Spotlight Exhibit — The Book Beautiful: A selection from the Arts & Crafts movement


Location: 102 Hesburgh Library, Rare Books & Special Collections

William Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891 in response to the decorative excesses of the waning Victorian era and declining material and design standards in book publishing. He aimed to print books "which would have a definite claim to beauty, while at the same time, they should be easy to read and should not dazzle the eye, or trouble the intellect of the reader by the eccentricity of form in the letters." Perhaps for the first time in Europe since Gutenberg, Morris sought to design the whole book-selecting the paper, type, illustrations, typography, binding, and even the ink used in the production of books from the Kelmscott Press.

In making these decisions, Morris was informed by a set of exemplary Medieval manuscripts and early printed works that he assembled as a personal reference library. On his historical influences in book design, Morris wrote "I have always been a great admirer of the calligraphy of the Middle Ages, & of the earlier printing which took its place. As to the fifteenth century books, I had noticed that they were always beautiful by force of the mere typography, even without the added ornament, with which many of them are so lavishly supplied." Morris helped spark the Arts & Crafts movement in England and America, which directly led to a renaissance in all areas of the book arts.

The books in this exhibit represent a small selection of materials from the University of Notre Dame's collection that reveal the influence of William Morris on the Arts & Crafts movement. From the printing and binding of Thomas J. Cobden-Sanderson to the illumination and calligraphy of Edward Johnston and Alberto Sangorski, Morris's ideal of the "book beautiful" was taken up by dozens of other makers who sought in their own way to merge artistry and craftsmanship in the creation of beautiful books.

This exhibit is curated by Luke K. Kelly, Gladys Brooks Conservation Fellow. This and other exhibits within the Hesburgh Libraries are generously supported by the McBrien Special Collections Endowment.

All exhibits are free and open to the public during business hours.

Open to Undergraduates, Graduate Students, Faculty, Staff, Postdocs, Public, Alumni, & Friends.