half of the fifteenth century, but the Rev. Professor Skeat has pointed out that the scribe must have copied them from an older manuscript, as they are in the Kentish dialect of about a century earlier. The half-border on p. 34 appears for the first time in this book.
31. EPISTOLA DE CONTEMPTU MUNDI DI FRATE HIERONYMO DA FERRARA DELLORDINE DE FRATI PREDICATORI LA QUALE MANDA AD ELENA BUONACCORSI SUA MADRE, PER CONSOLARLA DELLA MORTE DEL FRATELLO, SUO ZIO. Edited by Charles Fairfax Murray from the original autograph letter. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Border 1. Woodcut on title designed by C. F. Murray and engraved by W. H. Hooper. 150 on paper, and 6 on vellum. Dated Nov. 30, ready Dec. 12, 1894. Bound in half holland.
This little book was printed for Mr. C. Fairfax Murray, the owner of the manuscript, and was not for sale in the ordinary way. The colophon is in Italian, and the printer’s mark is in red.
32. THE TALE OF BEOWULF. Done out of the Old English tongue by William Morris and A. J. Wyatt. Large 4to. Troy type, with argument, side-notes, list of persons and places, and glossary in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 14a and 14, and woodcut title. 300 on paper at two guineas, 8 on vellum at ten pounds. Dated Jan. 10, issued Feb. 2, 1895. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
The borders in this book were only used once again, in the Jason. A Note to the Reader printed on a slip in the Golden type was inserted in each copy. Beowulf was first announced as in preparation in the list of May 20, 1893. The verse translation was begun by Mr. Morris, with the aid of Mr. Wyatt’s careful paraphrase of the text, on Feb. 21, 1893, and finished on April 10, 1894, but the argument was not written by Mr. Morris until Dec. 10, 1894.
33. SYR PERECYVELLE OF GALES. Overseen by F. S. Ellis, after the edition edited by J. O. Halliwell from the Thornton MS. in the Library of Lincoln Cathedral. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 13a and 13, and a woodcut designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 350 on paper at fifteen shillings, 8 on vellum at four guineas. Dated Feb. 16, issued May 2, 1895. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
This is the first of the series to which Sire Degrevaunt and Syr Isumbrace belong. They were all reprinted from the Camden Society’s volume of 1844, which was a favourite with Mr. Morris from his Oxford days. Syr Perecyvelle was first announced in the list of Dec. 1, 1894. The shoulder-notes were added by Mr. Morris.
34. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JASON, A POEM. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to. Troy type, with a few words in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 14a and 14, and two woodcuts designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones and engraved on wood by W. Spielmeyer. 200 on paper at five guineas, 6 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated May 25, issued July 5, 1895. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
This book, announced as in the press in the list of April 21, 1894, proceeded slowly, as several other books, notably the Chaucer, were being printed at the same time. The text, which had been corrected for the second edition of 1868, and for the edition of 1882, was again revised by the author. The line-fillings on the last page were cut on metal for this book, and cast like type.
29a. THE POETICAL WORKS OF PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY. VOLUME II. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. 250 on paper at twenty-five shillings, 6 on vellum at eight guineas. Not dated, issued March 25, 1895. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum without ties.
35. CHILD CHRISTOPHER AND GOLDILIND THE FAIR. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. 2 vols. 16mo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 15a and 15, and woodcut title. 600 on paper at fifteen shillings, 12 on vellum at four guineas. Dated July 25, issued Sept. 25, 1895. Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland, with labels printed in the Golden type.
The borders designed for this book were only used once again, in Hand and Soul. The plot of the story was suggested by that of Havelok the Dane, printed by the Early English Text Society.
29b. THE POETICAL WORKS OF PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY. VOLUME III. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. 250 on paper at twenty-five shillings, 6 on vellum at eight guineas. Dated August 21, issued October 28, 1895. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum without ties.
36. HAND AND SOUL. BY DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. Reprinted from The Germ for Messrs. Way & Williams, of Chicago. 16mo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 15a and 15, and woodcut title. 300 paper copies and 11 vellum copies for America. 225 paper copies for sale in England at ten shillings, and 10 on vellum at thirty shillings. Dated Oct. 24, issued Dec. 12, 1895. Bound in stiff vellum without ties.
This was the only 16mo book bound in vellum. The English and American copies have a slightly different colophon. The shoulder-notes were added by Mr. Morris.
37. POEMS CHOSEN OUT OF THE WORKS OF ROBERT HERRICK. Edited by F. S. Ellis, 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and woodcut title. 250 on paper at thirty shillings, 8 on vellum at eight guineas. Dated Nov. 21, 1895, issued Feb. 6, 1896. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
This book was first announced as in preparation in the list of Dec. 1, 1894, and as in the press in that of July 1, 1895.
38. POEMS CHOSEN OUT OF THE WORKS OF SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 13a and 13. 300 on paper at a guinea, 8 on vellum at five guineas. Dated Feb. 5, issued April 12, 1896. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
This book contains thirteen poems. It was first announced as in preparation in the list of Dec. 1, 1894, and as in the press in that of Nov. 26, 1895. It is the last of the series to which Tennyson’s Maud, and the poems of Rossetti, Keats, Shelley, and Herrick belong.
39. THE WELL AT THE WORLD’S END. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to. Double columns. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 16a, 16, 17a, 17, 18a, 18, 19a and 19, and 4 woodcuts designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 350 on paper at five guineas, 8 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated March 2, issued June 4, 1896. Sold by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
This book, delayed for various reasons, was longer on hand than any other. It appears in no less than twelve lists, from that of Dec., 1892, to that of Nov. 26, 1895, as ‘in the press.’ Trial pages, including one in a single column, were ready as early as September, 1892, and the printing began on December 16 of that year. The edition of The Well at the World’s End published by Longmans was then being printed from the author’s manuscript at the Chiswick Press, and the Kelmscott Press edition was set up from the sheets of that edition, which, though not issued until October, 1896, was finished in 1894. The eight borders and the six different ornaments between the columns, appear here for the first time, but are used again in The Water of the Wondrous Isles, with the exception of two borders.
40. THE WORKS OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER. Edited by F. S. Ellis. Folio. Chaucer type, with headings to the longer poems in Troy type. In black and red. Borders 20a to 26, woodcut title, and 87 woodcut illustrations designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 425 on paper at twenty pounds, 13 on vellum at 120 guineas. Dated May 8, issued June 26, 1893. Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland.
The history of this book, which is by far the most important achievement of the Kelmscott Press, is as follows. As far back as June 11, 1891, Mr. Morris spoke of printing a Chaucer with a black-letter fount which he hoped to design. Four months later, when most of the Troy type was designed and cut, he expressed his intention to use it first on John Ball, and then on a Chaucer and perhaps a Gesta Romanorum. By January 1, 1892, the Troy type was delivered, and early in that month two trial pages, one from The Cook’s Tale and one from Sir Thopas, the latter in double columns, were got out. It then became evident that the type was too large for a Chaucer, and Mr. Morris decided to have it re-cut in the size known as pica. By the end of June he was thus in possession of the type which in the list issued in December, 1892, he named the Chaucer type. In July, 1892, another trial page, a passage from The Knight’s Tale in double columns of 58 lines, was got out, and found to be satisfactory. The idea of the Chaucer as it now exists, with illustrations by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, then took definite shape.
