Today, is the 179th Birthday of William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement, an artist, poet, novelist, carpenter, printer and inspiring man.
He spent a large proportion of his life at Kelmscott Manor, a beautiful farmhouse adjacent to the River Thames on the edge of the village of Kelmscott,West Oxfordshire, where he is today buried along with his family.
Morris loved the house as a work of true craftsmanship, totally unspoilt and unaltered, and in harmony with the village and the surrounding countryside. He considered it so natural in its setting as to be almost organic, it looked to him as if it had “grown up out of the soil”
The Kelmscott Press at Hammersmith was named after the Manor that Morris loved so dearly. It produced some of the finest books of the late nineteenth century, and the Kelmscott Chaucer is considered the most memorable and beautiful edition of the works of the medieval poet and one of the outstanding typographic achievements of all time.
Only 425 copies of the magnificent work were produced in 1896. The book features a Golden typeface which was especially designed for the work with a view to blending as a harmonious whole with the 87 full-page illustrations by Sir Edward Burne-Jones with the borders, decorations and initials drawn by Morris himself.
Kelmscott Manor is only a 10 minute drive from where I live in Oxfordshire so I have been to visit it several times in the course of my life. On display in the house is the Kelmscott Chaucer and on my most recent visit I spent about an hour pouring over this wonderful manuscript. My Uncle, seeing me so engrossed purchased the facsimile of this exquisite book for my 21st Birthday. Of all the books that I possess the Kelmscott Chaucer is undoubtedly my most cherished and favourite item.
So on today, the anniversary of William Morris’ birth I would like to share some of the beautiful illustrations from the work: