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

10 September 2014

Fellowship in Pre-Raphaelite Studies

Lancelot and Guinevere (1873) by Julia Margaret Cameron,
 in the collection of the Delaware Art Museum

The University of Delaware Library and the Delaware Art Museum invite applications for the 2015 joint Fellowship in Pre-Raphaelite Studies. This one-month Fellowship is intended for scholars working on the Pre-Raphaelites and their associates. Up to $3,000 is available.

The Delaware Art Museum is home to the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the US. Assembled largely by Samuel Bancroft, Jr., the collection includes paintings, works on paper, decorative arts, manuscripts, and letters, and is augmented by the museum’s Helen Farr Sloan art library. With comprehensive holdings in books, periodicals, electronic resources, and microforms, the University of Delaware Library is a major resource for the study of literature and art. The Special Collections Department contains material related to the Pre-Raphaelites, who are also well-represented in the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection of Victorian books, manuscripts, and artworks.

Application deadline: November 1, 2014.
More information here or write to:

Pre-Raphaelite Studies Fellowship Committee
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE 19806

01 August 2014

C.S. Lewis Defends William Morris

In the April 18, 2014 edition of the Times Literary Supplement, Tom Shippey reviews an exciting new collection, Image and Imagination: Essays and Reviews by C. S. Lewis (Cambridge UP, ed. Walter Hooper).

Hooper's collection contains one previously unpublished essay by Lewis, and forty book reviews which are reprinted here for the first time since their initial publication. Among these is an interesting review of Dorothy Hoare's The Works of Morris and Yeats in Relation to Early Saga Literature.

In the original review, Lewis leaves the Yeats portion of Hoare's work aside, and devotes the vast majority of his three columns of text to a robust defense of Morris. He understands that Hoare prefers the medieval texts to either Morris's or Yeats's interpretations of them, but he disagrees with her assessment of Morris.

“Of Mr. Yeats posterity will judge. Of Morris we can say only that Miss Hoare should read him again, with less submission to a narrow theory of literature. His real theme is very difficult to describe, but it is 'actual' enough. … From the whole atmosphere of each tale arises our awareness that something which has made the vast unnoticed background to much of our experience is at last being given expression...”

Reviewing the collection in April 2014, Shippey delights in the rather obscure barbed remark at the end of Lewis's review. Lewis ends with the simple comment that readers would perhaps be misled by Hoare's interpretation of “Morris’s ‘they tilted over a wain’ (for Ϸeir tjölduϷu vagu) as ‘a kind of leisurely wrestling’”.

After pointing out that the editor may have introduced a typographical error here—it's vagn not vagu—Shippey goes on to explain the remark. Both the Icelandic words and Morris’s more obscure translation mean “they put a tent up over the cart”. (p. 12). Hoare was far off the mark there, and so Lewis implies with a closing flourish, perhaps she had been far off the mark altogether.

-Clara Finley
 Vice President for Media: US Morris Society

05 July 2014

Call for Applications: Morris Society Fellowships 2015

(W.A. Spooner in Vanity Fair 1898 via this page)
The Joseph R. Dunlap Memorial Fellowship awarded by the William Morris Society in the United States supports scholarly and creative work about William Morris. The fellowship offers funding up to $1000 for research and other expenses, including travel to conferences and  libraries. Projects may deal with any subject biographical, literary, historical, social, artistic, political, typographical—relating to Morris. 

The Society also encourages translations of Morris's  works and the production of teaching materials (lesson plans and course materials) suitable for use at the elementary, secondary, college or adult education level. 

Applications are sought particularly from younger members of the Society and from those at the beginning of their careers. Recipients may be from any country and need not have an academic or institutional appointment, nor must recipients hold the Ph.D.

In some years the Society offers a second, smaller fellowship, the William Morris Society Award (the amount to be determined by the committee of judges) The purpose and aims of this second award are the same as for the Joseph R. Dunlap Fellowship.

Applicants should send a two-page description of their project, along with a c.v. and at least one letter of recommendation. For a translation project, please submit an additional letter from a recognized authority able to certify the applicant's competence in both languages. For teaching materials, we ask also for a cover letter describing the ways in which the materials might be used in learning situations. The Society would be pleased to publish any completed translation or teaching materials on its website, but this is not a requirement.

The deadline for applications is 15 December 2014. Applications are judged by committee, and 
the decision announced by 15 January 2015. Send applications to: 

Linda K. Hughes 
Department of English
TCU Box 297270
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, TX 76129

Submissions, including supporting documents, should be sent via email (letters of 
recommendation should be emailed separately by the recommender). Although recipients are not 
required to be members of the William Morris Society, we encourage those applying to join and 
to share in the benefits of membership.