In a proof of the first list, dated April, 1892, there is an announcement of the book as in preparation, in black-letter, large quarto, but this was struck out, and does not appear in the list as printed in May, nor yet in the July list. In that for Dec., 1892, it is announced for the first time as to be in Chaucer type ‘with about sixty designs by E. Burne-Jones.’ The next list, dated March 9, 1893, states that it will be a folio and that it is in the press, by which was meant that a few pages were in type. In the list dated Aug. 1, 1893, the probable price is given as twenty pounds. The next four lists contain no fresh information, but on Aug. 17, 1894, nine days after the first sheet was printed, a notice was sent to the trade that there would be 325 copies at twenty pounds and about sixty woodcuts designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Three months later it was decided to increase the number of illustrations to upwards of seventy, and to print another 100 copies of the book. A circular letter was sent to subscribers on Nov. 14, stating this and giving them an opportunity of cancelling their orders. Orders were not withdrawn, the extra copies were immediately taken up, and the list for Dec. 1, 1894, which is the first containing full particulars, announces that all paper copies are sold.
Mr. Morris began designing his first folio border on Feb. 1, 1893, but was dissatisfied with the design and did not finish it. Three days later he began the vine border for the first page, and finished it in about a week, together with the initial word ‘Whan,’ the two lines of heading, and the frame for the first picture, and Mr. Hooper engraved the whole of these on one block. The first picture was engraved at about the same time. A specimen of the first page (differing slightly from the same page as it appears in the book) was shown at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in October and November, 1893, and was issued to a few leading booksellers, but it was not until August 8, 1894, that the first sheet was printed at 14, Upper Mall. On Jan. 8, 1895, another press was started at 21, Upper Mall, and from that time two presses were almost exclusively at work on the Chaucer. By Sept. 10 the last page of The Romaunt of the Rose was printed. In the middle of Feb., 1896, Mr. Morris began designing the title. It was finished on the 27th of the same month and engraved by Mr. Hooper in March. On May 8, a year and nine months after the printing of the first sheet, the book was completed. On June 2 the first two copies were delivered to Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Mr. Morris. Mr. Morris’s copy is now at Exeter College, Oxford, with other books printed at the Kelmscott Press.
Besides the eighty-seven illustrations designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and engraved by W. H. Hooper, the Chaucer contains a woodcut title, fourteen large borders, eighteen different frames round the illustrations, and twenty-six large initial words designed for the book by William Morris. Many of these were engraved by C. E. Keates, and others by W. H. Hooper and W. Spielmeyer.
In Feb., 1896, a notice was issued respecting special bindings, of which Mr. Morris intended to design four. Two of these were to have been executed under Mr. Cobden-Sanderson’s direction at the Doves Bindery, and two by Messrs. J. & J. Leighton. But the only design that he was able to complete was for a full white pigskin binding, which has now been carried out at the Doves Bindery on forty-eight copies, including two on vellum.
41. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME I. PROLOGUE: THE WANDERERS. MARCH: ATALANTA’S RACE. THE MAN BORN TO BE KING. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 27a, 27, 28a, and 28, and woodcut title. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 6 on vellum at seven guineas. Dated May 7, issued July 24, 1896. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
This was the first book printed on the paper with the apple water-mark. The seven other volumes followed it at intervals of a few months. None of the ten borders used in The Earthly Paradise appear in any other book. The four different half-borders round the poems to the months are also not used elsewhere. The first border was designed in June, 1895.
42. LAUDES BEATAE MARIAE VIRGINIS. Latin poems taken from a Psalter written in England about A. D. 1220. Edited by S. C. Cockerell. Large 4to. Troy type. In black, red, and blue. 250 on paper at ten shillings, 10 on vellum at two guineas. Dated July 7, issued August 7, 1896. Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland.
This was the first book printed at the Kelmscott Press in three colours. The manuscript from which the poems were taken was one of the most beautiful of the English books in Mr. Morris’s possession, both as regards writing and ornament. No author’s name is given to the poems, but after this book was issued the Rev. E. S. Dewick pointed out that they had already been printed at Tegernsee in 1579, in a 16mo volume in which they are ascribed to Stephen Langton. A note to this effect was printed in the Chaucer type in Dec. 28, 1896, and distributed to the subscribers.
41a. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME II. APRIL: THE DOOM OF KING ACRISIUS. THE PROUD KING. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 29a, 29, 28a, and 28. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 6 on vellum at seven guineas. Dated June 24, issued Sept. 17, 1896. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.
43. THE FLOURE AND THE LEAFE, AND THE BOKE OF CUPIDE, GOD OF LOVE, OR THE CUCKOW AND THE NIGHTINGALE. Edited by F. S. Ellis. Medium 4to. Troy type, with note and colophon in Chaucer type. In black and red. 300 on paper at ten shillings, 10 on vellum at two guineas. Dated Aug. 21, issued Nov. 2, 1896. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.
Two of the initial words from the Chaucer are used in this book, one at the beginning of each poem. These poems were formerly attributed to Chaucer, but recent scholarship has proved that The Floure and the Leafe is much later than Chaucer, and that The Cuckow and the Nightingale was written by Sir Thomas Clanvowe about A. D. 1405-10.
44. THE SHEPHEARDES CALENDER: CONTEYNING TWELVE ÆGLOGUES, PROPORTIONABLE TO THE TWELVE MONETHES. By Edmund Spenser. Edited by F. S. Ellis. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. With twelve full-page illustrations by A. J. Gaskin. 225 on paper at a guinea, 6 on vellum at three guineas. Dated Oct. 14, issued Nov. 26, 1896. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.
The illustrations in this book were printed from process blocks by Walker & Boutall. By an oversight the names of author, editor, and artist were omitted from the colophon.
41b. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME III. MAY: THE STORY OF CUPID AND PSYCHE. THE WRITING ON THE IMAGE. JUNE: THE LOVE OF ALCESTIS. THE LADY OF THE LAND. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 30a, 30, 27a, 27, 28a, 28, 29a, and 29. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 6 on vellum at seven guineas. Dated Aug. 24, issued Dec. 5, 1896. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
41c. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME IV. JULY: THE SON OF CRŒSUS. THE WATCHING OF THE FALCON. AUGUST: PYGMALION AND THE IMAGE. OGIER THE DANE. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 31a, 31, 29a, 29, 28a, 28, 30a, and 30. Dated Nov. 25, 1896, issued Jan. 22, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
41d. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME V. SEPTEMBER: THE DEATH OF PARIS. THE LAND EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON. OCTOBER: THE STORY OF ACONTIUS AND CYDIPPE. THE MAN WHO NEVER LAUGHED AGAIN. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 29a, 29, 27a, 27, 28a, 28, 31a, and 31. Finished Dec. 24, 1896, issued Mar. 9, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
41e. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME VI. NOVEMBER: THE STORY OF RHODOPE. THE LOVERS OF GUDRUN. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 27a, 27, 30a, and 30. Finished Feb. 18, issued May 11, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
41f. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME VII. DECEMBER: THE GOLDEN APPLES. THE FOSTERING OF ASLAUG. JANUARY: BELLEROPHON AT ARGOS. THE RING GIVEN TO VENUS. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 29a, 29, 31a, 31, 30a, 30, 27a, and 27. Finished March 17, issued July 29, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
45. THE WATER OF THE WONDROUS ISLES. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to. Chaucer type, in double columns, with a few lines in Troy type at the end of each of the seven parts. In black and red. Borders 16a, 17a, 18a, 19, and 19a. 250 on paper at three guineas, 6 on vellum at twelve guineas. Dated April 1, issued July 29, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
Unlike The Well at the World’s End, with which it is mainly uniform, this book has red shoulder-notes and no illustrations. Mr. Morris began the story in verse on Feb. 4, 1895. A few days later he began it afresh in alternate prose and verse; but he was again dissatisfied, and finally began it a third time in prose alone, as it now stands. It was first announced as in the press in the list of June 1, 1896, at which date the early chapters were in type, although they were not printed until about a month later. The designs for the initial words ‘Whilom’ and ‘Empty’ were begun by William Morris shortly before his death, and were finished by R. Catterson-Smith. Another edition was published by Longmans on Oct. 1, 1897.
