The 'Kelmscott Chaucer', bound by designer bookbinder Dominic Riley thumbnail 1
The 'Kelmscott Chaucer', bound by designer bookbinder Dominic Riley thumbnail 2
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On display at V&A South Kensington
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The 'Kelmscott Chaucer', bound by designer bookbinder Dominic Riley

Book
1896 (printed and published), 2016 (binding)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published by the Kelmscott Press was the last great work of William Morris, and the icon of the private press movement, the printing revival he inspired. The volume contains 87 wood-cut illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones, who was a close friend of Morris. The Gothic-inspired type was specially designed by William Morris and named 'Chaucer' after this book.
The book brought together Morris's passion for the medieval period and his commitment to beautiful hand-crafted productions and was published shortly before he died. 425 copies were printed, sold at £20 each.
This Kelmscott Chaucer had an undistinguished binding when acquired by the present owner, so that he felt justified in altering its condition. He selected Dominic Riley, a distinguished British designer bookbinder for the commission. Riley studied at the London College of Printing. He has won several major bookbinding awards, and was elected a Fellow of the Designer Bookbinders in 2008. He now works and teaches in Britain and the US.
The binder conceived the work as an overt homage to Morris, basing the design upon the mirror forms of his initials: ‘W M’. Several techniques were used (including modern digital methods to produce the stamps). The final work is grand and dignified, its geometric exactness relieved with touches of naturalistic ornamentation based on the book’s border decoration, and its use of the colour red echoes the red used for the rubrics in the text (based on medieval and Renaissance practice of highlighting headings in red ink).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
'The boards of the book were made of laminates of millboard, card and hand made paper, stuck together with rabbit skin glue. [...] The book was covered in black Harmatan goatskin, with the same leather for the joints and doublure, black suede for the first flyleaf, and red and black Fabriano and white Bodleian paper for the paper flyleaves. The inlays were stamped off the book, using metal dyes. The edges of the inlays, as well as the sides of the cut-away areas were painted with red acrylic paint. The gold tooling and board edges wwas done by Trevor Lloyd, and I tooled both the title panels and the lines on the front and back cover. The binding is signed [...] on the back doublure. The book is housed in a double-walled, reinforced clamshell box lined with double red-and-white suede pads, and with a title label on the spine.' Dominic Riley, 2016
Brief Description
Book, The works of Geoffrey Chaucer, by Geoffrey Chaucer, London (Hammersmith): Kelmscott Press, [1896].
Physical Description
Hand-printed book on paper with goatskin binding.
Dimensions
  • Height: 44cm
Production typeLimited edition
Credit line
Given by the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Paul Chrzanowski, 2020.
Object history
On loan from the American Friends of the V&A from 2016 to 2020. Given by the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Paul Chrzanowski, 2020.
Association
Summary
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published by the Kelmscott Press was the last great work of William Morris, and the icon of the private press movement, the printing revival he inspired. The volume contains 87 wood-cut illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones, who was a close friend of Morris. The Gothic-inspired type was specially designed by William Morris and named 'Chaucer' after this book.

The book brought together Morris's passion for the medieval period and his commitment to beautiful hand-crafted productions and was published shortly before he died. 425 copies were printed, sold at £20 each.

This Kelmscott Chaucer had an undistinguished binding when acquired by the present owner, so that he felt justified in altering its condition. He selected Dominic Riley, a distinguished British designer bookbinder for the commission. Riley studied at the London College of Printing. He has won several major bookbinding awards, and was elected a Fellow of the Designer Bookbinders in 2008. He now works and teaches in Britain and the US.

The binder conceived the work as an overt homage to Morris, basing the design upon the mirror forms of his initials: ‘W M’. Several techniques were used (including modern digital methods to produce the stamps). The final work is grand and dignified, its geometric exactness relieved with touches of naturalistic ornamentation based on the book’s border decoration, and its use of the colour red echoes the red used for the rubrics in the text (based on medieval and Renaissance practice of highlighting headings in red ink).

Bibliographic Reference
The Kelmscott Chaucer: a census, by W.S. Peterson and S.Holton Peterson, New Castle, DE : Oak Knoll Press, 2011.no. 2.190.
Other Numbers
  • 38041020011268 - NAL barcode
  • LOAN:AMERICANFRIENDS.716-2016 - Previous number
Collection
Library Number
38041020011268

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record createdJuly 29, 2017
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