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The St. Thomas More Collection - Fall 2007

daniel r. coquillette rare book room - boston college law library

The More Collection was purchased by the Boston College Law School in 1961 from the estate of Arthur Brown. It contains approximately 100 titles focused on the life and work of Sir Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers and ardent defender of the Catholic Church. It includes several very special editions of More’s landmark work, UTOPIA, including a beautifully illustrated 1518 edition and an 1893 edition published by William Morris’ famed Kelmscott Press.

This exhibition features selections from the More Collection arranged by themes. It begins with a look at More’s life and his dispute with King Henry VIII. It showcases many of More’s writings, including UTOPIA, and concludes with a look at More’s lasting and pervasive influence. Below are a few highlights from the exhibit. A handout describing the entire exhibit is available here.

The exhibit was curated by Laurel Davis, BC Law class of 2006, with assistance from Karen Beck, Curator of Rare Books. Much of the text was drawn from Peter Ackroyd’s THE LIFE OF THOMAS MORE (1998). It will remain on view through mid-December 2007.


Thomas More biography by RoperClick on image to see larger view


William Roper was More’s son-in-law and his earliest biographer. He was also a wealthy and successful lawyer in his own right. Married to More’s beloved eldest daughter, Margaret, Roper spent a great deal of time with More, living with Margaret in the family home for more than sixteen years. This biography was written around 1555 but first published in 1626. The book is opened to the title page and an engraving of More. Note the wormholes on the paper. Behind the title page you can see part of a large fold-out table showing the genealogy of the Roper family (not visible in the web page image).


Basel Utopia by Thomas MoreClick on image to see larger view


This beautiful book is a very early edition of UTOPIA: the second printing of the third edition. It features many engravings, including those shown here on the title page, which are taken from designs by Hans Holbein. Annotations by an early owner are sprinkled throughout the book and on the title page.


Kelmscott Utopia by Thomas MoreClick on image to see larger view

THOMAS MORE, UTOPIA Hammersmith: William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 1893

This copy of UTOPIA is a magnificent example of the art of the book. Printed by the artist William Morris at his famed Kelmscott Press, and containing a foreword by him, it is bound in vellum and retains most of its fabric ties. It is opened to one of many pages which feature two-color printing and a striking engraving in Morris’ characteristic style.

Erasmus book EngravingClick on image to see larger view

DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, L’ELOGE DE LA FOLIE Amsterdam: Chez Francoise l’Honore, 1728

This beautifully bound copy is opened to two engravings which precede the title page. One shows three miniature portraits of Erasmus, More and the artist Hans Holbein. The other is a visual representation of Folly and the seven deadly sins. The book is replete with magnificent engravings by Holbein and features two-color printing on the title page.

Thomas More Household by Anne ManningClick on image for larger view

ANNE MANNING, THE HOUSEHOLD OF SIR THOMAS MORE London: J.M. Dent, & New York: E.P. Dutton, 1906

This copy contains twenty-four glorious color illustrations by C.E. Brock. It is opened to the title page and an illustration of King Henry kissing More’s wife Alice – presumably with More’s daughter Margaret watching suspiciously in the background. The caption reads: “His grace … at going saluted all round, which Mother took delightedlie.”