Special Collections Spotlight: William Morris papers

William Morris (1834-1896) was an English artist, author, socialist, and printer. He is best known for his association with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and as a central figure of the English Arts and Crafts Movement.

Morris rose to popularity as the author of the epic poem The Earthly Paradise (1868-1870). Morris’s other well known works encompassed several genres and styles, including narrative poetry, fantasy and utopian novels, translations of Icelandic and other early works, essays, and short stories. These works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), A Dream of John Ball (1892) News from Nowhere (1893), and The Wood Beyond the World (1894).

Morris founded the design company Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, & Co. in 1861, which was restructured as Morris & Company in 1875. Morris and company specialisted in designing textiles, wallpapers, and furniture with the goal to remedy the pervasiveness of cheaply-made, mass produced furnishings that lacked any sense of beauty or style. Morris was also influential in the emergence of socialism in England in the nineteenth century, having founded the Socialist League in 1884.

In 1891, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press, which produced books modeled after fifteenth-century works. The press produced 53 titles during its 7-year operation. His 1896 edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, referred to as the Kelmscott Chaucer, is often regarded a pinnacle of book design.

The William Morris papers includes correspondence from Sydney Cockerell, Jane Morris, and William Morris, a manuscript by Stopford Augustus Brooke, as well as books from Morris’ personal library, the Kelmscott press, and others, as well as ephemera. Books printed at the Kelmscott Press and other works by and about William Morris can be found in our rare books collection.

View our online exhibit “How We Might Live: The Vision of WIlliam Morris”

Explore the subject guide, William Morris and the Kelmscott Press.

Browse the finding aid for the William Morris papers.

Check Out Previous Blog posts on William Morris.

Contact us for more information! 


What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a description of the contents of a collection, similar to a table of contents you would find in a book. A collection’s contents are often grouped logically and describe the group of items within each folder. You rarely find descriptions of the individual items within collections. Finding aids also contain information about the size and scope of collections. Additional contextual information may also be included.

What is a Subject Guide?

A Subject Guide, sometimes called a LibGuide, is a web page developed by library staff that focuses on a specific subject area. In any subject guide you may find databases relevant to the subject area, links to websites, journals and magazines, recommended books, library contacts for a specific subject, and much more.

New Resource: LibGuide on Fine Press Books in Special Collections

Special Collections is highlighting the selection of Fine Press books within the Literature and Rare Books collections with a new subject guide, Fine Press Books in Special Collections! If you would like to learn more about fine press books but aren’t sure where to start, we have a solution. The guide highlights material created by various Fine Presses that are available in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library.

Beginning in the late 19th century, artists, authors, and craftsmen of the Fine Press movement took care and consideration in the elements of a book. Attention was given to the typography, design, illustration, printing and binding of fine press books. The Fine Press movement produced beautifully crafted books, often in small print-runs of high quality, designed and crafted by individuals or small businesses.

For more resources on Fine Press Books search our catalog or if you have any questions, please contact us!

Victoria Vera is a graduate student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program at UMD and a student assistant in the Literature and Rare Books Collections, Special Collections and University Archives.

Doves Press Bible on Display in Hornbake Library

Visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to view The English Bible, printed by the Doves Press in 1903. This is an exquisite example of the fine press movement in England, which sought to create traditionally crafted, beautiful books using handmade paper, quality ink, and carefully designed type and page layout. The Doves Press operated in England from 1900-1916.

Explore more examples of fine press books in our Literature & Rare Books collections in Special Collections and University Archives.

New Acquisition: Spenser’s Faerie Queene by the Ashendene Press

IMG_7607.JPGRecently, Special Collections and University Archives acquired several beautiful examples of early 20th century fine printing. Among them is Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, printed in by The Ashendene Press in 1923.

The Ashendene Press is one of the finest examples of the private press movement in England, which valued well-designed books produced with high quality materials by skilled workmen. Private press craftsmen and artists scoffed at the poorly made, commercially-driven books and the mechanized book production of industrialized England. These beautifully crafted books are a testament to the artistry of individuals like Emery Walker, William Morris, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, Charles Rickets, and others who sought to reclaim traditional book art in a time when profit and mass production trumped integrity and design.

Continue reading