Lot 41
  • 41

[Kelmscott Press]

40,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. [Edited by F. S. Ellis]. Hammersmith: William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 1896
  • Paper, Ink, Leather
Folio (16 3/4 x 11 1/2 in.; 425 x 292 mm). 87 woodcut illustrations after Sir Edward Burne-Jones redrawn by Robert Catterson-Smith and cut by W. H. Hooper, woodcut title-page, 14 woodcut page-borders variously repeated, 26 nineteen-line woodcut initial words, numerous ten-, six-, and three-line woodcut initial letters, and woodcut printer's device, all designed by William Morris and cut by C. E. Keates, Hooper, and W. Spielmeyer, printed in Chaucer type in black and red, two columns, headings to longer poems printed in Troy type; Original linen-backed blue-gray boards, printed spine label. Front inner hinge cracked, inscription in pencil on lower free endpaper, extremities darkened, spine somewhat worn, spine label chipped. Red morocco slipcase, spine gilt.


Roderick Terry (bookplate; his sale, Anderson Galleries, 7 November 1934, lot 174) — Sotheby's New York, 12 December 1995, lot 99 


Artist and the Book 45; Manet to Hockney 9; Peterson A40; Peterson, The Kelmscott Press, pp. 228–257

Catalogue Note

One of 425 copies on paper (of a total edition of 438) of the final great work from the Kelmscott Press. This magnificent production "came at the end of Morris's life, when he was able to pour into a single volume all his bibliophilic passion and his unmatched skill as a designer of ornaments; it is significant that even those readers who find Morris's pages too heavy or congested for their tastes feel compelled, in the end, to pay tribute to the Chaucer as one of the great books of the world" (Peterson). The magnificent Burne-Jones illustrations have be much admired as "images that are disconcertingly 'modern'" (Manet to Hockney).

The undertaking was announced to Kelmscott Press subscribers in December 1892, although the actual printing of the book did not begin until August 1894, and was finally issued to subscribers in June 1896. Though earlier Kelmscott Press books were lavishly illustrated, the Kelmscott Press Chaucer is noteworthy for being the only book where the images and text were fully integrated. A splendid culminating effort of the Kelmscott Press, and of the Victorian rediscovery of early English literature.