14 June 2014

How About a Morris Memorial Walk? A Modest Proposal

A Rainbow over Kelmscott Manor: photo by John Plotz

Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to spend ten days in and around Kelmscott, Oxfordshire. It couldn’t have been a better trip. When I wasn’t at the Manor itself, I visited the Great Tithe Barn at Coxwell, various churches that Morris worked on (Eaton Hastings ) or simply admired (St Mary’s in Castle Eaton), rowed (feebly) under the sweeping willows that Morris loved so much. On the last day I even saw a rainbow over Kelmscott Manor.

Although I’m not a macabre person, I was pleased to be there both on the anniversary of Morris’s death (October 3) and his burial three days later (October 6, 1896, a dark cold day). I’d been spending a lot of time at the gorgeous parish church of St. George’s, puzzling out the medieval wall paintings and admiring Webb’s memorable inverted-ship tombstone for William, Jane, Jenny and May Morris. So naturally I wonder what kind of commemoration to expect. Would it be Fabians, Guild Socialists, loyal Marxists? Or would his Arts and Crafts acolytes have set the tone? The answer was simple: none of the above.

It seemed wrong that so little should be done to mark a crucial moment in the Morris calendar at a crucial place, the “old house by the Thames to which the people of this story went.” So I had an idea, more or less the same one that John Paynes turned into his lovely book, Journey up the Thames.

Why not undertake the trip taken not only by Morris’s corpse after his death, but also by Guest, Clara and their companions in News from Nowhere? It seems a voyage that has as much to do with Morris’s life as with his death.

So, here’s my thought. Morrisites of all stripes should come together to follow the straightforward route marked out by the Thames Path and make a kind of Morris pilgrimage, arriving at Kelmscott Manor on October 6th. Although I realize that early October is an awful fit with the American academic calendar, I can at least attest to the mildness of the weather then. The ambitious could devote ten days to undertaking the 150 miles from London, while the more modest could (like me, on an unexpectedly balmy weekend) hoof just the final 50 miles from Oxford. Although the train no longer comes within a couple of miles of Kelmscott as it did in Morris’s day, boating wouldn’t out of the question. And anybody who elected to arrive by car would at the very least meet up with the party at Morris’s tomb on October 6th.

I admit the scene won’t be as tumultuous as that October day in 1934 when Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald missed George Bernard Shaw’s speech, and the dedication of Morris Memorial Hall on account of the crowds that flooded into Kelmscott. Still, is any one else as charmed as I am by the prospect of a walking, talking, disputating crowd of Morrisites, making their way argumentatively and amicably up the Thames?    

--John Plotz, Professor of English at Brandeis University

31 March 2014

William Morris’s Legacy in the 20th-Century Avant Garde

Lorine Niedecker, via the Poetry Foundation
Listening to a recent talk on ecology and contemporary poetry given by Professor Margaret Ronda, I was struck by how closely the aesthetic and political concerns of Objectivist poet Lorine Niedecker mirror those of William Morris, who was writing 75-100 years earlier. Niedecker’s work evinces a discomfort with the new, with aesthetic and literary emphases on innovation, and connects such neophilia with an unsustainable capitalist ideology of disposability and overproduction. This same anxiety about the connection between capitalist production and an aesthetic preference for innovation is apparent in Morris’s work, as I mentioned to Ronda after her talk. Imagine my surprise when Ronda told me that Niedecker was deeply interested in Morris and had in fact written a poem about him, titled “His Carpets Flowered.”

The poem, reprinted below, was written in the late ‘60s, and it suggests that Niedecker was primarily inspired not by Morris’s poetry, nor by his work in arts and crafts, but by his letters, and more specifically, by Morris the man as expressed in his letters. As Niedecker wrote in a 1969 letter to fellow poet Cid Corman: “I'm absorbed in writing poems--sequence--on William Morris. I know how to evaluate--Ruskin, etc., their kind of socialism--paternalism--but the letters of William Morris have thrown me. Title will be His Carpets Flowered. I can't read his poems. I'd probably weary of all those flowery designs in carpets, wall papers, chintzes...but as a man, as a poet speaking to his daughters and wife--o lovely” (455).

28 March 2014

The Teaching Morris Initiative

The William Morris Society in the United States is pleased to announce its new "Teaching Morris" initiative.

As part of this effort, the governing body of the WMS has approved the creation of a "Teaching Morris" advisory board. The advisory board will consist of five members, with no more than two from the governing board.

