William Morris: A Rebel of His Time

Sitting at the welcome desk in Hornbake Library puts me right in front of our exquisitely designed William Morris exhibit, which opened at the beginning of September. Aesthetic quality aside, I did not have the slightest clue as to who William Morris actually was. So I decided that the only reasonable decision would be to find out exactly who this guy was and how he contributed to society. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that William Morris was a rebel of his generation and in simpler terms, a pretty cool dude.

Morris was born in England in 1834 and raised in a wealthy family. He was a child who was incredibly spoiled by his parents who lavished him with extravagant gifts. Around the age of nine, he became the lucky recipient of a pony and a suit of armor. Morris, in addition to his fiscal wealth, was also very intelligent. He was reading novels at the age of four and attended Oxford at the age of nineteen. When he was seventeen, Morris began to receive a generous allowance of 900 £ a year from his family fortune, which equates to $114,000.00 in today’s money. To me and probably a lot of other people, it sounds like Morris was living the dream.

However, Morris was a remarkably independently principled individual who rejected the values of the Victorian class system. Growing up in the Victorian Era, Morris was a part of the upper class that was born into money. One could not acquire wealth through individual strengths such as intelligence, hardwork, and perseverance. A family legacy of wealth and success dating years and years back was the only route to a life of the utmost privilege. In an impressive demonstration of autonomy, Morris became an advocate for socialism, a far cry from the principles he had been exposed to throughout his youth. Morris wrote various books about socialism and was the founder of the Socialist League, which dealt with equality, workers’ rights, and anti-war movements. He also fraternized with other famous socialists who joined the Socialist League, such as Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx’s daughter. Without much success, Morris often tried to persuade his rich friends to join the socialist movement. Morris also participated in protests for the freedom to publish pro-socialism texts and was actually arrested on more than one occasion.

Morris often felt that he belonged in another time period, much like many young people of today wish they were born in the 1960s. He was fascinated with the medieval way of life. The art, labor, and writings of the Middle Ages influenced much of his fantasy literature. Morris is considered the father of the fantasy literary genre, and has been cited as a major influence upon fellow authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. So next time you crack open a Game of Thrones novel or decide to sit down for a Harry Potter marathon, thank William Morris.

If you need someone interesting to focus on for a class project (Morris was active in politics, literature, and architecture), come visit the William Morris exhibit! Hornbake Library also has poetry and books written by Morris. Or, if you have an awkward gap between classes and want something better to do than wander through cyberspace, come visit our exhibit. You won’t be disappointed.

For more information on William Morris, visit:

For more information on Hornbake Library’s William Morris exhibit, visit:

Tracey G.


Green Office

Everybody loves the environment (at least I like to pretend they do) and to ensure that it will be there for the future, everyone can help by making small changes to reduce their environmental footprint.

To show our commitment to sustainable living Hornbake Library’s 1st floor is GOING GREEN!

We are participating in the Green Office Program, which supports the University of Maryland’s Climate Action Plan and Strategic Plan to become a “national model for a green university.” Striving towards sustainability helps save critical natural resources and save money too. So really we’re saving green by being green!

Some of the things we are doing are super easy and almost no brainers, but when done on such a large scale they can have a huge impact. The easiest one was to ensure that windows are tightly closed to prevent heated or cooled air from leaking out, since the library has sealed all the windows to maintain climate control to protect the books we were already on our way to being green.

We also

  • turn out the lights,
  •  turn off our computers,
  • use energy efficient appliances,
  • recycle everything and anything that’s recyclable,
  • print double sided copies and more!

What kinds of things do you do to be green? Let us know!

Erika W., Student Assistant at the Special Collections

Primary Source Instruction

Welcome to a new semester.
We are excited to see so many classes scheduled to visit the Maryland Room for primary source research instruction this semester. It is a great time to remind you that it is not too late to bring your students in to the library to receive advice about how to begin your semester-long projects.

We offer tailored instruction for each class, and build an understanding of how to locate and use the unique materials available both on and off campus.

If you this type of instruction does not suit your needs, we also offer tours of Special Collections in Hornbake Library.

Contact us if you are interested in joining us for one of these unique opportunities.

Why William Morris?

William Morris

William Morris

The Special Collections curators spent the last year hard at work preparing the current exhibit How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris. We  felt Morris was deserving of this exhibit because of the breadth of resources concerning Morris in Special Collections and because he was such a remarkable person. The curators realized that we had a rich collection of Morris’ writings, translations, and Kelmscott Press publications (and ephemera from Kelmscott Press). The University of Maryland Libraries had also recently purchased a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer and felt an exhibit the perfect opportunity to show off this gorgeous book.

