A Claim to Beauty

A Claim to Beauty : William Morris, the Kelmscott Press, and the Quest for the Perfect Book

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"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."
William Morris
In January 1891 William Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in order to produce books by traditional methods using, as far as possible, the printing technology and typographical style of the fifteenth century. This reflected the tenets of the Arts and Crafts Movement and was Morris's response to the mechanization and mass production then permeating many aspects of daily life.
These books were designed to be read slowly, to be appreciated and treasured. The Kelmscott Press was the most famous of the private presses of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and inspired what became known as the "Private Press Movement."
Morris produced beautiful editions of more than 50 books (printed in more than 18,000 volumes), of his favourite authors, such as Chaucer ("The Works"), William Caxton ("The Order of Chivalry"), Sir Thomas More ("Utopia"), Shakespeare ("The Poems"), as well as poetry by Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and himself.
The books of the Kelmscott Press contained titles, borders, and initials designed by Morris, and woodcut illustrations after Edward Burne-Jones, and represent the culmination of the artistic collaboration between those two artists. They have become prime examples of late-nineteenth-century decorative art."
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Product details

  • Hardback | 192 pages
  • United States
  • English
  • 1588343197
  • 9781588343192
  • 2,616,233

About John Christian

JOHN CHRISTIAN is an art historian with a special interest in the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and has been an independent consultant on Victorian pictures and drawings to Christie's Auction House for twenty years. He has curated many exhibitions, including the Burne-Jones centenary exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1998). Recently he has worked on "Hidden Burne-Jones" (Birmingham Art Gallery, 2007) and a major exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and decorative arts in Japan. The author lives in England.
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