41g. THE EARTHLY PARADISE. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. VOLUME VIII. FEBRUARY: BELLEROPHON IN LYCIA. THE HILL OF VENUS. EPILOGUE. L’ENVOI. Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 28a, 28, 29a, and 29. Finished June 10, issued Sept. 27, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
The colophon of this final volume of The Earthly Paradise contains the following note: ‘The borders in this edition of The Earthly Paradise were designed by William Morris, except those on page 4 of volumes ii., iii., and iv., afterwards repeated, which were designed to match the opposite borders, under William Morris’s direction, by R. Catterson-Smith; who also finished the initial words ‘Whilom’ and ‘Empty’ for The Water of the Wondrous Isles. All the other letters, borders, title-pages and ornaments used at the Kelmscott Press, except the Greek type in Atalanta in Calydon, were designed by William Morris.’
46. TWO TRIAL PAGES OF THE PROJECTED EDITION OF LORD BERNERS’ TRANSLATION OF FROISSART’S CHRONICLES. Folio. Chaucer type, with heading in Troy type. In black and red. Border 32, containing the shields of France, the Empire, and England and a half-border containing those of Reginald Lord Cobham, Sir John Chandos, and Sir Walter Manny. 160 on vellum at a guinea, none on paper. Dated September, issued October 7, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Not bound.
It was the intention of Mr. Morris to make this edition of what was since his college days almost his favourite book, a worthy companion to the Chaucer. It was to have been in two volumes folio, with new cusped initials and heraldic ornament throughout. Each volume was to have had a large frontispiece designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones; the subject of the first was to have been St. George, that of the second, Fame. A trial page was set up in the Troy type soon after it came from the foundry, in Jan., 1892. Early in 1893 trial pages were set up in the Chaucer type, and in the list for March 9 of that year the book is erroneously stated to be in the press. In the three following lists it is announced as in preparation. In the list dated Dec. 1, 1893, and in the three next lists, it is again announced as in the press, and the number to be printed is given as 150. Meanwhile the printing of the Chaucer had been begun, and as it was not feasible to carry on two folios at the same time, the Froissart again comes under the heading ‘in preparation’ in the lists from Dec. 1, 1894, to June 1, 1896. In the prospectus of the Shepheardes Calender, dated Nov. 12, 1896, it is announced as abandoned. At that time about thirty-four pages were in type, but no sheet had been printed. Before the type was broken up, on Dec. 24, 1896, 32 copies of sixteen of these pages were printed and given as a memento to personal friends of the poet and printer whose death now made the completion of the book impossible. This suggested the idea of printing two pages for wider distribution. The half-border had been engraved in April, 1894, by W. Spielmeyer, but the large border only existed as a drawing. It was engraved with great skill and spirit by C. E. Keates, and the two pages were printed by Stephen Mowlem, with the help of an apprentice, in a manner worthy of the designs.
47. SIRE DEGREVAUNT. Edited by F. S. Ellis after the edition printed by J. O. Halliwell. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 1a and 1, and a woodcut designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 350 on paper at fifteen shillings, 8 on vellum at four guineas. Dated Mar. 14, 1896, issued Nov. 12, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.
This book, subjects from which were painted by Sir Edward Burne-Jones on the walls of The Red House, Upton, Bexley Heath, many years ago, was always a favourite with Mr. Morris. The frontispiece was not printed until October, 1897, eighteen months after the text was finished.
48. SYR YSAMBRACE. Edited by F. S. Ellis after the edition printed by J. O. Halliwell from the MS. in the Library of Lincoln Cathedral, with some corrections. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and a woodcut designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 350 on paper at twelve shillings, 8 on vellum at four guineas. Dated July 14, issued Nov. 11, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.
This is the third and last of the reprints from the Camden Society’s volume of Thornton Romances. The text was all set up and partly printed by June, 1896, at which time it was intended to include ‘Sir Eglamour’ in the same volume.
49. SOME GERMAN WOODCUTS OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. Being thirty-five reproductions from books that were in the library of the late William Morris. Edited, with a list of the principal woodcut books in that library, by S. C. Cockerell. Large 4to. Golden type. In red and black. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 8 on vellum at five guineas. Dated Dec. 15, 1897, issued January 6, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.
Of these thirty-five reproductions twenty-nine were all that were done of a series chosen by Mr. Morris to illustrate a catalogue of his library, and the other six were prepared by him for an article in the 4th number of Bibliographica, part of which is reprinted as an introduction to the book. The process blocks (with one exception) were made by Walker & Boutall, and are of the same size as the original cuts.
50. THE STORY OF SIGURD THE VOLSUNG AND THE FALL OF THE NIBLUNGS. BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Small folio. Chaucer type, with title and headings to the four books in Troy type. In black and red. Borders 33a and 33, and two illustrations designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 160 on paper at six guineas, 6 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated January 19, issued February 25, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
The two borders used in this book were almost the last that Mr. Morris designed. They were intended for an edition of The Hill of Venus, which was to have been written in prose by him and illustrated by Sir E. Burne-Jones. The foliage was suggested by the ornament in two Psalters of the last half of the thirteenth century in the library at Kelmscott House. The initial A at the beginning of the 3rd book was designed in March, 1893, for the Froissart, and does not appear elsewhere.
An edition of Sigurd the Volsung, which Mr. Morris justly considered his masterpiece, was contemplated early in the history of the Kelmscott Press. An announcement appears in a proof of the first list, dated April, 1892, but it was excluded from the list as issued in May. It did not reappear until the list of November 26, 1895, in which, the Chaucer being near its completion, Sigurd comes under the heading ‘in preparation,’ as a folio in Troy type, ‘with about twenty-five illustrations by Sir E. Burne-Jones.’ In the list of June 1, 1896, it is finally announced as ‘in the press,’ the number of illustrations is increased to forty, and other particulars are given. Four borders had then been designed for it, two of which were used on pages 470 and 471 of the Chaucer. The other two have not been used, though one of them has been engraved. Two pages only were in type, thirty-two copies of which were struck off on Jan. 11, 1897, and given to friends, with the sixteen pages of Froissart mentioned above.
51. THE SUNDERING FLOOD WRITTEN BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Overseen for the press by May Morris. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Border 10, and a map. 300 on paper at two guineas. Dated Nov. 15, 1897, issued Feb. 25, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.
This was the last romance by William Morris. He began to write it on Dec. 21, 1895, and dictated the final words on Sept. 8, 1896. The map pasted into the cover was drawn by H. Cribb for Walker & Boutall, who prepared the block. In the edition that Longmans are about to issue the bands of robbers called in the Kelmscott edition Red and Black Skinners appear correctly as Red and Black Skimmers. The name was probably suggested by that of the pirates called ‘escumours of the sea’ on page 154 of Godefrey of Boloyne.
52. LOVE IS ENOUGH, OR THE FREEING OF PHARAMOND: A MORALITY. WRITTEN BY WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to. Troy type, with stage directions in Chaucer type. In black, red, and blue. Borders 6a and 7, and two illustrations designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 300 on paper at two guineas, 8 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated Dec. 11, 1897, issued Mar. 24, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.
