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The Works.
Hammersmith Kelmscott Press 1896 - Folio, edition limited to 425 copies, edited by F.S. Ellis, and W.W. Skeat, printed in red and black, 87 wood-engraved illustrations designed by Edward Burne-Jones, woodcut borders, frames, ornaments and initials throughout, near contemporary blue morocco by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, spine in seven compartments gilt lettered in second, gilt edges, slipcase, an excellent example. The most splendid book produced by the Kelmscott Press, and one of the finest illustrated books ever produced. William Morris, the 19th-century designer, social reformer and writer, founded the Kelmscott Press towards the end of his life. He wanted to revive the skills of hand printing, which mechanisation had destroyed, and restore the quality achieved by the pioneers of printing in the 15th century. The magnificent Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, published in 1896, is the triumph of the press. Its 87 illustrations are by Edward Burne-Jones, the celebrated Victorian painter, who was a life-long friend of Morris. The Kelmscott Chaucer set a new benchmark for book design at the end of the 19th century. It was also the last great project of Morris' life, bringing together two of his passions. First, his love of medieval literature, which inspired the subjects and style of much of his own writing; Second, his socialist philosophy, which looked back to a time before mechanization and division of labour had destroyed, as he saw it, the personal fulfillment and social function of meaningful work. The book was exceptional in its ambitious number of illustrations and rich decorative borders. "If we live to finish it," Burne-Jones wrote, "it will be like a pocket cathedral – so full of design and I think Morris the greatest master of ornament in the world." Morris and Burne-Jones worked on the book for four years. Early in 1892, two trial pages were set in one of Morris' types, called 'Troy'. The results were not satisfactory, the problem being the type size. A smaller version of the same design was cut, and christened 'Chaucer'. Morris had intended to begin designs for the decorative borders immediately, but illness prevented him from starting until a year later. Meanwhile, Edward Burne-Jones spent every Sunday on the book's 87 illustrations, working long hours in fear that Morris might die before the project was finished. His pencil drawings were painted over in Chinese white and Indian ink by R. Catterson-Smith, whose interpretive role is often overlooked. The black and white designs were then transferred to wooden blocks and engraved by William Harcourt Hooper. On seeing the first copy, Burne-Jones wrote: "When Morris and I were little chaps at Oxford, if such a book had come out then we should have just gone off our heads, but we have made at the end of our days the very thing we would have made then if we could." (British Library Online Gallery). [Attributes: Hard Cover]
      [Bookseller: Shapero Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2017-09-20           Check availability:      ZVAB    


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