Keeping it Simple:
Conservation Treatment of the University of Illinois Kelmscott Chaucer
The NEDCC Book Conservation lab recently completed conservation treatment of a large volume in a plain quarter-cloth and paper binding. The simplicity of the binding belies its spectacular contents – William Morris’s “Kelmscott Chaucer” – but it is the binding in which the volume was issued.
William Morris (March 24, 1834 - October 3, 1896) was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the founding of the English Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1890, Morris established the Kelmscott Press in premises near his last home at Kelmscott House in Hammersmith. His goal was to produce books that embodied his ideals in their combination of design, artistry, materials and workmanship. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, published in 1896, was both Morris’s last completed project before his death, and the finest expression of his ideals produced by the Kelmscott Press.
Both the NEDCC book lab staff and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois were committed to maintaining the original binding of this volume, which was bound in quarter linen with blue paper sides. When the book arrived at NEDCC, the boards were bowed, the cloth was worn and split, the paper label was fragmentary and the endleaves were loose. On the plus side, the text block was pristine and the sewing and board attachment were intact, so NEDCC book conservators designed the treatment to leave them undisturbed.
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University of Illinois Kelmscott Chaucer
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