20 April 2015

The Kelmscott/Goudy Press Prints Again



When the auctioneer’s hammer landed on our high bid, I ducked out into the lobby and did what was probably a very grotesque dance. I really couldn’t believe we were successful”


-Steven Galbraith, Curator at the Cary Collection at RIT


In December of 2013, the press used by William Morris at his famous Kelmscott Press—and later used at the Goudy Press—went under the hammer at Christie's. The winner was anonymous at first, but then it emerged that the press would be going to the respected Cary GraphicArts Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Since settling into its new home at RIT, the Kelmscott/Goudy Press (K-G Press) has been restored by associate curator Amelia Hugill-Fontanel and put to use again.

One of its first projects was our broadside, featuring an original portrait of Morris. This month we had short conversations with Steven Galbraith, the Curator of the Cary Collection; Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, the Associate Curator who restored the press; and Steven Lee-Davis, the artist who designed and printed our broadside on the press, about what it was like to obtain and work with this glorious historical press. Today we'll start with Steven Galbraith: watch this space as the story of the K-G press unfolds.

Part I, Giving the Press a Home: Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Collection, RIT

What was it like to procure this famous press? Was the process difficult? Exciting?

The Kelmscott/Goudy printing press had been on the Cary Collection’s wish list for some time, but we were taken by surprise to learn that it was going to be auctioned. Time was tight, but fortunately we found a donor to be our sponsor. Without his support we likely wouldn’t have had a chance.

The auction was actually pretty stressful! The press was lot number 156. I arrived with our bidding agent, Phil Salmon, around lot 80. Although the Christie’s auctioneers keep things moving on a tight schedule, the pace of auctioning the next 75 items seemed unbelievable slow. It was like a build up of suspense. When it came time to bid on the Kelmscott/Goudy press, the pace seemed to pick up considerably. It was almost dizzying. When the auctioneer’s hammer landed on our high bid, I ducked out into the lobby and did what was probably a very grotesque dance. I really couldn’t believe we were successful.

How does the press fit into the broader collection there?

After our acquisition of the press was announced, we received so many messages of support and congratulations. It was wonderful. My colleagues and I felt strongly that RIT was the right home for the press, but to receive affirmation from printers, artists, and historians just confirmed it in the nicest way.

I think the Cary Collection offers the perfect home for the Kelmscott/Goudy press. We are a special collections library with a focus on the history of printing. More specifically, we have strong collections relating to the former owners of the press, including Frederic Goudy, who is the topic of 2015 spring exhibition. We also maintain an active pressroom housing over fifteen historical printing presses. So the press is in good company.

RIT more broadly has a long history of teaching printing and graphic design. Distinguished printers, designers, and book artists frequent our campus and the Cary Collection. Our university also offers a unique interdisciplinary environment for the press. For example, over the past year our Associate Curator Amelia Hugill-Fontanel restored the press with help from our Curator Emeritus David Pankow. During this process, they found a few parts that were damaged or, in one instance, missing. Amelia partnered with RIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to recast new pieces. In this way, RIT and the Cary Collection have the resources to study, use, and even repair a nineteenth-century printing press.

Finally, having the Kelmscott/Goudy press here at RIT is a homecoming of sorts. The press once belonged to our namesake, Melbert B. Cary Jr.

What are your plans for the future of the press?

The Kelmscott/Goudy press has already been included in several RIT classes, and that will continue to grow. Reaching off campus, we also hope to host master printing classes on the press, perhaps beginning this summer. The first broadside we printed on the press was a collaboration between Amelia Hugill-Fontanel and a wood engraver named Steven Lee-Davis, who prepared illustrations of five of the press’s former proprietors. We were very pleased with it. Steven printed a second broadside featuring just the Morris woodcut for the US branch of the William Morris Society.


This coming October 23-24, the Cary Collection will host the 2015 conference of the American Printing History Association. Inspired by the Kelmscott/Goudy press, our theme will be “Printing on the HandPress and Beyond.”

19 January 2015

The Reach of William Morris and Co.


