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Behold a Digitization of “The Most Lovely of All Printed Books,” The Kelmscott Chaucer


The historical past of the printed e book stretches again effectively over a millennium, the title of the oldest identified e book at present being held by a Tang Dynasty work of the Diamond Sutra. However what about probably the most lovely e book? As a contender for that spot, Michael Goodman (beforehand featured right here on Open Tradition for his initiatives on the illustrations of Shakespeare and Dickens) has put forth the Kelmscott Chaucer, together with the testimony of no much less a literary determine than W.B. Yeats, who referred to as it “probably the most lovely of all printed books.” Goodman has additionally made the e book freely out there for our perusal on his new web page, The Kelmscott Chaucer On-line.

“William Morris, the nineteenth-century designer, social reformer and author, based the Kelmscott Press in direction of the top of his life,” says the web page of the British Library. “He needed to revive the talents of hand printing, which mechanization had destroyed, and restore the standard achieved by the pioneers of printing within the fifteenth century.”

Revealed in 1896, the Kelmscott Chaucer, absolutely titled The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer now newly imprinted, “is the triumph of the press. Its 87 wood-cut illustrations are by Edward Burne-Jones, the celebrated Victorian painter, who was a life-long pal of Morris. The illustrations had been engraved by William Harcourt Hooper and printed in black, with shoulder and facet titles.”

You may view all these components and extra, digitized intimately and completely downloadable, on Goodman’s website, organized into separate sections devoted to its illustrations, full pages, borders, frames, and even its embellished phrases — the likes of which we seldom, if ever, see within the printed books of our personal, infinitely higher-tech century. “The version I’ve used for this undertaking is a facsimile from the Fifties that has sat on my shelf for a few years,” Goodman notes. Given how few copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer had been initially produced, 13 copies on vellum, and one other 58 on pig’s pores and skin, “any particular assortment’s library who’re fortunate sufficient to personal an unique copy are more likely to be very reluctant to embark upon any type of digitization as a result of important danger of harm that the method might inflict upon the e book.”

For those who’d like a better have a look at the real article, which is far bigger than the digitization could let on, you may get one in the video simply above, hosted by London uncommon e book vendor Adam Douglas. “It’s apparent as quickly as we open to the start how a lot care and a focus has been lavished on this e book,” he says, highlighting the “lovely designs within the pre-Raphaelite method,” the woodcut initials all through (no two of that are alike), and the “fantastic proportions” that match the Golden Ratio. It takes a sure sophistication, or no less than information of the historical past of printing and e book design, to completely respect the Kelmscott Chaucer. However due to Goodman, youthful readers — even a lot youthful readers — can get pleasure from it in coloring-book kind.

Associated content material:

Terry Jones, the Late Monty Python Actor, Helped Flip Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Right into a Free App: Discover It On-line

Uncover the First Illustrated E book Printed in English, William Caxton’s Mirror of the World (1481)

3,000 Illustrations of Shakespeare’s Full Works from Victorian England, Neatly Offered in a New Digital Archive

The Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery: A New On-line Assortment Presents The entire Unique Illustrations from Charles Dickens’ Novels

Obtain Free Coloring Books from Almost 100 Museums & Libraries

Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the e book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll via Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.



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