This was the second book printed in three colours at the Kelmscott Press. As explained in the colophon, the final picture was not designed for this edition of Love is Enough, but for the projected edition referred to above, on page 5.
53. A NOTE BY WILLIAM MORRIS ON HIS AIMS IN FOUNDING THE KELMSCOTT PRESS, TOGETHER WITH A SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESS BY S. C. COCKERELL, AND AN ANNOTATED LIST OF THE BOOKS PRINTED THEREAT. Octavo. Golden type, with five pages in the Troy and Chaucer types. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and a woodcut designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 525 on paper at ten shillings, 12 on vellum at two guineas. Dated March 1, issued March 24, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.
The frontispiece to this book was engraved by William Morris for the projected edition of The Earthly Paradise described on page 5. This block and the blocks for the three ornaments on page 7 are not included among those mentioned on page 12 as having been sent to the British Museum.
Eighteen lists of the books printed or in preparation at the Kelmscott Press were issued to booksellers and subscribers. The dates of these are May, July, and Dec., 1892; March 9, May 20, May 27, Aug. 1, and Dec. 1, 1893; March 31, April 21, July 2, Oct. 1 (a leaflet), and Dec. 1, 1894; July 1, and Nov. 26, 1895; June 1, 1896; Feb. 16, and July 28, 1897. The three lists for 1892, and some copies of that for Mar. 9, 1893, were printed on Whatman paper, the last of the stock bought for the first edition of The Roots of the Mountains (see p. 6). Besides these, twenty-nine announcements, relating mainly to individual books, were issued; and eight leaflets, containing extracts from the lists, were printed for distribution by Messrs. Morris & Co.
The following items, as having a more permanent interest than most of these announcements, merit a full description:
4. A leaflet, with fly-leaf, headed An American Memorial to Keats, together with a form of invitation to the unveiling of his bust in Hampstead Parish Church on July 16, 1894. Golden type. 750 copies.
6. Scholarship certificates for the Technical Education Board of the London County Council, printed in the oblong borders designed for the pictures in Chaucer’s Works. One of these borders was not used in the book, and this is its only appearance. The first certificate was printed in Nov., 1894, and was followed in Jan., 1896, by eleven certificates; in Jan., 1897, by six certificates; and in Feb., 1898, by eleven certificates, all differently worded. Golden type. The numbers varied from 12 to 2500 copies.
9. Card for Associates of the Deaconess Institution for the Diocese of Rochester. One side of this card is printed in Chaucer type; on the other there is a prayer in the Troy type enclosed in a small border which was not used elsewhere. It was designed for the illustrations of a projected edition of The House of the Wolfings. April, 1897. 250 copies.
|A LIST OF THE BOOKS DESCRIBED ABOVE.||page|
|1||The Glittering Plain (without illustrations)||15|
|2||Poems by the Way||15|
|3||Blunt’s Love Lyrics and Songs of Proteus||16|
|4||Ruskin’s Nature of Gothic||16|
|5||The Defence of Guenevere||16|
|6||A Dream of John Ball||17|
|7||The Golden Legend||17|
|8||The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye||18|
|9||Mackail’s Biblia Innocentium||19|
|10||Reynard the Foxe||19|
|11||Shakespeare’s Poems and Sonnets||20|
|12||News from Nowhere||20|
|13||The Order of Chivalry||20|
|14||Cavendish’s Life of Wolsey||21|
|15||Godefrey of Boloyne||21|
|18||Gothic Architecture, by William Morris||22|
|19||Sidonia the Sorceress||23|
|20||Rossetti’s Ballads and Narrative Poems||23|
|20a||” Sonnets and Lyrical Poems||24|
|22||The Glittering Plain (illustrated)||23|
|23||Amis and Amile||24|
|24||The Poems of Keats||24|
|25||Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon||25|
|26||The Emperor Coustans||25|
|27||The Wood beyond the World||25|
|28||The Book of Wisdom and Lies||25|
|29||Shelley’s Poems, Vol. I.||26|
|29a||” ” II.||28|
|29b||” ” III.||28|
|31||Savonarola, De contemptu Mundi||26|
|34||The Life and Death of Jason||27|
|36||Rossetti’s Hand and Soul||28|
|39||The Well at the World’s End||29|
|41||The Earthly Paradise, Vol. I.||32|
|41a||” ” ” II.||33|
|41b||” ” ” III.||34|
|41c||” ” ” IV.||34|
|41d||” ” ” V.||34|
|41e||” ” ” VI.||34|
|41f||” ” ” VII.||35|
|41g||” ” ” VIII.||35|
|42||Laudes Beatæ Mariæ Virginis||33|
|43||The Floure and the Leafe||33|
|44||Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender||33|
|45||The Water of the Wondrous Isles||35|
|46||Trial pages of Froissart||36|
|49||Some German Woodcuts||38|
|50||Sigurd the Volsung||38|
|51||The Sundering Flood||39|
|52||Love is Enough||39|
|53||A Note by William Morris||40|
|Various lists and announcements relating to the Kelmscott Press||40|
|1.||Hammersmith Socialist Society, invitations||40|
|2.||Ancoats Brotherhood leaflet||41|
|3.||Address to Sir Lowthian Bell||41|
|4.||An American Memorial to Keats||41|
|5.||Memorial to Dr. Thomas Sadler||41|
|6.||L. C. C. Scholarship Certificates||41|
|8.||Specimen in Strange’s Alphabets||41|
|9.||Card for Associates of the Deaconess Institution for the Diocese of Rochester||41|
Other works announced in the lists as in preparation, but afterwards abandoned, were The Tragedies, Histories, and Comedies of William Shakespeare; Caxton’s Vitas Patrum; The Poems of Theodore Watts-Dunton; and A Catalogue of the Collection of Woodcut Books, Early Printed Books, and Manuscripts at Kelmscott House. The text of the Shakespeare was to have been prepared by Dr. Furnivall. The original intention, as first set out in the list of May 20, 1893, was to print it in three vols. folio. A trial page from Lady Macbeth, printed at this time, is in existence. The same information is repeated until the list of July 2, 1895, in which the book is announced as to be a ‘small 4to (special size),’ i. e., the size afterwards adopted for The Earthly Paradise. It was not, however, begun, nor was the volume of Mr. Watts-Dunton’s poems. Of the Vitas Patrum, which was to have been uniform with The Golden Legend, a prospectus and specimen page were issued in March, 1894, but the number of subscribers did not justify its going beyond this stage. Two trial pages of the Catalogue were set up; some of the material prepared for it has now appeared in Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century. In addition to these books, The Hill of Venus, as stated on p. 38, was in preparation. Among works that Mr. Morris had some thought of printing may also be mentioned The Bible, Gesta Romanorum, Malory’s Morte Darthur, The High History of the San Graal (translated by Dr. Sebastian Evans), Piers Ploughman, Huon of Bordeaux, Caxton’s Jason, a Latin Psalter, The Prymer or Lay Folk’s Prayer-Book, Some Mediæval English Songs and Music, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and a Book of Romantic Ballads. He was engaged on the selection of the Ballads, which he spoke of as the finest poems in our language, during his last illness.
The “Note by William Morris on his Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press,” the last book printed at the Kelmscott Press, contains a few errors in the “Bibliography.” These errors have been allowed to stand in reprinting the “Note” here, in order that the reprint shall be a literal one.
Mr. S. C. Cockerell, the former Secretary of the Kelmscott Press, has kindly sent a list of these corrections, which appear below:
Page 19, line 21 —“Golden type” should be inserted after “8vo.”
Page 30, line 16 —“June 26, 1893,” should be “June 26, 1896.”