Caricature of Morris by D.G. Rossetti, image via the Rossetti Archive (© The Trustees of the British Museum )

While searching through W. E. Henley’s Scots Observer lately for a conference paper on newspaper poetry, I encountered an anonymous satiric poem on Morris & Co. In the eyes of the satirist, clearly, Morris and Co. designs had spread everywhere. But the writer also zeroed in on what concerned Morris himself and continues to engage Morriseans today, the conflict between the ideal of beauty accessible to all and the high price of Morris & Co. goods. Here is the poem, from the 7 December 1889 Scots Observer (p. 65):

Playnte Dolorous

Who clothed my chairs with coloured chintz,
In arabesques of pear and quince
That make the very bravest wince?—
My Morris!

Who on my curtains told the tale
Of Arthur and the Holy Grail,
Yet built my bath of Chippendale?—
My Morris!

Who made my rooms (like chimney-shafts)
A mighty colony of draughts,
And then let loose the Arts and Crafts?—
My Morris!

Who smiled an earnest smile, and took
My one and only decent book,
‘That Saunderson* might have a look’?—
My Morris!

Who caused me such atrocious pain
With dinner plates (by Walter Crane),
The paint whereto no man may chain?—
My Morris!

Who built me in with painted glass
So that, by daylight or by gas,
My closest feres** do call me Ass?—
My Morris!

My couch me-seemeth full of stones;
Forth from my flesh protrude my bones;
Were we designed by Edward Jones,
My Morris?

Who sent me that preposterous bill?
And ah! who waiteth for it still?
Before you get it you may grill,
My Morris!

* T. J. Cobden-Saunderson (1840-1922), Arts and Crafts book binder
** An archaic word for friend or mate, here in keeping with the poem’s medieval title and reference to Arthurian legend

The poem responded not only to the popularity of Morris and Co. goods at this time but also, in part, to the second Arts and Crafts Exhibition at the New Gallery, which opened in October 1889. A number of papers reviewed the exhibition. The 12 October 1889 Saturday Review, for example, noted the book bindings of Saunderson, complaining that some were so tight “that some of the volumes will not close properly” but acknowledging that his “gold tooling is simply superb. In beauty of design and manipulative skill we have never seen anything like it” (p. 406). The Saturday Review also reported that Morris and Co. had 46 examples of textiles on display in the exhibition (p. 407).

The Scots Observer itself reviewed the show on 19 October 1889. It spent little time on the details of individual objects. Instead the review’s most telling remark was this: “Plainly, ‘None but Socialists need apply’ is the revered maxim of the Society of the Arts and Crafts, whose second Exhibition has been organised and manœuvred by Mr. Walter Crane and a few friends” (p. 602).

A conservative paper, the Scots Observer was resolutely anti-Socialist. In printing “Playnte Dolorous,” Henley could chaff middle-class readers who submitted to the fashionable taste inspired by Morris and Co. goods, only to rue the bills, and also snipe at Morris and other Arts and Crafts designers who advocated Socialism while reaping profits. If the poem is hostile to Morris, it nonetheless testifies to his influence—his “reach”—in 1889.

--Linda K. Hughes, Ph.D.
Addie Levy Professor of Literature
Texas Christian University


23 October 2014

A Mysterious Book



In an earlier post, we touched upon the identity of the tragic poet Gerald C. Siordet. That post was prompted by the auction—still ongoing—of an Earthly Paradise volume signed by Jane Morris to Siordet.

Why is the book still up for sale after its first auction's end date? Well, it had to be taken down for a while, for very interesting reasons.

The book was originally posted to ebay with a second item grouped in with it for free. This second item, a book, wasn't in prime condition, so it seemed a mere token to accompany the Jane-inscribed book. It soon emerged, however, that this free book was extremely rare, and quite valuable.

The book is a rare volume of Siordet's poetry, published after he died in battle in Mesopotamia during WWI. It includes a portrait of Siordet, pictured here. It's so rare that no copies seem to exist in the US, and only two can be found in the UK.

The book is on its way to a new home, where the public will be able to view it (more on that later), so all's well that ends well. The Jane Morris-inscribed Earthly Paradise on the other hand, taken off of ebay in the interim, is still without a home. Feel free to rectify this situation. The vendor is Humanity at Heart, a British charity.

