The Kelmscott Chaucer

You all know by now that I really admire the work of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. One their joint-greatest achievements was the printing of a fabulous edition of Chaucer’s poetry.

Burne-Jones designed the wood-cut illustrations, and Morris drew the elaborate illuminated letters and backgrounds. 452 copies of their edition were printed by Morris’ printing company, “Kelmscott”, hence the common title of their book.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the original copies at the State Library of Victoria, earlier this year. There was a great display of historical books, parchments, letters etc, arranged like a huge timeline around one floor of the building. The Kelmscott Chaucer was there, along with other great works of fact and fiction, including some illuminated manuscripts of the Holy Bible and prayer-books.

I recently made a wall-hanging for my son, Lucien, by stitching a monogram based on one of Morris’ illuminated letters, onto a background of WM fabric. Unfortunately, I took this photograph at night, so the quality isn’t very good, but it may give you some idea of the outcome of my project, as well as give you some ideas for your own.