Sunday, 2 May 2021

A view of Morris’s study

 

A view of Morris’s study, shortly after his death, by Edmund H. New. (Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.)

“Friends of Mr. Morris will always regret that no catalogue of his complete library was ever issued, as it would have illustrated, in a remarkable manner, the real genius in selection which enabled him, in a very short space of time, to bring together so many specimens of first-rate importance” (The Guardian, 14 December 1898, p. 26).

William Morris (1834–1896) was a voracious reader from an early age, but it was only in his later years that he became a determined book-collector, and all the evidence suggests that he then began to acquire books and manuscripts on a large scale primarily because of his interest in the history of book illustration and typography. Hence when he founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891, his fascination with printing led him on to increasingly ambitious purchases for his library, especially of medieval books and manuscripts. Nevertheless, he also owned a very substantial collection of nineteenth-century books—we have identified more than a thousand so far—and this point is worth emphasizing, because most published remarks on Morris’s library, including those of Morris himself and Sydney Cockerell, give the misleading impression that his bookshelves held little else but incunables.

This website represents an attempt to reconstruct the personal library of one of the most influential figures of the Victorian era. Drawing upon a large number of sources, we are creating a short-title list of all the books and manuscripts Morris is known to have had in his collection. We are also including information about provenance, snippets from the Sotheby sale catalogue of Morris’s library (December 1898), buyers and prices of the lots in that auction, and links to digital copies of the titles. (We are aware, by the way, that some of those links, especially to Google Books, are not functional outside the United States because of copyright restrictions, but we hope that may change in the future.) Likewise, we are making use of the three manuscript catalogues of Morris’s books compiled during his lifetime (see Abbreviations under “MS catalogues”). At a later stage, we want to add more information about individual entries, such as allusions to them in Morris’s writings and correspondence.

The story of how Morris’s collection was dispersed after his death is complex and can only be briefly summarized here. Though some of his books remained within the family, his executors, Sydney Cockerell and F. S. Ellis, arranged for a private sale of the rest of the library to Richard Bennett, a Manchester collector, who quickly disposed of a large number of items that were subsequently offered at auction by Sotheby’s (London) in December 1898. Because Henry Wellcome was the most active buyer at that sale, the Wellcome Library in London today has one of the two largest collections of titles from Morris’s library, but of course the remainder of the lots in the 1898 auction are now widely scattered. The other substantial body of material once owned by Morris is at the Morgan Library in New York, since in 1902 J. Pierpont Morgan acquired the second part of Bennett’s collection. Unfortunately the Wellcome Library sold hundreds of Morris’s books during the 1930s and 1940s, and even the Morgan has deaccessioned a few titles that were treated as duplicates.

We have also decided, after some hesitation, to include books that were owned by Morris’s wife and daughters before his death, on the assumption that these books were all at one time under the roofs of Kelmscott House and Kelmscott Manor, and were no doubt in some instances mingled with Morris’s modern books. (Following the same principle, we are recording Morris’s personal copies of Kelmscott Press books that were published during his lifetime.) Similarly, we are listing books given by Morris to others, except for copies of his own works and Kelmscott Press titles. In a few instances, we know that these books came directly from his own bookshelves as duplicate copies, and the books he presented to others often tell us something about Morris’s literary tastes and preferences.

We are of course recording medieval and Renaissance manuscripts owned by Morris, though we have excluded his calligraphic exercises and drafts of his own writings. For manuscripts later acquired by J. Pierpont Morgan, we are making use of additional information found in Sydney Cockerell’s marginalia in his copy of the Morgan Catalogue (see Abbreviations) now at the Lilly Library, Indiana University; we are also providing the first two paragraphs of each manuscript description in the Morgan Catalogue.

In order to give a better sense of how much Morris is likely to have paid for his early books and manuscripts, we are gradually adding details from the Ellis valuation (see Abbreviations) compiled after Morris’s death.

Obviously this site continues to be a work in progress. We welcome suggestions, corrections, and especially new information; we are diligently searching in all the known sources, but we urge readers to tell us about books and manuscripts once in Morris’s possession that we may have overlooked.

We should add that we maintain another website devoted to the Kelmscott Chaucer.

