“The Kelmscott Chaucer was printed in two columns on handmade paper with specially designed large gothic type in red and black, with 87 woodcut illustrations. Results 1 – 30 of 91 The Kelmscott Chaucer by Geoffrey Chaucer and a great selection of related books, art and collectibles available now at by Geoffrey ChaucerThe Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which took four years to complete, was a masterpiece of book design and is acknowledged widely as the .

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The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published in by the Kelmscott Press was the culmination of William Morris’s vision for an ideal chaucre. It embodied his love of medieval literature and art, as well as his love of beauty. Its vast scope and magnificence inspired his friend and collaborator Edward Burne-Jones to compare it to a “pocket cathedral. After Morris established the Kelmscott Press inthe two old friends agreed that The Canterbury Tales and other works by Chaucer would be a major goal for the enterprise.

Morris spent four years working on the book. Trial pages were printed inwhile final production began on August 8, The first two copies of the book were delivered to Morris and Burne-Jones on June 2, Morris was already in failing health; he died four months later on October 3, It now constitutes the greatest treasure of the Libraries’ cnaucer impressive William Morris Collection. The Kelmscott Chaucer is often referred to as one of the most beautiful printed books in existence.


Some of the features of this unusual book include: Morris and Burne-Jones had met more than 30 years previously when they were in the same college at Oxford.

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Burne-Jones produced the 87 illustrations which were engraved on wood for the Chaucer. Morris produced the frames, borders, and initials which surrounded the illustrations, and designed the type and layout of the work. Burne-Jones usually worked on the Chaucer illustrations on Sundays, when Morris visited his studio to talk and chaucsr aloud.

Kelmscott Press, Pages taken from an original vellum copy of Chaucer’s Works. A comparison of Edward Burne-Jones’s original drawing with the final wood engraving in the Chaucer shows how much work had to be done to translate the delicate shaded drawing into a version with strong lines that could be engraved.

The Kelmscott Chaucer

Emery Walker provided photographs of the drawing. After covering the photograph with a wash of Chinese white, Robert Catterson-Smith reworked the image with bolder lines. This revised drawing was transferred photographically to the surface of the woodblock and engraved by William Hooper.

Edward Burne-Jones’s illustration for the Prioress’s Tale was based on his painting of the same scene on the wardrobe he gave to William and Janey Morris as a wedding present. This wardrobe is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. Of the paper copies and 15 vellum copies of the Chaucer, the Petersons have documented approximately two-thirds of the total.


The University of Maryland Libraries recently acquired a previously undocumented copy of the Chaucer.

Although it was too late to be included in the census, the Petersons have established a blog to provide updates as more copies emerge. This exhibit examines the life and vision of inspirational firebrand William Morris.

It focuses on his jelmscott works, political activism and artistic endeavors.

The Kelmscott Chaucer | William Morris

Morris was a man of incredible depth and breadth of talent. His creativity and industry are aspirational for today’s citizens.

For general information about the library and our collections, contact us For questions about the exhibit, please email Doug McElrath or call The Vision of William Morris. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, now newly imprinted.

Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris in Two Specimen Leaves on Vellum. Edward Burne-Jones’s original sketch of the “Prioress’s Tale”.