Page 39, line 17 — after “guineas” insert “ten on vellum at ten guineas.”
Page 40, line 31 — for “eight leaflets” read, “nine or ten leaflets.”
Page 44, line 12 — omit “Lady.”
The following pages showing the Troy and Chaucer types are printed from process blocks to insure fidelity to the originals. The frontispiece and first page of text are also reproduced in the same manner; page one, within the border, showing the Golden type, the only other type used by William Morris.
The following passages are given to show the Troy & Chaucer types, and four initials that were designed for the Froissart, but never used.
The land is a little land, Sirs, too much shut up within the narrow seas, as it seems, to have much space for swelling into hugeness: there are no great wastes overwhelming in their dreariness, no great solitudes of forests, no terrible untrodden mountain-walls: all is measured, mingled, varied, gliding easily one thing into another: little rivers, little plains, swelling, speedily-changing uplands, all beset with handsome orderly trees; little hills, little mountains, netted over with the walls of sheep-walks: all is little; yet not foolish and blank, but serious rather, and abundant of meaning for
such as choose to seek it: it is neither prison, nor palace, but a decent home.
All which I neither praise nor blame, but say that so it is: some people praise this homeliness overmuch, as if the land were the very axle-tree of the world; so do not I, nor any unblinded by pride in themselves and all that belongs to them: others there are who scorn it and the tameness of it: not I any the more: though it would indeed be hard if there were nothing else in the world, no wonders, no terrors, no unspeakable beauties. Yet when we think what a small part of the world’s history, past, present, & to come, is this land we live in, and how much smaller still in the history of the arts, & yet how our forefathers clung to it, and with what care and
pains they adorned it, this unromantic, uneventful-looking land of England, surely by this too our hearts may be touched and our hope quickened.
For as was the land, such was the art of it while folk yet troubled themselves about such things; it strove little to impress people either by pomp or ingenuity: not unseldom it fell into commonplace, rarely it rose into majesty; yet was it never oppressive, never a slave’s nightmare or an insolent boast: & at its best it had an inventiveness, an individuality, that grander styles have never overpassed: its best too, and that was in its very heart, was given as freely to the yeoman’s house, and the humble village church, as to the lord’s palace or the mighty cathedral: never coarse, though often rude enough, sweet, natural & unaffected, an art of peasants rather than of merchant princes or courtiers, it must be a hard heart, I think, that does not love it: whether a man has been born among it like ourselves, or has come wonderingly
on its simplicity from all the grandeur over-seas.
And Science, we have loved her well, and followed her diligently, what will she do? I fear she is so much in the pay of the counting-house, the counting-house and the drill-sergeant, that she is too busy, and will for the present do nothing.
Yet there are matters which I should have thought easy for her, say for example teaching Manchester how to consume its own smoke, or Leeds how to get rid of its superfluous black dye without turning it into the river, which would be as much worth her attention as the production of the heaviest of heavy black silks, or the biggest of useless guns. Anyhow, however it be done, unless people care about carrying on their business without making the world hideous, how can they care about art? I know it will cost much both of time and money to better these things even a little; but I do
not see how these can be better spent than in making life cheerful & honourable for others and for ourselves; and the gain of good life to the country at large that would result from men seriously setting about the bettering of the decency of our big towns would be priceless, even if nothing specially good befell the arts in consequence: I do not know that it would; but I should begin to think matters hopeful if men turned their attention to such things, and I repeat that, unless they do so, we can scarcely even begin with any hope our endeavours for the bettering of the Arts. (From the lecture called The Lesser Arts, in Hopes and Fears for Art, by William Morris, pages 22 and 33.)
By the Ideal Book, I suppose we are to understand a book not limited by commercial exigencies of price: we can do what we like with it, according to what its nature, as a book, demands of art. But we may conclude, I think, that its matter will limit us somewhat; a work on differential calculus, a medical work, a dictionary, a collection of a statesman’s speeches, or a treatise on manures, such books, though they might be handsomely and well printed, would scarcely receive ornament with the same exuberance as a volume of lyrical poems, or a standard classic, or such like. A work on Art, I think, bears less of ornament than any other kind of book (“non bis in idem” is a good motto); again, a book that must have illustrations, more or less utilitarian, should, I think, have no actual ornament at all, because the ornament and the illustration must almost certainly fight.
Still whatever the subject matter of the book may be, and however bare it may be of decoration, it can still be a work of art, if the type be good and attention be paid to its general arrangement. All here present, I should suppose, will agree in thinking an opening of Schœffer’s 1462 Bible beautiful, even when it has neither been illuminated nor rubricated; the same may be said of Schussler, or Jenson, or, in short, of any of the good old printers; their books, without any further ornament than they derived from the design and arrangement of the letters, were definite works of art. In fact a book, printed or written, has a tendency to be a beautiful object, and that we of this age should generally produce ugly books, shows, I fear, something like malice prepense — a determination to put our eyes in our pockets wherever we can.
Well, I lay it down, first, that a book quite unornamented can look actually and positively beautiful, and not merely un-ugly, if it be, so to say, architecturally good, which, by the by, need not add much to its price, since it costs no more to pick up pretty stamps than ugly ones, and the taste and forethought that goes to the proper setting, position, and so on, will soon grow into a habit, if cultivated, and will not take up much of the master printer’s time when taken with his other necessary business.
Now, then, let us see what this architectural arrangement claims of us. First, the pages must be clear and easy to read; which they can hardly be unless, Secondly, the type is well designed; and Thirdly, whether the margins be small or big, they must be in due proportion to the page of the letter.
For clearness of reading the things necessary to be heeded are, first, that the letters should be properly put on their bodies, and, I think, especially that there should be small whites between them; it is curious, but to me certain, that the irregularity of some early type, notably the roman letter of the early printers of Rome, which is, of all roman type, the rudest, does not tend toward illegibility: what does so is the lateral compression of the letter, which necessarily involves the over thinning out of its shape. Of course I do not mean to say that the above-mentioned irregularity is other than a fault to be corrected. One thing should never be done in ideal printing, the spacing out of letters — that is, putting an extra white between them; except in such hurried and unimportant work as newspaper printing, it is inexcusable.
This leads to the second matter on this head, the lateral spacing of words (the whites between them); to make a beautiful page great attention should be paid to this, which, I fear, is not often done. No more white should be used between the words than just clearly cuts them off from one another; if the whites are bigger than this it both tends to illegibility and makes the page ugly. I remember once buying a handsome fifteenth-century Venetian book, and I could not tell at first why some of its pages were so worrying to read, and so commonplace and vulgar to look at, for there was no fault to find with the type. But presently it was accounted for by the spacing: for the said pages were spaced like a modern book, i. e., the black and white nearly equal. Next, if you want a legible book, the white should be clear and the black black. When that excellent journal, the Westminster Gazette, first came out, there was a discussion on the advantages of its green paper, in which a good deal of nonsense was talked. My friend, Mr. Jacobi, being a practical printer, set these wise men right, if they noticed his letter, as I fear they did not, by pointing out that what they had done was to lower the tone (not the moral tone) of the paper, and that, therefore, in order to make it as legible as ordinary black and white, they should make their black blacker — which of course they do not do. You may depend upon it that a gray page is very trying to the eyes.
