William Morris

Portrait: William Morris
William Morris, photograph by Emery Walker from the publication Prose and Poetry 1856-1870, 1913
Oxford University Press / Wikimedia Commons

William Morris

Artist, manual worker and social reformer

To enjoy good houses and good books in self-respect and decent comfort, seems to me to be the pleasurable end towards which all societies of human beings ought now to struggle.

William Morris, 1893

The books issued by the Kelmscott Press, established in the London district of Hammersmith in 1891, were products of a new style: the Arts and Crafts Movement. The aesthetic programme set by William Morris, the founder of the press, was to make the entire living environment into a gesamtkunstwerk. With this in mind, Morris designed his own types for these books, Golden and Troy. Woodcuts in a medieval style served as illustrations, while the specially watermarked paper and covers were handmade. These were the first works of a new book art movement.

As early as 1861, Morris ran workshops which not only produced artistically designed objects for everyday use, but also put socialist ideals into practice. Morris’ private life was also influenced by his aesthetic tastes, and he created an ideal living environment for himself – from the architecture of his house to the patterned fabrics he used. He also remained true to his aesthetic ideals when he married Jane Burden, a celebrated beauty.