KELMSCOTT PRESS -- CHAUCER, Geoffrey. The Works ... now newly imprinted, edited by F. S. Ellis, [London:] Kelmscott Press, 1896.
2°, 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 woodcut illustrations by W. H. Hooper after Sir Edward Burne-Jones (a few leaves very lightly spotted at foot), original cloth-backed boards with printed paper label on spine (corners lightly rubbed), later morocco-backed box titled in gilt on spine.
LIMITED TO 436 COPIES, THIS ONE OF 425 COPIES on paper. Franklin The Private Presses p. 192; Sparling 40: "...by far the most important achievement of the Kelmscott Press"; Tomkinson p. 117, no. 40.
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is the masterspiece of the Kelmscott Press, and almost inarguably the greatest of private press books, the product of years of collaborative effort between Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, one of his oldest and loyalest friends. The project was being discussed by Morris in 1891; near the end of that year a trial setting of lines from Chaucer was printed in Troy type. The Troy type proving too large for a book of such volume, the smaller version -- to be called Chaucer type -- was cut in 1892. The Chaucer was announced to Kelmscott Press subscribers in December 1892 in the expectation that it would contain "about 60 designs" by Burne Jones, who had already begun to work on the illustrations. But the actual printing of the book only began in 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. 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 Hooper could cut the woodblocks. 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: Catalogue pp. 133-138).