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Utopia: Crafting the Ideal Book

Utopia 1A
Thomas More’s novel Utopia was first published in Latin in 1516. Famous for it's playful account of an ideal society set on an island of the same name, the word has since become known as a general term for a better vision of the world.
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Utopia 3A
William Morris was born in 1834. From an early age he had a keen interest in the architecture and art of the Middle Ages, which informed many of his later art and design ventures.Thomas Evelyn Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron Howard de Walden (1880-1946), the former owner of the 1518 edition of Utopia, was, like Morris, fascinated by the Middle Ages
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Utopia 4A
Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith in 1891. The Press produced books using techniques inspired by medieval craftsmanship and created designs in the in the style of fifteenth century books.
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Utopia 5A
The 1893 edition of Utopia was a reprint of the second English edition of 1556. The book was printed at the Kelmscott Press and then bound in white pig's skin with metal clasps.
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Utopia 6A
The 1518 edition of Utopia is one of 117 volumes purchased from the library of Thomas Evelyn Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron Howard de Walden. Much of the collection was rebound early in the 20th century by Rivière & Sons.
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Utopia 7
The reprinting of Utopia by the Kelmscott Press reflects Morris’s interest in both the medieval past and a potentially transformed future.
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Thomas More’s novel Utopia was first published in Latin in 1516, and is famous for its playful account of an ideal society, set on an island of the same name. Since then, utopia has become known as a general term for a better or alternative vision of the world.

The Brotherton Collection contains two important editions of More’s Utopia. The first was published in 1518 by the celebrated printer and publisher Johann Froben. The second was printed in 1893 at the Kelmscott Press in a limited edition of 300, from a design by William Morris.

This resource explores utopia by looking at the notion of the ideal book. Different expressions of this ideal can be found the production methods and collection histories of both editions.

The resource was developed by Dr Liz Stainforth (School of Fine Art History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds), to mark the 500th anniversary of Utopia in 2016.

You can scroll over the images to learn more about them.

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