We’re kicking off a new weekly feature here at UWM Special Collections - Fine Press Fridays! One of our goals in Special Collections is to document the history of the book and how the form of the book has been used by publishers and printers to express their ideas throughout time. As such, we have a strong focus on works produced by the fine press movement. The contemporary fine press printing movement originated in the 19th century with the work of Englishman William Morris. Disenchanted with current printing methods and desirous of returning to a time when books were printed with care and artistry, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891, printing books by hand using handmade paper and ink. The movement spread to several countries and continues to this day.   

Our inaugural Fine Press Friday piece is A Note by William Morris, in which Morris describes his goal to create books “which would have a definite claim to beauty, while at the same time…be easy to read and…not dazzle the eye, or trouble the intellect of the reader by eccentricity of form in the letters.” The final book printed at Kelmscott Press in 1898, the work relays Morris’s ideas of what constituted a beautiful book, his attempts to “redeem the Gothic character from the charge of unreadableness which is commonly brought against it,” the history of Kelmscott Press, and a bibliographic list of every work Morris printed at Kelmscott. One of the most unique features about this book is that it contains all three types designed by Morris; the main body of text is set in his Golden typeface, while quoted passages from Morris’s lecture “The Lesser Arts” appear in his Chaucer and Troy typefaces. The book also contains examples of Morris’s ornamentation and features a wood engraving by Edward Burne-Jones. 

See it in the catalog here.

Kevin Woodland