"A Definite Claim to Beauty": Selections from the Fine Print Press Collection
Original Exhibit Fall 2002
"I began printing books with the hope of producing some which would have a definite claim to beauty...And it was the essence of my undertaking to produce books which it would be a pleasure to look upon as pieces of printing and arrangement of type." ---William Morris
Featured in this exhibition are books from the Burns Library Fine Print Press Collection. Each press started as a small group of talented artisans--joined by not only a love of reading, but by a love for the aesthetics of reading. They established co-operative enterprises in which their individual talents would contribute equally to the final product, and in which quality, not quantity, was the goal. Beginning with selections produced by William Morris's Kelmscott Press-an "undertaking" to which the fine print press owes its resurrection--the exhibition includes books from the Golden Cockerel Press, Curwen Press, and Gregynog Press. Special highlights are personal letters, engraved blocks, examples of fonts, and artwork from the Eric Gill Collection, and examples of fine print books from the Irish Collection, featuring Dun Emer, later Cuala, Press, Three Candle Press, Dolmen Press, and Traffic Street Press. While William Morris's admiration of medieval aesthetics and his ideas about the co-operative craftsmen of the Middle Ages brought the fine print press back from the brink of extinction in the late nineteenth century, this exhibition demonstrates that the conception of a beautiful book keeps pace with its contemporary cultural milieu.
Illustration by Sir Edward Burne-Jones from The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published by the Kelmscott Press in 1896. It should be noted that while all the illustrations were designed by Burne-Jones, many of the borders surrounding them, as well as most of the illuminated initials, were designed by William Morris.
A wood engraving designed by Eric Gill for Patrick Miller's The Green Ship published by the Goldern Cockerel Press in 1936.
For Further Study: Researchers and others are invited to view the exhibit and other holdings in the library relating to the Fine Print Press Collection. Burns Library staff are happy to answer questions regarding the collection.