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 Edward Burne-Jones (later guard sheet inserted between title and first leaf), original cloth-backed boards with printed paper label on spine (corners lightly rubbed, lightly stained with some ink spotting, upper board slightly loose), armorial bookplate of J. Maitland Thomson, printed slip inserted at the front.
LIMITED TO 437 COPIES, THIS ONE OF 425 COPIES on paper. Sparling 40: "... by far the most important achievement of the Kelmscott Press"; Franklin The Private Presses p. 192; Tomkinson p. 117, no. 40.
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is the masterpiece of the Kelmscott Press and is arguably the greatest of private press books. The product of years of collaborative effort between Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, the project was being discussed by Morris as early as 1891, and towards the end of that year a trial setting of lines from Chaucer was printed in Troy type. Proving too large for a book of such volume, however, the smaller version, which was to be called Chaucer type, was cut in 1892. The Works of Geoffrey 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 work on the illustrations. The actual printing of the book did not begin until August 1894, however, and was to occupy them for 21 months. Morris acquired a third Albion press in January 1895 which enabled him to use two of his three presses exclusively for pulling off the Chaucer sheets. Burne-Jones eventually completed his illustrations in December 1895, and the last wood-engravings made from them were ready at the end of March 1896, when Morris completed his final design for the title. As the illustrations could not be copied directly onto the wood, an intermediate photographic process involving the collaboration of Emery Walker was necessary before Hooper could cut the woodblocks. Finally, in June 1896, five years after Morris' initial plans for its publication, The Kelmscott Chaucer was issued to its subscribers (see William Morris and the Art of the Book: Catalogue pp. 133-138). See illustration above and on the back cover of this catalogue.