A poet, writer, artist, craftsman and designer, William Morris (1834-1896) actively collected early European printing. He considered medieval manuscripts and incunabula (books printed before 1501) to be the pinnacle of book design.
For Morris, fine materials, imaginative design, and skilled craftsmanship were the ingredients to create books of lasting beauty.
Influenced by the beauty of Renaissance books, Morris established the Kelmscott Press in 1891. He designed volumes not only as containers for the art of the written word, but also as objects of art themselves.
'Works of Geoffrey Chaucer', Kelmscott Press, 1896
This work is considered one of the most beautiful books ever printed. Morris designed the 26 initial letters, and the artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones created the 87 woodcut illustrations.
'A note by William Morris', Kelmscott Press, 1898
Finely handcrafted using the best materials, 'A note' shows many influences from the 15th century, including red ink and ornamental flowers or 'fleurons'.
Morris paid much attention to the layout and the beauty and legibility of the typeface, which he designed himself.
These books featured in our display, 'The book beautiful', at the Library from 26 November 2015 until 13 March 2016.