As above said, legibility depends also much on the design of the letter: and again I take up the cudgels against compressed type, and that especially in roman letter: the full-sized lower-case letters “a,” “b,” “d,” and “c,” should be designed on something like a square to get good results: otherwise one may fairly say that there is no room for the design; furthermore, each letter should have its due characteristic drawing, the thickening out for a “b,” “e,” “g,” should not be of the same kind as that for a “d”; a “u” should not merely be an “n” turned upside down; the dot of the “i” should not be a circle drawn with compasses; but a delicately drawn diamond, and so on. To be short, the letters should be designed by an artist, and not an engineer. As to the forms of letters in England (I mean Great Britain), there has been much progress within the last forty years. The sweltering hideousness of the Bodoni letter, the most illegible type that was ever cut, with its preposterous thicks and thins, has been mostly relegated to works that do not profess anything but the baldest utilitarianism (though why even utilitarianism should use illegible types, I fail to see), and Caslon’s letter and the somewhat wiry, but in its way, elegant old-faced type cut in our own days, has largely taken its place. It is rather unlucky, however, that a somewhat low standard of excellence has been accepted for the design of modern roman type at its best, the comparatively poor and wiry letter of Plantin and the Elzevirs having served for the model, rather than the generous and logical designs of the fifteenth-century Venetian printers, at the head of whom stands Nicholas Jenson; when it is so obvious that this is the best and clearest roman type yet struck, it seems a pity that we should make our starting-point for a possible new departure at any period worse than the best. If any of you doubt the superiority of this type over that of the seventeenth century, the study of a specimen enlarged about five times will convince him, I should think. I must admit, however, that a commercial consideration comes in here, to wit, that the Jenson letters take up more room than the imitations of the seventeenth century; and that touches on another commercial difficulty, to wit, that you cannot have a book either handsome or clear to read which is printed in small characters. For my part, except where books smaller than an ordinary octavo are wanted, I would fight against anything smaller than pica; but at any rate small pica seems to me the smallest type that should be used in the body of any book. I might suggest to printers that if they want to get more in they can reduce the size of the leads, or leave them out altogether. Of course this is more desirable in some types than in others; Caslon’s letter, e. g., which has long ascenders and descenders, never needs leading, except for special purposes.
I have hitherto had a fine and generous roman type in my mind, but after all a certain amount of variety is desirable, and when you have gotten your roman letter as good as the best that has been, I do not think you will find much scope for development of it; I would therefore put in a word for some form of gothic letter for use in our improved printed book. This may startle some of you, but you must remember that except for a very remarkable type used very seldom by Berthelette (I have only seen two books in this type. Bartholomew, the Englishman, and the Gower, of 1532), English black-letter, since the days of Wynkin de Worde, has been always the letter which was introduced from Holland about that time (I except again, of course, the modern imitations of Caxton). Now this, though a handsome and stately letter, is not very easy reading; it is too much compressed, too spiky, and so to say, too prepensely gothic. But there are many types which are of a transitional character and of all degrees of transition, from those which do little more than take in just a little of the crisp floweriness of the gothic, like some of the Mentelin or quasi-Mentelin ones (which, indeed, are models of beautiful simplicity), or say like the letter of the Ulm Ptolemy, of which it is difficult to say whether it is gothic or roman, to the splendid Mainz type, of which, I suppose, the finest specimen is the Schœffer Bible of 1462, which is almost wholly gothic. This gives us a wide field for variety, I think, so I make the suggestion to you, and leave this part of the subject with two remarks: first, that a good deal of the difficulty of reading gothic books is caused by the numerous contractions in them, which were a survival of the practice of the scribes; and in a lesser degree by the over-abundance of tied letters, both of which drawbacks, I take it for granted, would be absent in modern types founded on these semi-gothic letters. And, secondly, that in my opinion the capitals are the strong side of roman and the lower-case of gothic letter, which is but natural, since the roman was originally an alphabet of capitals, and the lower case a gradual deduction from them.
We now come to the position of the page of print on the paper, which is a most important point, and one that till quite lately has been wholly misunderstood by modern, and seldom done wrong by ancient printers, or indeed by producers of books of any kind. On this head I must begin by reminding you that we only occasionally see one page of a book at a time; the two pages making an opening are really the unit of the book, and this was thoroughly understood by the old book producers. I think you will seldom find a book produced before the eighteenth century, and which has not been cut down by that enemy of books (and of the human race), the binder, in which this rule is not adhered to: that the binder edge (that which is bound in) must be the smallest member of the margins, the head margin must be larger than this, the fore larger still, and the tail largest of all. I assert that, to the eye of any man who knows what proportion is, this looks satisfactory, and that no other does so look. But the modern printer, as a rule, dumps down the page in what he calls the middle of the paper, which is often not even really the middle, as he measures his page from the head line, if he has one, though it is not really a part of the page, but a spray of type only faintly staining the head of the paper. Now I go so far as to say that any book in which the page is properly put on the paper is tolerable to look at, however poor the type may be (always so long as there is no “ornament” which may spoil the whole thing), whereas any book in which the page is wrongly set on the paper is intolerable to look at, however good the type and ornaments may be. I have got on my shelves now a Jenson’s Latin Pliny, which, in spite of its beautiful type and handsome painted ornaments, I dare scarcely look at, because the binder (adjectives fail me here) has chopped off two-thirds of the tail margin: such stupidities are like a man with his coat buttoned up behind, or a lady with her bonnet on hind-side foremost.
Before I finish I should like to say a word concerning large-paper copies. I am clean against them, though I have sinned a good deal in that way myself, but that was in the days of ignorance, and I petition for pardon on that ground only. If you want to publish a handsome edition of a book, as well as a cheap one, do so, but let them be two books, and if you (or the public) cannot afford this, spend your ingenuity and your money in making the cheap book as sightly as you can. Your making a large-paper copy out of the small one lands you in a dilemma even if you re-impose the pages for the large paper, which is not often done, I think. If the margins are right for the smaller book they must be wrong for the larger, and you have to offer the public the worse book at the bigger price; if they are right for the large paper they are wrong for the small, and thus spoil it, as we have seen above that they must do; and that seems scarcely fair to the general public (from the point of view of artistic morality) who might have had a book that was sightly, though not high-priced.
As to the paper of our ideal book, we are at a great disadvantage compared with past times. Up to the end of the fifteenth, or indeed, the first quarter of the sixteenth centuries, no bad paper was made, and the greater part was very good indeed. At present there is very little good paper made and most of it is very bad. Our ideal book must, I think, be printed on hand-made paper as good as it can be made; penury here will make a poor book of it. Yet if machine-made paper must be used, it should not profess fineness or luxury, but should show itself for what it is: for my part I decidedly prefer the cheaper papers that are used for the journals, so far as appearance is concerned, to the thick, smooth, sham-fine papers on which respectable books are printed, and the worst of these are those which imitate the structure of hand-made papers.
But, granted your hand-made paper, there is something to be said about the substance. A small book should not be printed on thick paper, however good it may be. You want a book to turn over easily, and to lie quiet while you are reading it, which is impossible, unless you keep heavy paper for big books.
And, by the way, I wish to make a protest against the superstition that only small books are comfortable to read; some small books are tolerably comfortable, but the best of them are not so comfortable as a fairly big folio, the size, say, of an uncut Polyphilus or somewhat bigger. The fact is, a small book seldom does lie quiet, and you have to cramp your hand by holding it or else put it on the table with a paraphernalia of matters to keep it down, a tablespoon on one side, a knife on another, and so on, which things always tumble off at a critical moment, and fidget you out of the repose which is absolutely necessary to reading; whereas, a big folio lies quiet and majestic on the table, waiting kindly till you please to come to it, with its leaves flat and peaceful, giving you no trouble of body, so that your mind is free to enjoy the literature which its beauty enshrines.
