- New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2020.
- 6.25 x 9.375 inches
- Cloth with dust jacket
- 320 pages plus 8 pages of color plates
- ISBN: 9781584563853
Price: $85.00 other currencies
Order Nr. 133471
The founding by William Morris of the Kelmscott Press in 1891 was the major episode in the Victorian revival of fine printing but also the culmination of a prolonged attempt to recover the high typographical standards of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Though it is tempting to see Morris, a figure of remarkable energy and influence, as a solitary genius in his attempt to redefine the underlying principles of book design, in fact he was working within a tradition of aesthetic renewal that can be traced throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
William S. Peterson -- in this collection of essays and lectures originally published over a twenty-six-year span -- argues that Morris's adventures in the book world can best be understood by placing him in this larger context. While the attempt by Morris to reinvigorate the book beautiful (as some of his contemporaries called it) was connected in his mind with Marxist theories about the equitable distribution of goods, the reality is that the Kelmscott Press printed elegant volumes that could only be afforded by prosperous collectors. At a deeper level, however, the Victorian revival of the aesthetics of book production was also linked with the renewal of Anglo-Catholicism in mid-nineteenth-century England and a growing admiration for the Middle Ages.
Morris's remarkable achievement was to blend this widespread Victorian nostalgia for the distant past with a theory of bookmaking that still has powerful appeal today. The other figures who appear in this volume, such as Emery Walker, Sydney Cockerell, Daniel Berkeley Updike, William Pickering, and Henry and Emily Daniel, remind us that us that Morris was not alone in envisioning the renewal of the book arts as the key to an understanding of our modern world.
William S. Peterson (Professor Emeritus of English, University of Maryland) has written extensively about the Kelmscott Press and other aspects of fine printing in Britain and America. He has also edited three journals -- Browning Institute Studies, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, and Printing History -- and has designed many books (including this one).