THE KELMSCOTT CHAUCER

AND ITS IMPORTANCE WITHIN THE OEUVRE OF WILLIAM MORRIS


17.00 (GMT) / 13.00 (EDT)
THURSDAY 23 MARCH 2023

'If we live to finish it, 'it will be like a pocket cathedral - so full of design, and I think Morris the greatest master of ornament in the world.'

E. Burne-Jones

The Masterpiece of the Kelmscott Press is undoubtedly the limited edition of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published in 1896. First time exhibitor, Peter Harrington Ltd will present a magnificent copy of Morris's Chaucer in a fine binding by the remarkable Belgian binder Paul Claessens, a contemporary of the Kelmscott Press co-founder. 

The Kelmscott Chaucer was the result of close collaboration between Morris and Burne-Jones over four years. Burne-Jones spent every spare minute on the book's 87 illustrations as Morris's health had deteriorated alarmingly and in the end the book was completed just before Morris's death. Burne-Jones called it "a pocket cathedral it is so full of design", and "the finest book ever printed; if W.M. had done nothing else it would be enough."

Dr Philip W. Errington, who is a senior book specialist at Peter Harrington, will introduce the Kelmscott Chaucer to the audience and will talk to Martin Levy about about the importance of the book and the Kelmscott Press among the range of Morris's work and the significance to Morris and his family at Kelmscott Manor. Levy, director of H. Blairman & Sons Ltd, is currently the Chairman of the Kelmscott Campaign Group and has been closely involved with the renovation and reopening of Kelmscott Manor.

Both the Kelmscott Chaucer and a fine example of a Morris fabric will be on view in the respective galleries during 'Art History in Focus'. 

Philip W. Errington, Peter Harrington Ltd

Dr Philip W. Errington joined Peter Harrington in 2021 after over 21 years at Sotheby's where he was a director and senior specialist. He has published major bibliographies on J.K. Rowling and John Masefield. In 2007 he was responsible for the world record of a modern literary manuscript at auction (Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard which sold for £1.95M) and also achieved the current auction record for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (sold in 2013 for £150,000). He has published with Penguin Classics, Carcanet, The Folio Society and Egmont. He is also an honorary research associate within the English Department at University College London.

Martin Levy, H. Blairman & Sons Ltd

Martin Levy, FSA, is the fourth-generation head of H. Blairman & Sons Ltd, the antiques concern based in London, founded by his great-grandfather Harris Blairman in Llandudno, North Wales, in 1884. Known internationally as an authority in Nineteenth Century English and Continental design, Levy is a past chairman of the British Antique Dealers Association, and member of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art (1997-2007). Levy is currently Chairman of Decorative Arts Society and of the Kelmscott Campaign Group. He is also a member of the board of The Gilbert Trust for the Arts and a trustee of The Emery Walker Trust.

About The William Morris Society and the Kelmscott Press

The William Morris Society aims to perpetuate the memory of one of the greatest men of the Victorian, or any, age. The life, work and ideas of William Morris (1834-1896) are as important today as they were in his lifetime. The Society exists to make them as widely known as possible.

The variety of Morris's ideas and activities bring together those who are interested in him as a designer, craftsman, poet, and socialist, who admire his robust and generous personality, his creative energy and his courage. His ideas on how we live and how we might live, on creative work, leisure and machinery, on ecology and conservation, on politics and the place of arts in our lives remain as stimulating now as they were over a century ago.

The Society, established in 1955, publishes a Journal, Newsletter and commentaries on all aspects of Morris's work and runs a varied series of talks and visits throughout the year. It encourages the re-publication of Morris's works and the continued manufacture of his textile and wallpaper designs.

The Society's office and museum are in the basement and Coach House of Kelmscott House, Hammersmith, Morris's London home for the last eighteen years of his life. During this time he ran his manufacturing company, Morris and Company, at Merton Abbey, he founded the Kelmscott Press and he held Socialist League (later the Hammersmith Socialist Society) meetings in the Coach House. Today the Society's talks and other events are held in the Coach House; it also hosts exhibitions of works by Morris and his wider circle. See their Events and Museum pages for details.


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