William S. Peterson (wsp@umd.edu) & Sylvia Holton Peterson (swholton2@cs.com)


Friday, 30 April 2021

William Morris and arsenic

A resource to give Morris enthusiasts some material to use to counteract the ongoing and pernicious 'urban myth' that Morris poisoned his customers with arsenic from his wallpapers.


Morris's Pimpernel wallpaper design, registered 1876.


Read onward here.



Sunday, 4 April 2021

Happy Egg Painting!

 Some lovely painted eggs inspired by 'Golden Lily', an 1870 pattern by William Morris and John Henry Dearle.


Sunday, 21 March 2021

Happy 187th Birthday William Morris

 


Our cake pattern this year was 'Sweet Briar' by J.H. Dearle.

The cake is a lemon sponge, with homemade strawberry compote filling and lemon buttercream, decorated with buttercream flowers, leaves, and vines. 

Watch at 2:39 for a surprise!

Friday, 19 March 2021

WMSC Morris Birthday Event!

Just a reminder about the Members only upcoming celebration of William Morris' 187th Birthday, with poetry, a cake team mini-presentation, and the unveiling of the 2021 cake design!

March 21st, 2021 at 2pm EST.


A selection of cakes from 2002-2019

Any guesses for this year's pattern?




Not yet a member? Join the WMSC and attend the celebration!


Sunday, 14 March 2021

Red House Virtual Tour

 For everyone that has been missing Red House this past year, take a look at the tour below!



Gardens, murals, textiles! 

Friday, 5 March 2021

Morris Inspired Home

Take a stroll through this house, inspired by William Morris (and featuring many a wallpaper and textile!)



A Victorian semi-detached villa, built in the early 1850s by the side of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. Jane and Julian Souter live here with their cat Ginger.





Sunday, 31 January 2021

Louis C. Tiffany: A Fascination with Glass

February 21st, 2pm EST

Members Only Zoom Lecture
Not yet a member? Sign up here




As a young artist, L.C. Tiffany (1848-1933) was stimulated by the intermingling of the different art movements in his day: the Aesthetic Movement, the Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau. Each movement focused on the value of the decorative arts and the wish to integrate decorative art with the fine arts in architectural interiors. This conference would examine how Louis Comfort Tiffany altered his career from his desire to be an artist of easel paintings to developing a world-famous studio of leaded-glass windows, vases and lamps. His success grew from his admiration for the glass medium and from inspiring his artisans to bring out the unforeseen effects of colour, texture, and form in the molten glass.

The talk will be illustrated by works from American Tiffany collections and from the Tiffany Studios largest and most important Canadian commission in the former Erskine & American Church Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Bourgie Concert Hall). 


Recently retired as Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, and former Curator of Canadian Art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Rosalind Pepall was responsible for a wide range of exhibitions and publications, among them: Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco (2003-2004), in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y. and the Muséedes Anneés 30, Paris; the Canadian travelling exhibition, Edwin Holgate, Canadian Painter (2005-2007), and Tiffany Glass: Colour and Light (2009-2010), presented in Paris, Montreal, and Richmond, Virginia.

In 2012 she co-edited a book on Decorative Arts and Design: The Collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In her recent book, Talking to a Portrait: Tales of an Art Curator, (Véhicule Press, Montreal, 2020), Ms. Pepall relates stories about art works – whether an oil portrait, a wilderness explorer’s sketchbook or a Tiffany lamp and how she fell under their spell.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Lecture by E P Thompson on William Blake's poem 'London'

Recommended by John P. Murphy during his lecture on William Blake, William Morris, and the British New Left, here is the video of a Lecture by E P Thompson on William Blake's poem 'London'. Directed by Trevor Griffiths broadcast on BBC1 25 June 1970.



Monday, 18 January 2021

William Blake, William Morris, and the British New Left




Join the WMSC for a virtual lecture presented by John P. Murphy from our Emerging Scholar SeriesJanuary 24th, 2pm EST.

In the annals of English art and literature, William Blake and William Morris stand in sharp relief as figures of promethean energy: poets, artists, engravers, and utopian visionaries. In the 1950s they became vital resources for the British New Left as it confronted the twin specters of western capitalism and eastern communism. New Leftists, having broken ranks with Stalinist orthodoxy, turned to Blake and Morris for fresh models of cultural and political engagement.