06 October 2014

"Oxford and Cambridge Magazine " explored by David Taylor


Dr David Taylor, Hon. Research Fellow, University of Roehampton; and Project Archivist, Lushington Archive, Surrey History Centre, gave a fascinating Morris-related talk at the "Places, Spaces, and the Victorian Periodical Press" conference at the University of Delaware. Here's the abstract for the talk, which is called "Dreaming Spires and Radical Roots, Oxford in the 1850s: Godfrey Lushington and the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine."

"The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine appeared in 1856. It was founded by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones while both were students at Oxford University. They were joined in the venture by other undergraduates including the twins Vernon and Godfrey Lushington who became disciples of Auguste Comte and leading advocates of Positivism and the Religion of Humanity.

Although always known and recognised for their role in the attempt to spread Positivism during the second half of the nineteenth century, the Lushington brothers remained shadowy figures until my recent acquisition of the important Lushington family archive. My resulting doctoral thesis and ongoing work cataloguing the papers, is bringing the Lushingtons more to the fore of the stage in the cultural and intellectual world of the fin-de-siècle.

Whilst Vernon Lushington was busy at Cambridge attempting to win converts for Comte (and taking time to introduce Burne Jones to Rossetti, thereby setting in motion the development of the second phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement), Godfrey was at Oxford where he fell in with Morris and other like-minded students.

The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine was devised by Morris and his friends as a successor to the short-lived Pre-Raphaelite periodical, The Germ. The enthusiastic students formed a 'Brotherhood' to take up the ideals of Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Millais and others who formed the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  But the new 'Brotherhood' was not to be an imitation of The Germ. Its aim, in the words of Burne- Jones, was to be as a weapon in a 'Crusade and Holy Warfare against the age,' meaning specifically the appalling conditions of life in the great industrial areas and the indifference toward them of the upper classes, and more broadly the lack of idealism in contemporary society. In addition to the original P.R.B., the inspirers of the new group were Carlyle, Ruskin and Tennyson.

The twelve numbers of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine that appeared in print, first under Morris’s editorship and financial backing, were conceived with the 'central notion' 'to advocate moral earnestness and purpose in literature, art, and society.' It was in this magazine that some of Morris’s first writings appeared together with contributions of verses by Rossetti. The names of contributors of individual essays are not printed leading to much debate as to attribution of authorships. I have been fortunate to acquire Vernon Lushington’s own bound copies of the magazine in which he has added the names of many of the contributors against the essay titles. From this we know that the essay on Oxford was by his brother Godfrey. In fact this was Godfrey’s sole contribution; Vernon contributing a series of essays on Carlyle which form an important, early, critique of the great prophet of the age.

Godfrey Lushington’s essay is not another eulogy on the glories of Oxford. He makes the point of the essay at the outset by quoting from Carlyle’s Life of Sterling, 'Alas, the question of University Reform goes deep at present; deep as the world; - and the real University of these epochs is yet a great was from us.'

Reform ran deep in the veins of the Lushingtons. Their father had been a Whig MP with advanced ideas who supported the Reform Bill of 1832 and who strove for the abolition of slavery and other social ills. The call for University Reform voiced by Lushington in the
Oxford and Cambridge Magazine amounted to an attack on the 'social position' and the 'classed space' that the universities represented at this time. The demands surprisingly came from young radicals such as Lushington and his brother who were themselves members of the very same privileged elite he was criticising.
Matthew Arnold, coincidentally a friend and neighbour of Vernon Lushington, elevated Oxford to a 'sweet city with her dreaming spires'. Drawing upon the resources of newly discovered archive, I will look at the radical roots which lay beneath the veneer of Oxford’s romantic façade in the middle years of the nineteenth-century. I will consider the background of Lushington’s attack on the university system and the role that the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in giving voice to that attack and its effectiveness in bringing about the changes that ultimate followed.  I will also show the importance of the magazine as a launching place for the pursuit of reform which can be traced throughout the brothers’ professional careers in the civil service and the judiciary. "

To contact the author about his work, email: david@taylorcobham.co.uk / davidcharles.taylor@surreycc.gov.uk




26 September 2014

Gerald C. Siordet: To the Dead


Portrait of Siordet by Glyn Philpot, via Leicester Galleries
The remarkable appearance on ebay of an Earthly Paradise volume signed by Jane Morris to one Gerald C. Siordet raises a question for some of us: who was Siordet?

