Victorian Art & Design
William Morris and the Kelmscott Press
Morris was very dissatisfied with the design of Victorian books. In 1888 his friend, Emery Walker, gave a slide lecture on early printing. When Morris saw the early type enlarged on the screen he decided to design his own type.
In 1891 he set up his own Kelmscott Press and started printing his own books. He used special black ink and hand-made paper, with a few books printed on vellum. He designed two typefaces. The first was the Golden Type modelled on early Venetian books. The second was the Troy Type based on early German books. He also designed many decorative borders and initials.
The most elaborate book which he printed was the Kelmscott Chaucer, the complete works of Chaucer, England's first poet. He designed the Chaucer type, a smaller version of Troy type to print it. The Chaucer had 87 wood engravings designed by Burne-Jones. Around each picture was a narrow frame by Morris. Below that was half a page of text and around both was a wide border by Morris. The picture below shows the legend of Hero and Leander, from Chaucer's Legend of Good Women.
The William Morris Society has over twenty pictures of Kelmscott Press items on its website, click on the link 'Designs' near the foot of the Society's homepage to see them and other designs at www.morrissociety.org,
Morris Quiz Books on Morris