Kelmscott Day, June 26, Celebrates the Beauty of the Book

Credit: British Library

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer now newly imprinted, edited by F.S. Ellis; ornamented with pictures designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1896).

Earlier this year, the William Morris Society in the United States announced an international effort to commemorate the founding of the Kelmscott Press in 1891. Thus International Kelmscott Press Day appeared on our calendar: June 26, 2021, the 125th anniversary of the publication of the Kelmscott edition of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Designed by Morris, with illustrations by artist Edward Burne-Jones, the Kelmscott Chaucer is considered one of the most beautiful books ever printed.

Libraries, museums, and other institutions that hold a copy of this book, or other Kelmscott titles, were encouraged to create displays and host activities. Participants and cosponsors include the William Morris Society in the UK, the Bibliographical Society of America, the Rare Book Division of the Library of Congress, the Morgan Library & Museum, the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, and many more.

Credit: Rare Book Collection, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

Title page from the Kelmscott Chaucer. One of 425 copies on paper.

For its part, the University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press presents A Book with a Claim to Beauty: Marking the 125th Anniversary of William Morris’s Kelmsoctt Chaucer, an online exhibition that highlights two copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer alongside other notable items associated with the Kelmscott Press.

The Book Club of Washington, in collaboration with the William Morris Society, will host a virtual event, “Celebrating the Kelmscott Press,” on June 27. Book collector and senior research fellow at the University of Delaware Mark Samuels Lasner will give a talk, and there will be a demonstration of the Kelmscott Goudy Press at the Cary Collection, Rochester Institute of Technology.

To see a full list of related International Kelmscott Press Day events and projects, click here.