So far then, I have been speaking of books whose only ornament is the necessary and essential beauty which arises out of the fitness of a piece of craftsmanship for the use which it is made for. But if we get as far as that, no doubt from such craftsmanship definite ornament will arise, and will be used, sometimes with wise forbearance, sometimes with prodigality equally wise. Meantime, if we really feel impelled to ornament our books, no doubt we ought to try what we can do; but in this attempt we must remember one thing, that if we think the ornament is ornamentally a part of the book merely because it is printed with it, and bound up with it, we shall be much mistaken. The ornament must form as much a part of the book as the type itself, or it will miss its mark, and in order to succeed, and to be ornament, it must submit to certain limitations, and become architectural; a mere black and white picture, however interesting it may be as a picture, may be far from an ornament in a book; while on the other hand a book ornamented with pictures that are suitable for that, and that alone, may become a work of art second to none, save a fine building duly decorated, or a fine piece of literature.
These two latter things are, indeed, the one absolutely necessary gift that we should claim of art. The picture-book is not, perhaps, absolutely necessary to man’s life, but it gives us such endless pleasure, and is so intimately connected with the other absolutely necessary art of imaginative literature that it must remain one of the very worthiest things toward the production of which reasonable men should strive.
Printing, in the only sense with which we are at present concerned, differs from most if not from all the arts and crafts represented in the exhibition in being comparatively modern. For although the Chinese took impressions from wood blocks engraved in relief for centuries before the wood-cutters of the Netherlands, by a similar process, produced the block books, which were the immediate predecessors of the true printed book, the invention of movable metal letters in the middle of the fifteenth century may justly be considered as the invention of the art of printing. And it is worth mention in passing that, as an example of fine typography, the earliest book printed with movable types, the Gutenberg, or “forty-two line Bible” of about 1455, has never been surpassed.
Printing, then, for our purpose, may be considered as the art of making books by means of movable types. Now, as all books not primarily intended as picture-books consist principally of types composed to form letterpress, it is of the first importance that the letter used should be fine in form; especially as no more time is occupied, or cost incurred, in casting, setting, or printing beautiful letters than in the same operations with ugly ones. And it was a matter of course that in the Middle Ages, when the craftsmen took care that beautiful form should always be a part of their productions whatever they were, the forms of printed letters should be beautiful, and that their arrangement on the page should be reasonable and a help to the shapeliness of the letters themselves. The Middle Ages brought caligraphy to perfection, and it was natural therefore that the forms of printed letters should follow more or less closely those of the written character, and they followed them very closely. The first books were printed in black letter, i. e., the letter which was a Gothic development of the ancient Roman character, and which developed more completely and satisfactorily on the side of the “lower-case” than the capital letters; the “lower-case” being in fact invented in the early Middle Ages. The earliest book printed with movable type, the aforesaid Gutenberg Bible, is printed in letters which are an exact imitation of the more formal ecclesiastical writing which obtained at that time; this has since been called “missal type,” and was in fact the kind of letter used in the many splendid missals, psalters, etc., produced by printing in the fifteenth century. But the first Bible actually dated (which also was printed at Mainz by Peter Schœffer in the year 1462) imitates a much freer hand, simpler, rounder, and less spiky, and therefore far pleasanter and easier to read. On the whole the type of this book may be considered the ne-plus-ultra of Gothic type, especially as regards the lower-case letters; and type very similar was used during the next fifteen or twenty years not only by Schœffer, but by printers in Strasburg, Basle, Paris, Lubeck, and other cities. But though on the whole, except in Italy, Gothic letter was most often used, a very few years saw the birth of Roman character not only in Italy, but in Germany and France. In 1465 Sweynheim and Pannartz began printing in the monastery of Subiaco near Rome, and used an exceedingly beautiful type, which is indeed to look at a transition between Gothic and Roman, but which must certainly have come from the study of the twelfth or even the eleventh century MSS. They printed very few books in this type, three only; but in their very first books in Rome, beginning with the year 1468, they discarded this for a more completely Roman and far less beautiful letter. But about the same year Mentelin at Strasburg began to print in a type which is distinctly Roman; and the next year Gunther Zeiner at Augsburg followed suit; while in 1470 at Paris Udalric Gering and his associates turned out the first books printed in France, also in Roman character. The Roman type of all these printers is similar in character, and is very simple and legible, and unaffectedly designed for use; but it is by no means without beauty. It must be said that it is in no way like the transition type of Subiaco, and though more Roman than that, yet scarcely more like the complete Roman type of the earliest printers of Rome.
A further development of the Roman letter took place at Venice. John of Spires and his brother Vindelin, followed by Nicholas Jenson, began to print in that city, 1469, 1470; their type is on the lines of the German and French rather than of the Roman printers. Of Jenson it must be said that he carried the development of Roman type as far as it can go: his letter is admirably clear and regular, but at least as beautiful as any other Roman type. After his death in the “fourteen eighties,” or at least by 1490, printing in Venice had declined very much; and though the famous family of Aldus restored its technical excellence, rejecting battered letters, and paying great attention to the “press work” or actual process of printing, yet their type is artistically on a much lower level than Jenson’s, and in fact they must be considered to have ended the age of fine printing in Italy. Jenson, however, had many contemporaries who used beautiful type, some of which — as, e. g., that of Jacobus Rubeus or Jacques le Rouge — is scarcely distinguishable from his. It was these great Venetian printers, together with their brethren of Rome, Milan, Parma, and one or two other cities, who produced the splendid editions of the Classics, which are one of the great glories of the printer’s art, and are worthy representatives of the eager enthusiasm for the revived learning of that epoch. By far the greater part of these Italian printers, it should be mentioned, were Germans or Frenchmen, working under the influence of Italian opinion and aims. It must be understood that through the whole of the fifteenth and the first quarter of the sixteenth centuries the Roman letter was used side by side with the Gothic. Even in Italy most of the theological and law books were printed in Gothic letter, which was generally more formally Gothic than the printing of the German workmen, many of whose types, indeed, like that of the Subiaco works, are of a transitional character. This was notably the case with the early works printed at Ulm, and in a somewhat lesser degree at Augsburg. In fact Gunther Zeiner’s first type (afterwards used by Schussler) is remarkably like the type of the before-mentioned Subiaco books.
In the Low Countries and Cologne, which were very fertile of printed books, Gothic was the favourite. The characteristic Dutch type, as represented by the excellent printer Gerard Leew, is very pronounced and uncompromising Gothic. This type was introduced into England by Wynkyn de Worde, Caxton’s successor, and was used there with very little variation all through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and indeed into the eighteenth. Most of Caxton’s own types are of an earlier character, though they also much resemble Flemish or Cologne letter. After the end of the fifteenth century the degradation of printing, especially in Germany and Italy, went on apace; and by the end of the sixteenth century there was no really beautiful printing done: the best, mostly French or Low-Country, was neat and clear, but without any distinction; the worst, which perhaps was the English, was a terrible falling-off from the work of the earlier presses; and things got worse and worse through the whole of the seventeenth century, so that in the eighteenth printing was very miserably performed. In England about this time, an attempt was made (notably by Caslon, who started business in London as a type-founder in 1720) to improve the letter in form. Caslon’s type is clear and neat, and fairly well designed; he seems to have taken the letter of the Elzevirs of the seventeenth century for his model: type cast from his matrices is still in everyday use.
In spite, however, of his praiseworthy efforts, printing had still one last degradation to undergo. The seventeenth century founts were bad rather negatively than positively. But for the beauty of the earlier work they might have seemed tolerable. It was reserved for the founders of the later eighteenth century to produce letters which are positively ugly, and which, it may be added, are dazzling and unpleasant to the eye owing to the clumsy thickening and vulgar thinning of the lines: for the seventeenth-century letters are at least pure and simple in line. The Italian, Bodoni, and the Frenchman, Didot, were the leaders in this luckless change, though our own Baskerville, who was at work some years before them, went much on the same lines; but his letters, though uninteresting and poor, are not nearly so gross and vulgar as those of either the Italian or the Frenchman.