Governing board members Jane Carlin and Jason Martinek are spearheading this effort. We're looking not only to provide a clearinghouse for teaching materials already available about William Morris and his circle, but also to encourage the preparation of new materials. Our goal is to have resources for K-12 teachers as well as college and university professors. We also want to find a conference venue to share and showcase innovative approaches to teaching Morris that will engage and help foster a new generation of Morris scholars.

We are looking for nominations for the advisory board. If you are interested in self-nominating please email Jason at jmartinek@njcu.edu or Jane at jcarlin@pugetsound.edu. As part of the self-nomination please include a short paragraph introducing yourself and another expressing an idea or two about promoting Morris's life and legacy. We'd like to form the advisory board by the end of April. Please get your self-nominations in by 20 April 2014.

Feel free to contact Jason or Jane with your questions.

08 March 2014

MLA 2014: Morris and Arts and Crafts in the Midwest

St. Margaret: One of two Edward Burne-Jones windows in the Second Presbyterian Church.
(Photo courtesy of Yooperann on Flickr.)

 Chicago was cold and wet, with snow and slush everywhere. Instead of sidewalks there were slidewalks. Was it the plan of the MLA convention organizers to pick a location that kept people indoors? If it was, it didn't work for the tried and true members of the William Morris Society. Wherever there is Morrisiana in an MLA city, you are sure to find a group willing to brave treacherous conditions to bask in the glory of arts-and-crafts architecture, design, and stained-glass. I was proud to count myself among them, slipping and sliding all the way.

08 February 2014

Morris and 20th Century Vienna

Before 2013 is a distant memory, I want to rescue an item from the 22 February 2013 issue of the  Times Literary Supplement(pp. 7-8) that made interesting mention of Morris. The article in question might have been passed over by many Morrisians, for it was Edward Timms's review of Wer Einmal War: Das jüdische Grossbürgertum Wiens 1800-1938 by Georg Gaugusch, a fascinating reference work on the affluent Jewish families of Vienna prior to World War II. Timms points out that whereas clubs were the crucial meeting place for nineteenth-century intellectuals and influential writers in London, the meetings of artists and intellectuals took place in Vienna in the more egalitarian environment of coffee houses. And he adds the following:

It was around those coffeehouse tables that the two most successful artistic enterprises of turn-of-the-century Vienna were created. Early in 1903, the architect Josef Hoffmann was sitting with the designer Koloman Moser in the Cafe Hermannshof opposite the Opera, discussing the creation of applied arts workshops similar to those of the English Arts and Crafts movement. There they were joined by Felix Wärndorfer, a Jewish businessman with a passion for the work of William Morris. When he heard about their project he reportedly slapped 500 kronen down on the table - and the Wiener Werkstätte was born. It proved so successful that in its heyday it had retail outlets in Berlin and New York, as well as Vienna” (p. 8).

So as we begin 2014, we can think appreciatively of Morris’s connection to Jewish Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century, of his global reach, and of Morris’s essential role in the founding of the  Wiener Werkstätte, which in manufacturing furniture, household items, jewellery and so on represented a twentieth-century afterlife of Morris and Co.

—Linda K. Hughes

(Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons)

11 January 2014

A Special Viewing of Morris's Famed Albion Press

Jethro Lieberman with the Albion press. Photo by Marilynn K. Yee for the New York Times.

Last month, about 35 people came to the special viewing of William Morris's Albion press at Christie's in New York. The group included members of the Morris Society, the Grolier Club, and the American Printing History Association. The viewing included a talk by longtime owner of the press, Jethro Lieberman. 

Lieberman inherited the press from his parents, J. Ben and Elizabeth Lieberman. In recounting the press's presence in his family for over a half century, Lieberman recalled the surprise appearance of a New York Times reporter soon after the press came to their New Rochelle home in 1961. His parents were not at home so the reporter took a picture of the 17-year-old Jethro standing next to the Albion in coat and tie. (This photo was reproduced in the NYT article on the auction last month as well.)

Lieberman also told of occasions on which visitors were invited to set their own name in type and print a personal keepsake. In describing his decision to sell the press, he said he wished it to be put to work, rather than to remain a static icon of William Morris. Indeed his father, a journalist, printer and one of the founders of the American Printing History Association, had refused offers from institutions wanting to purchase the press for display purposes.

The press sold the next day for $233,000 by Bromer Booksellers, of Boston, acting on behalf of an unnamed client "who will put it to good use." The client, it was later revealed, was the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Steven Galbraith, curator of the collection, assured fans of the press that it would not simply be put on display: 

The Kelmscott/Goudy Press will have an active life at RIT, not simply as a museum artefact, but as a working press accessible to students, scholars and printers... I’m certain that the Kelmscott/Goudy Press will be a great inspiration to students at RIT and to others who visit our library’s pressroom.”