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

The historical past of the printed e-book stretches again nicely over a millennium, the title of the oldest recognized 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 initiatives 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 site, The Kelmscott Chaucer On-line.

“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 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 pal of Morris. The illustrations have been engraved by William Harcourt Hooper and printed in black, with shoulder and aspect titles.”

You’ll be able to view all these components and extra, digitized intimately and fully downloadable, on Goodman’s website, organized into separate sections devoted to its illustrations, full pages, borders, frames, and even its adorned phrases — 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 Nineteen Fifties 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 unique 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.”

In the event you’d like a better have a look at the real article, which is way bigger than the digitization could let on, you may get one in the video simply above, hosted by London uncommon e-book supplier Adam Douglas. “It’s apparent as quickly as we open to the start how a lot care and a spotlight 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 “great proportions” that match the Golden Ratio. It takes a sure sophistication, or no less than data of the historical past of printing and e-book design, to completely respect the Kelmscott Chaucer. However because of Goodman, youthful readers — even a lot youthful readers — can take pleasure in it in coloring-book kind.

Associated content material:

Terry Jones, the Late Monty Python Actor, Helped Flip Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Right into a Free App: Discover It On-line

Uncover the First Illustrated E-book Printed in English, William Caxton’s Mirror of the World (1481)

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

The Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery: A New On-line Assortment Presents The entire Unique Illustrations from Charles Dickens’ Novels

Obtain Free Coloring Books from Practically 100 Museums & Libraries

Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.

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