The Kelmscott Chaucer is considered the finest Arts and Crafts era publication,
and the pinnacle of private press publishing
Perhaps the most famous of the private presses, the Kelmscott Press at Hammersmith was the creation of master craftsman William Morris. At a time when the printed page and book production in general was suffering, he believed that the high standards of the past could be re-awakened and re-created to achieve complete harmony of type and illustration; for each book to be seen as a complete object of beauty.
Text was printed in red and black Chaucer and Troy types. The large woodcut illustrations by Sir Edward Burne-Jones were redrawn by Robert Catterson-Smith and cut by W.H. Hooper and W. Spielmeyer.
The press produced 53 books between 1891 and 1898. Both the first and final titles of the press are being sold in a small, select collection in Swann’s February 23 auction of Private Press & Illustrated Books, as well as their crowning achievement, The Kelmscott Chaucer. Morris’s aims and aesthetic inspired the birth of several other English presses such as the Ashendene, Doves, Eragny and Vale presses, each of which are also represented in the sale.
A dedication copy of Aragny Press’s Songs by Ben Jonson, one of only ten printed on vellum, is another sale highlight.