Book Art and the Kelmcott Press
Morris transformed his life-long interest in book design into action after attending a lecture on printing in 1888 by his neighbor, Emery Walker. For Morris, the books of his time were symptomatic of the shortcomings of modern society: they were ugly, badly made and mass-produced. His vision for the Kelmscott Press grew out of an admiration for the design and traditional craftsmanship of manuscripts from the Middle Ages and early printed books. As a result, the books of the Kelmscott Press seemed at once both antiquarian in appearance and an embodiment of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic Morris championed through his designs.
Image: Kelmscott Press printer's mark, Epistola de Contemptu Mundi, 1894.
A Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press.
by William Morris
Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1898
William Morris set forth his principles of book design in his essay A Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press. These principles were rooted in the example of the printers and scribes of the middle ages. Based on the techniques of his medieval counterparts, Morris's principles of book design emphasized quality materials and thoughtful layout. Morris insisted on using handmade paper produced in London, as well as ink imported from Germany. For Morris it was crucial that the decorative elements on a page complement the printed words.