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. He is now most well-remembered for his decorative arts work, much of which was produced by the firm Morris & Co.
Morris was inspired in his designs by medieval art and printing methods. The influence of these methods can be seen in the 1893 edition of Utopia. Morris is also known to have collected incunabula (books printed before 1500). Two of the books from his collection are now held in Special Collections (see the book label of William Morris on the paste-down of the Processus Judiciarius (c. 1485).
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 and had ‘a romantic yearning to recreate its chivalric spirit and traditions’. This romanticism is reflected in his personal book plate, which depicts an armoured knight atop a horse in the foreground with a medieval castle in the background.