Siordet was an aspiring poet, artist, and critic when he died in Mesopotamia in 1917, becoming yet another victim of the "Great War."

Before he died, he'd befriended many London artists, including Glyn Philpot, John Singer Sargent, and Brian Hatton, all of whom created portraits of him. His most lasting legacy, perhaps, is his bittersweet poem, "To the  Dead." 

To the Dead

By Gerald Caldwell Siordet (Killed in action February 9, 1917)

ONCE in the days that may not come again
The sun has shone for us on English fields,
Since we have marked the years with thanksgiving,
Nor been ungrateful for the loveliness
Which is our England, then tho' we walk no more
The woods together, lie in the grass no more.
For us the long grass blows, the woods are green,
For us the valleys smile, the streams are bright,
For us the kind sun still is comfortable
And the birds sing; and since your feet and mine 

20 September 2014

Special Exhibition Tour: The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy



Join exhibition curators Constance McPhee, Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints, and Alison Hokanson, Research Associate in the Department of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum for a tour of the exhibition, The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday, October 10th at 10:30am.

The exhibition, The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design, brings together some thirty objects from across the Museum and from local private collections to highlight the second generation of the Pre-Raphaelites, focusing on the key figures Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Paintings, drawings, furniture, ceramics, stained glass, textiles, and book illustrations from the 1860s through the 1890s, many united for the first time, demonstrate the enduring impact of Pre-Raphaelite ideals as they were adapted by different artists and developed across a range of media. At a time of renewed appreciation for art of the Victorian age, the installation directs fresh attention toward the Metropolitan's little-known holdings in this important area.

Over the past century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired a varied group of objects, ranging from lengths of fabric to signature works which represent the accomplishments of this extraordinary trio and their circle.
The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy: British Art and Design features 26 objects from the Museum’s holdings and four loans from local private collections—including paintings, drawings, furniture, ceramics, textiles, stained glass, and book illustrations—highlighting the key period when the Pre-Raphaelite vision was adapted and transformed.
The tour is free to William Morris Society members, but is limited to 20 persons due to the small size of the gallery. 

Friday, October 10th, 10:30am
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028


Please RSVP to Margaretta Frederick, secretarywmsus@gmail.org, (302) 351-8518 if you wish to attend. Participants will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. As always, donations are gratefully accepted.



11 September 2014

Morris, Books, and the Morgan Library & Museum: A Guest Post by Sheelagh Bevan.


Today, we're honored to have a guest post by the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Curator at the Morgan Library & Museum. Bevan shares with us a description of the Morgan's Morris holdings; some of her favorite items in the collection; and thoughts on Morris's techniques, collaborations, and legacy within the book world.

          I’m part of a three-person curatorial department at the Morgan Library & Museum under the leadership of John Bidwell. Together we take care of 85,000+ volumes of printed books—from Gutenberg’s 42-line bible to the most recent work by artist-typographer Russell Maret. The Morgan’s twin mission (library and museum) requires us to work to some degree with the entire history of print. As Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Curator, I work most closely with the modern end of the spectrum.
         When asked, art historians often cite Edouard Manet as a progenitor of modern art. Such a figure is more difficult to identify in our field because of competing histories of printing, paper, illustration processes, typography, and design—all connected, yet too numerous to neatly coincide. The reach and resonance of William Morris’s bibliographic achievements, his ideas about the book as an everyday object worthy of aesthetic attention, his tendency not to separate the meaning of art from its means of production, and his belief (devoid of metaphor) in the book as a work of art—these qualities make him perhaps the closest equivalent book history has to a Manet.

