Gothic Architecture: A Lecture for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. by William Morris, 1834-96. Hammersmith: William Morris, Kelmscott Press, 1893. Illustrated: Pages 44 and 45. 14.5 x 10.5 cm. Bookplates: Philip D. Sherman. Koopman Collection. Koopman Collection, John Hay Library, Brown University. Beckwith, Victorian Bibliomania catalogue no. 51

Commentary by Alice H. R. H. Beckwith

William Morris gave the lecture which comprises Gothic Architecture in 1889, the second year of events presented by the Arts and Crafts Society (Cary, 187). This version of the text was set up at the Kelmscott Press and then printed at the New Gallery during the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1893. It was reprinted twice during the two-month run of the show, which suggests it was popular. Morris used his own Golden type, his specially made black and red inks and hand-made paper, and bound the whole in half holland with a linen spine. Gothic Architecture's sixteenmo size and its four-line initials appear here for the first time in a Kelmscott book. The Koopman Collection copy is one of the very rare first issues of the first edition, with two misspellings: "gild" on page 41, and as seen in the illustration, "Van Eyk" in the first line of page 45. Morris corrected these spellings in later printings.

Throughout his lecture Morris wove together themes of architecture and the book arts, creating the sense of a total environment for the mind and the eye. On pages 44-45 he treated what he called literary and household furnishings, moving between the fields of literature, architecture, painting, weaving, and embroidery. This interrelationship of many arts is not surprising in a lecture given to an arts and crafts society, and it is typical of the integrated view which Ruskin, Morris and their followers held. When Morris wrote about architecture he thought of books, and when he discussed books he praised architecture. In a fragmentary essay, "Some Thoughts on the Ornamented Manuscripts of the Middle Ages," Morris again crossed the boundaries of individual media and described his love of well-made buildings and books: "If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of Art and the thing most to be longed for, I should answer a beautiful House; and if I were further asked to name the production next in importance and the thing next to be longed for, I should answer, a beautiful Book" (Peterson, I).

References

Beckwith, Alice H. R. H. Victorian Bibliomania: The Illuminated Book in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Exhibition catalogue. Providence. Rhode Island: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1987.

Cary, Elizabeth Luther. William Morris, Poet, Craftsman, Socialist. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1902.

Morris, William. Gothic Architecture: A Lecture for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society Hammersmith: William Morris, Kelmscott Press, 1893.

Peterson, William S. The Ideal Book, Essays and Lectures on the Art of the Book. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.


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