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A Utopia of Craft

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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The reprinting of Utopia by the Kelmscott Press reflects Morris’s interest in both the medieval past and a potentially transformed future; in the foreword to the 1893 edition, he wrote that Utopia provides ‘a link between the surviving Communism of the Middle Ages […] and the hopeful and practical progressive movement of today’. Morris also explored the idea of utopia in his own writing, notably News from Nowhere, first published in 1890.

The story is set in a future England, into which the protagonist, William Guest, wakes from a dream. In the England of the twenty-second century, most of the buildings have been replaced by fields and countryside, there is no private property and people live together in large communal dwellings. It is a sustainable society, based on craft production, where pleasure in art is fully integrated into social life and the workmanship of even small and trivial objects is highly valued.

This utopia of craft corresponds with many of the principles Morris applied practically in his design and printing work, and his belief in the transformative social role of the arts and culture.

 

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