Skip to main content

Designing 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.
More
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
More
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.
More
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.
More
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.
More
Utopia 7
The reprinting of Utopia by the Kelmscott Press reflects Morris’s interest in both the medieval past and a potentially transformed future.
More

Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith in 1891. The Press produced books using techniques inspired by medieval craftsmanship and created designs in the style of fifteenth century books.

Morris’s collection of incunabula helped him to immerse himself in the study of early printing, and would inspire the typefaces he designed for the Kelmscott Press. Compare this typeface from the Processus Judiciarius (c. 1485) with Morris’s own golden type in this Kelmscott Press edition of Morris’s essay Gothic Architecture (1893).

The ideal letter design, margin width, spacing of words and print on the paper were matters that were addressed by Morris in his short essay, ‘The Ideal Book’. He concluded that the ideal book ‘must remain one of the very worthiest things towards the production of which reasonable men should strive’.

;