William Morris and the Art of the Book
The first work William Morris commissioned from book-binder Cobden-Sanderson was a well-used edition of Marx’s Das Kapital. Bound in turquoise goatskin and tooled with gilt leaves and starry dots, it represents in material form two of Morris’s guiding principles, his socialist ideals and belief in fine artwork. This lecture will explore the convergences and contradictions between these principles. The ultimate phase of Morris’s energetic career was the production and publication of fine books. Of one early example he confessed: ‘I am so pleased with my book, typography, binding and must I say literary matter that I am any day to be seen huggling it up’. He held the three elements of text design and materials in equal esteem. But how easy is it to reconcile the book as beautiful object like a jar or jacket, airplane or armchair, with the book as use object, delivering verbal and visual content in an efficient manner?
This is part of the 2012 University of Bristol Autumn Art Lecture series – run in association with Bristol Festival of Ideas – which look at the art of the book, from the physical beauty that books can convey in the illuminated manuscript, the natural history publication and the work of William Morris, through the commercial beauty of Penguin covers, to graphic novels and how artists work with books today. For details of all events click here.
Jan Marsh is current president of the William Morris Society. She is both a curator and a biographer; her books include Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood, Jane & May Morris, Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists, Black Victorians and biographies of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti. She is co-editor of The Collected Letters of Jane Morris, published this autumn, and works at the National Portrait Gallery on the Late Victorian catalogue.
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