In addition to showing off the excellent William Morris collection here in Special Collections, the curators were inspired by William Morris’ take on life. He was a man who always strove to improve the world around him. He wrote stories because he wanted to entertain and inspire people. Morris began a home decorating business, Morris & Co., because he wanted people to have beautiful and affordable decorations in their homes. He was a founding member of the historic preservation movement in Britain as well as the socialist movement. He cared about providing workers with meaningful work and making sure that the efforts of workers from previous eras was maintained. What do you find admirable about William Morris?

Current Events: What do Ben Affleck and Special Collections have in common?

While holding a hymnal in one hand, President Jimmy Carter holds his left hand in front of his face as he prays with the families of the American hostages in Tehran on November 15, 1979 during an afternoon interfaith service at Washington’s National Cathedral. (UPI Photo/Tim Murphy/Files)
Read about it: http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1979/Iranian-Hostage-Crisis/12311692377023-2/

One of my projects at the Special Collections has been labeling and recording data from  reel-to-reel tapes in the WAMU-FM archive. While this may not sound like the most fascinating job (unless you REALLY love Excel?), the collection itself is incredible. A few weeks ago, I found some reels labeled “Hostage Crisis Report” and “Hostage News Conference” dated 1979.

This is one of the moments when you feel the past speaking to you. As new tragedies emerge, and our nation considers how to handle the latest international events, we can expect many charged discussions about freedom of speech, media, and politics. For example, news sources are portraying the anti-Islamic film as a “US-Made” film; do we feel this is an accurate representation? How does our national right to free speech translate to an international platform like the World Wide Web? How have we handled such situations before, and how will that influence us moving forward? What events shaped the current crisis, and how do we understand them?

Photo from the movie "Argo"It is more important than ever to inform ourselves about not just current events, but historical events that impact our present. Before the death of our ambassador, I had planned to write about historical politics in modern day entertainment, connecting the Hostage Crisis tapes in the archives to Ben Affleck’s upcoming film Argo. But now it seems that this film and UMD Libraries have something more important in common than just interest in a time period. While the former is a means for inspiring the public to learn more about a certain event, the Special Collections exists to create the informed individual, someone who can interpret the data recorded from the past to shape our future in a knowledgeable way. In that sphere of creating an informed citizenry, entertainment and special collections sometimes successfully collide–as I believe this example demonstrates.

What is your opinion? How do you inform yourself about current events? What resources have you used to shape your knowledge of freedom of speech on the WWW and international politics? What other examples of political entertainment exist, and are they successful at informing the public, or inspiring the public to search for information?

Sarah Espinosa, Student Assistant at the Special Collections

Gordon W. Prange Papers

A very important manuscript collection has recently been revealed in a powerful way.  The Gordon W. Prange papers have been fully processed and a finding aid (guide) is now available online.  This collection will be incredibly useful to scholars and students researching World War II history and University of Maryland history.  This is a premier research collection that needs to be shared widely.

Dr. Gordon W. Prange was a historian and history professor at the University of Maryland from 1937 until 1980. While teaching at the University of Maryland, Prange published many books and articles, but he is probably best known for his research of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Gordon W. Prange Papers  consists of both personal and professional papers and includes unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, interview notes and transcripts, research notes, articles, maps, and photographs related to Prange’s research on the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, the Russian spy Richard Sorge, and the speeches of Adolf Hitler.

There are also materials related to Prange’s tenure as a history professor at the University of Maryland and Prange’s service as Chief Historian of General Douglas MacArthur’s 100-person historical staff during the Allied Occupation of Japan.

Prange’s Pearl Harbor research was published posthumously in three volumes: At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (1981), Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (1986), and December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (1988).

Visit us in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library at University of Maryland Libraries to  learn more about this collection. And don’t forget the accompanying collection of of Japanese print publications issued in Japan during the immediate post-World War II years, available on the 4th floor of Hornbake Library.

Contact us

‘How We Might Live’ features Morris’s The Roots of the Mountain

Morris's <i>The Roots of the Mountain</i> bound in Morris's Honeysuckle fabric

Morris’s The Roots of the Mountain bound in Morris’s Honeysuckle fabric

Every month, How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris, an exhibit highlighting the life and work of English designer and author William Morris (1834-1896), will showcase a new Morris-related item.

Visit the exhibit in September to view a unique copy of Morris’s historical novel, The Roots of the Mountains. Published by Reeves and Turner in 1889, this special first edition on Whatman paper was limited to 250 copies, printed by Charels Whittingham and Co. The binding is printed “Honeysuckle” tapestry designed by Morris and made especially for this edition. According to Sydney Cockerell, Morris considered this volume “the best-looking book issued since the 17th Century”. Do you agree?