With this change the art of printing touched bottom, so far as fine printing is concerned, though paper did not get to its worst till about 1840. The Chiswick press in 1844 revived Caslon’s founts, printing for Messrs. Longman the Diary of Lady Willoughby. This experiment was so far successful that about 1850 Messrs. Miller and Richard of Edinburgh were induced to cut punches for a series of “old style” letters. These and similar founts, cast by the above firm and others, have now come into general use and are obviously a great improvement on the ordinary “modern style” in use in England, which is in fact the Bodoni type a little reduced in ugliness. The design of the letters of this modern “old style” leaves a good deal to be desired, and the whole effect is a little too gray, owing to the thinness of the letters. It must be remembered, however, that most modern printing is done by machinery on soft paper, and not by the hand press, and these somewhat wiry letters are suitable for the machine process, which would not do justice to letters of more generous design.
It is discouraging to note that the improvement of the last fifty years is almost wholly confined to Great Britain. Here and there a book is printed in France or Germany with some pretension to good taste, but the general revival of the old forms has made no way in those countries. Italy is contentedly stagnant. America has produced a good many showy books, the typography, paper, and illustrations of which are, however, all wrong, oddity rather than rational beauty and meaning being apparently the thing sought for both in the letters and the illustrations.
To say a few words on the principles of design in typography: it is obvious that legibility is the first thing to be aimed at in the forms of the letters; this is best furthered by the avoidance of irrational swellings and spiky projections, and by the using of careful purity of line. Even the Caslon type when enlarged shows great shortcomings in this respect: the ends of many of the letters such as the t and e are hooked up in a vulgar and meaningless way, instead of ending in the sharp and clear stroke of Jenson’s letters; there is a grossness in the upper finishings of letters like the c, the a, and so on, an ugly pear-shaped swelling defacing the form of the letter: in short, it happens to this craft, as to others, that the utilitarian practice, though it professes to avoid ornament, still clings to a foolish, because misunderstood conventionality, deduced from what was once ornament, and is by no means useful; which title can only be claimed by artistic practice, whether the art in it be conscious or unconscious.
In no characters is the contrast between the ugly and vulgar illegibility of the modern type and the elegance and legibility of the ancient more striking than in the Arabic numerals. In the old print each figure has its definite individuality, and one cannot be mistaken for the other; in reading the modern figures the eyes must be strained before the reader can have any reasonable assurance that he has a 5, an 8, or a 3 before him, unless the press work is of the best; this is awkward if you have to read Bradshaw’s Guide in a hurry.
One of the differences between the fine type and the utilitarian must probably be put down to a misapprehension of a commercial necessity: this is the narrowing of the modern letters. Most of Jenson’s letters are designed within a square, the modern letters are narrowed by a third or thereabout; but while this gain of space very much hampers the possibility of beauty of design, it is not a real gain, for the modern printer throws the gain away by putting inordinately wide spaces between his lines, which, probably, the lateral compression of his letters renders necessary. Commercialism again compels the use of type too small in size to be comfortable reading: the size known as “Long primer” ought to be the smallest size used in a book meant to be read. Here, again, if the practice of “leading” were retrenched larger type could be used without enhancing the price of a book.
One very important matter in “setting up” for fine printing is the “spacing,” that is, the lateral distance of words from one another. In good printing the spaces between the words should be as near as possible equal (it is impossible that they should be quite equal except in lines of poetry); modern printers understand this, but it is only practised in the very best establishments. But another point which they should attend to they almost always disregard; this is the tendency to the formation of ugly meandering white lines or “rivers” in the page, a blemish which can be nearly, though not wholly, avoided by care and forethought, the desirable thing being “the breaking of the line” as in bonding masonry or brickwork, thus: The general solidity of a page is much to be sought for: modern printers generally overdo the “whites” in the spacing, a defect probably forced on them by the characterless quality of the letters. For where these are boldly and carefully designed, and each letter is thoroughly individual in form, the words may be set much closer together, without loss of clearness. No definite rules, however, except the avoidance of “rivers” and excess of white, can be given for the spacing, which requires the constant exercise of judgment and taste on the part of the printer.
The position of the page on the paper should be considered if the book is to have a satisfactory look. Here once more the almost invariable modern practice is in opposition to a natural sense of proportion. From the time when books first took their present shape till the end of the sixteenth century, or indeed later, the page so lay on the paper that there was more space allowed to the bottom and fore margin than to the top and back of the paper, thus: the unit of the book being looked on as the two pages forming an opening. The modern printer, in the teeth of the evidence given by his own eyes, considers the single page as the unit, and prints the page in the middle of his paper— only nominally so, however, in many cases, since when he uses a headline he counts that in, the result as measured by the eye being that the lower margin is less than the top one, and that the whole opening has an upside-down look vertically, and that laterally the page looks as if it were being driven off the paper.
The paper on which the printing is to be done is a necessary part of our subject: of this it may be said that though there is some good paper made now, it is never used except for very expensive books, although it would not materially increase the cost in all but the very cheapest. The paper that is used for ordinary books is exceedingly bad even in this country, but is beaten in the race for vileness by that made in America, which is the worst conceivable. There seems to be no reason why ordinary paper should not be better made, even allowing the necessity for a very low price; but any improvement must be based on showing openly that the cheap article is cheap, e. g., the cheap paper should not sacrifice toughness and durability to a smooth and white surface, which should be indications of a delicacy of material and manufacture which would of necessity increase its cost. One fruitful source of badness in paper is the habit that publishers have of eking out a thin volume by printing it on thick paper almost of the substance of cardboard, a device which deceives nobody, and makes a book very unpleasant to read. On the whole, a small book should be printed on paper which is as thin as may be without being transparent. The paper used for printing the small highly ornamented French service-books about the beginning of the sixteenth century is a model in this respect, being thin, tough, and opaque. However, the fact must not be blinked that machine-made paper cannot in the nature of things be made of so good a texture as that made by hand.
The ornamentation of printed books is too wide a subject to be dealt with fully here; but one thing must be said on it. The essential point to be remembered is that the ornament, whatever it is, whether picture or pattern-work, should form part of the page, should be a part of the whole scheme of the book. Simple as this proposition is, it is necessary to be stated, because the modern practice is to disregard the relation between the printing and the ornament altogether, so that if the two are helpful to one another it is a mere matter of accident. The due relation of letter to pictures and other ornament was thoroughly understood by the old printers; so that even when the woodcuts are very rude indeed, the proportions of the page still give pleasure by the sense of richness that the cuts and letter together convey. When, as is most often the case, there is actual beauty in the cuts, the books so ornamented are amongst the most delightful works of art that have ever been produced. Therefore, granted well-designed type, due spacing of the lines and words, and proper position of the page on the paper, all books might be at least comely and well-looking: and if to these good qualities were added really beautiful ornament and pictures, printed books might once again illustrate to the full the position of our Society that a work of utility might be also a work of art, if we cared to make it so.
Here ends The Art And Craft Of Printing;
Collected Essays By William Morris. Of
this book there have been printed two
hundred and ten copies by Clarke Con-
well at The Elston Press: Finished this
thirtieth day of January MDCCCCII. Sold
by Clarke Conwell at The Elston Press,
Pelham Road, New Rochelle, New York.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005