[KELMSCOTT PRESS]. CHAUCER, Geoffrey. The Works ... now newly imprinted. Edited by F.S. Ellis. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1896.
2o (425 x 288 mm). Chaucer and Troy types, printed in black and red, woodcut title, borders and initials by C.E. Keates, W.H. Hooper and W. Spielmeyer after William Morris, 87 illustrations by W.H. Hooper after Edward Burne-Jones. (Some intermittent and minor spotting and browning throughout, not affecting text, some small penciled marginal notes.) Early 20th-century cream pigskin, spine in seven compartments, gilt-lettered in Chaucer type in two, eight raised bands, turn-ins with single gilt rule, edges uncut by SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE (corners barely worn and covers very lightly thumbed, one small blemish on the front cover); modern brown pigskin suede folding case with clasps.
AN ELEGANT COPY OF THE KELMSCOTT PRESS'S MASTERPIECE. LIMITED TO 436 COPIES, THIS IS ONE OF 425 ON PAPER. Almost inarguably the greatest of private press books, the Kelmscott Chaucer was the product of years of collaborative effort between William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Morris's earliest plans for the work date to 1891 and by the end of that year a trial setting of lines from Chaucer was printed in Troy type. The Troy type proved too large for a book of this size and so the Chaucer type, a smaller version of the same design, was cut in 1892. The book was announced to Kelmscott Press subscribers in December 1892 with the expectation that it would contain "about 60 designs" by Burne-Jones, who had already begin his work at that time. The actual printing of the book, however, did not begin until August 1894. A third Albion press was acquired in January 1895, enabling Morris to use two of his three presses exclusively for pulling off the Chaucer sheets. Burne-Jones's drawings were eventually completed in December 1895, and the last wood engravings made from them were ready at the end of March 1896, the point when Morris completed his final design for the title-page. In fact, Burne-Jones's drawings could not be copied directly onto the wood, and an intermediate photographic process, involving the collaboration of Emery Walker, was necessary before the woodblocks could be cut. The Chaucer was issued to subscribers in June 1896, five years after plans for its publication were first being drawn up (see William Morris and the Art of the Book, pp. 133-138). Artist and the Book 45; Franklin Private Presses p.192; Peterson A40; Sparling 40; Tomkinson, p.117, no. 40.