   The Morgan Library & Museum. Photo by Graham S. Haber
          The Morgan’s collection of William Morris includes preliminary drawings for a tapestry he designed with Edward Burne-Jones, designs for wall paper, stained glass, and bindings, pamphlets connected with the Socialist League, photographs, early literary manuscripts, and experiments with calligraphy. The strength of our collection, however, lies in the documentation of Morris’s ventures into printing, typography, and book design for the Kelmscott Press. These items include formative projects such as Cupid and Psyche, the first pages printed at the press, and presentation copies of major works (many of them printed on vellum) inscribed to key figures in his life and career. Trials, preliminary drawings, and proofs for typography, ornamental initials, and illustrations comprise an archaeological trove pertaining to his masterpiece, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (1896).
Morris is identified with a rejection of mechanical processes but by studying his preparatory work on the Chaucer, one can trace how he achieved this handmade aesthetic with the aid of modern technologies. His type designs developed by studying, tracing, and copying photographic enlargements of fifteenth-century type, examples of which are in the collection. The Morgan’s platinum prints and proof impressions of every Burne-Jones drawing for the Chaucer were annotated by the artist and engraver, then traced and painted over in order to simplify them into wood-engraved images harmonious with Morris’s overall design. Some of my favorite material in the collection bears witness to this unique way of working in holograph statements by his collaborators, Emery Walker and Robert Catterson Smith—oft-quoted documents, worth reading in their entirety. Other favorites are books that serve as miniature archives in themselves, in which Morris or Sydney
   The Morgan Library & Museum. Photo by Graham S. Haber
Cockerell tipped in relevant letters, trials, proofs, and sketches of illustrations and initials. There are also unique scrapbooks of ornaments and initials, which Cockerell annotated and preserved, and the famous Edward Burne-Jones letter to Charles Eliot Norton, which reveals some of the contemporary resistance to Morris’s aesthetic. The original letter, with its dynamic and playful handwriting, amplifies the painter’s excitement about the book he likened to a “pocket cathedral” and explains how his visual style came to be shaped by Morris’s mastery of ornament.
Much of this material is drawn from John Crawford Jr.’s gift of Morrisiana in 1975—the impetus for Paul Needham’s exhibition and invaluable catalogue, William Morris and the Art of the Book. Another invaluable resource for the unique material in our holdings (and everyone else’s) is William S. Peterson’s Bibliography of the Kelmscott Press. In an exhibition I organized earlier this year, Medium as Muse, we were able to feature some of these items and their role in the revival of woodcut illustration and the development of the modern book.
          The collaborative nature of book production is important to emphasize to students. At the Morgan, this is documented vis-à-vis Morris through our extensive printed and manuscript holdings (hundreds of letters alone) relating to his influences and immediate circle—John Ruskin, Emery Walker, Edward Burne-Jones, Sydney Cockerell, Walter Crane, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, May Morris—and other contemporaneous bookmakers, such as Charles Ricketts, Charles Shannon, and Lucien Pissarro.
          Contextualizing William Morris also demands a look at the past. Kelmscott editions were among the few “contemporary” books that Pierpont Morgan acquired, but the early presence of Morris at the Morgan is most palpable in the 1902 acquisition of a large part of the artist’s private library of medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and early sixteenth-century books. Researchers can look at many of the specific copies and precise pages that inspired him and figured in his writings about the art of printing and illustration. His collection is also thought-provoking in terms of the changing relationships we have to books: he may have begun to collect in the conventional fashion of a 19th-century gentleman-bibliophile, but over time these examples of fine printing became nothing less than a working specimen library for a modern graphic designer—as utilitarian as his copy of Shaw’s Encyclopaedia of Ornament, also in the Morgan’s collection.



          The William Morris material and all our collections can be seen and studied in pre-arranged classes and in the Morgan’s Reading Room by application and appointment. Information on how to register and request an appointment can be found here. The Printed Books Department tries to accommodate special requests for classroom sessions and show-and-tells whenever possible. Please feel free to contact me with any questions related to our holdings and their potential value for students of book history, art, literature, and graphic design.

Sheelagh Bevan
Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Curator
Department of Printed Books & Bindings
The Morgan Library & Museum
sbevan@themorgan.org