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Behold a Digitization of “The Most Stunning of All Printed Books,” The Kelmscott Chaucer

Behold a Digitization of “The Most Stunning of All Printed Books,” The Kelmscott Chaucer

2023-08-04 20:35:36

The historical past of the printed e-book stretches again properly over a millennium, the title of the oldest identified e-book at the moment being held by a Tang Dynasty work of the Diamond Sutra. However what about essentially the most stunning e-book? As a contender for that spot, Michael Goodman (beforehand featured right here on Open Tradition for his tasks on the illustrations of Shakespeare and Dickens) has put forth the Kelmscott Chaucer, together with the testimony of no much less a literary determine than W.B. Yeats, who referred to as it “essentially the most stunning of all printed books.” Goodman has additionally made the e-book freely accessible for our perusal on his new website online, The Kelmscott Chaucer Online.

“William Morris, the nineteenth-century designer, social reformer and author, based the Kelmscott Press in the direction of the tip of his life,” says the web site of the British Library. “He wished to revive the abilities of hand printing, which mechanization had destroyed, and restore the standard achieved by the pioneers of printing within the fifteenth century.”

Revealed in 1896, the Kelmscott Chaucer, totally titled The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer now newly imprinted, “is the triumph of the press. Its 87 wood-cut illustrations are by Edward Burne-Jones, the celebrated Victorian painter, who was a life-long buddy of Morris. The illustrations have been engraved by William Harcourt Hooper and printed in black, with shoulder and facet titles.”

You possibly can view all these components and extra, digitized intimately and completely downloadable, on Goodman’s website, organized into separate sections devoted to its illustrations, full pages, borders, frames, and even its decorated words — the likes of which we seldom, if ever, see within the printed books of our personal, infinitely higher-tech century. “The version I’ve used for this challenge is a facsimile from the 1950s that has sat on my shelf for a few years,” Goodman notes. Given how few copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer have been initially produced, 13 copies on vellum, and one other 58 on pig’s pores and skin, “any particular assortment’s library who’re fortunate sufficient to personal an authentic copy are prone to be very reluctant to embark upon any type of digitization because of the vital threat of harm that the method may inflict upon the e-book.”

For those who’d like a better take a look at the real article, which is far bigger than the digitization might let on, you will get one in the video just above, hosted by London uncommon e-book vendor Adam Douglas. “It’s apparent as quickly as we open to the start how a lot care and a focus has been lavished on this e-book,” he says, highlighting the “stunning designs within the pre-Raphaelite method,” the woodcut initials all through (no two of that are alike), and the “fantastic proportions” that match the Golden Ratio. It takes a sure sophistication, or a minimum of information of the historical past of printing and e-book design, to totally admire the Kelmscott Chaucer. However because of Goodman, youthful readers — even a lot youthful readers — can take pleasure in it in coloring-book form.

Associated content material:

Terry Jones, the Late Monty Python Actor, Helped Turn Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Into a Free App: Explore It Online

See Also

Discover the First Illustrated Book Printed in English, William Caxton’s Mirror of the World (1481)

3,000 Illustrations of Shakespeare’s Complete Works from Victorian England, Neatly Presented in a New Digital Archive

The Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery: A New Online Collection Presents All of the Original Illustrations from Charles Dickens’ Novels

Download Free Coloring Books from Nearly 100 Museums & Libraries

Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by means of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The City in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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