Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2012 Issue

The Private Presses of Hammersmith from Sophie Schneideman Rare Books


The Kelmscott Reynard.

Morris favored the classics, so this next item was a natural. It combined England's first printer with a classic European tale dating back to still earlier times. Item 5 is William Caxton's translation of The History of Reynard the Foxe, the Kelmscott edition published in 1892. Caxton not only translated the work into English, but printed it back in 1481. Reynard is the tale of the conniving, ethically-challenged fox who always manages to work his way out of the jams he creates. £3,800 (US $5,827).

Though Morris would seem to be naturally suited for sharing the ideals of the elite of society, he was an ardent socialist. For him, the ideal society was one of equality and sharing of assets. His views are expressed in this 1892 publication he wrote as well as printed: News from Nowhere: or, an Epoch of Rest, being some chapters from a Utopian romance. It is Morris' depiction of a utopian society, a story in which a man awakens from a dream into a society with common ownership of the means of production. It is a world without private property, where people enjoy their work and their lives. The work had already been published in America and England by standard printers, but this is Morris' own Kelmscott edition. £3,250 (US $4,983).

A utopian society was certainly a dream of Morris, so a year later he came back with another such book, this one a classic. Item 10 is the Kelmscott edition of Sir Thomas More's Utopia. Originally published in 1516, it is More's look at an idealistic society, one with overtones of Morris' own “Nowhere” (Utopia). This copy includes a prize inscription from an Eton master to his student. Eton had ordered 40 copies of the work to give as prizes, but canceled the order after reading Morris' strongly socialistic introduction. This one must have somehow made its way through. £2,400 (US $3,677).

Item 23 is the work Schneideman describes as “Morris's 'magnum opus' and, in scale at the very least, the greatest Private Press book ever to be published.” It is the Kelmscott Chaucer, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, published in 1896. As Schneideman notes, “its beauty and the sheer work which went into its production is staggering.” The work marked the culmination of Morris' printing career, and he died shortly after the book was completed. This is a particularly special copy, one that ties Morris and Kelmscott to Thomas Cobden-Sanderson and his soon to arrive Doves Press. Forty-eight copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer were sent to Cobden-Sanderson at what was then Doves Bindery to be bound in pigskin. Price on request.

While the Kelmscott items are offered one at a time, the Doves Press books are offered as a collection. Clarence Hanson put together a complete collection of the 40 books published by Doves between 1900 and 1916. The copies are in exceptional condition. Along with the 40 books that came off the Doves Press, there are another nine ephemeral items. The price for the complete collection is available on request.

Sophie Schneideman Rare Books may be reached at 020 8354 7365 or sophie@ssrbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Adam Smith, <i>Wealth of Nations,</i> first edition, descended from William Alexander, London, 1776. $70,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> George Gershwin, photograph signed & inscribed with autograph musical quotation, <i>An American in Paris,</i> 1928. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Friedrich Engels, <i>The Condition of the Working Class in England,</i> first edition, NY, 1887. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> <i>Bury St. Edmunds Witch Trials,</i> first edition, London, 1682. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Robert Rey, <i>Estampes,</i> complete portfolio of 12 wood engravings, Paris, 1950. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Archive of 47 letters by Enrico Caruso to a lady friend, 1906-20. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Books of Hours in Flemish, Netherlands, 15th century. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Jack Kerouac, <i>Doctor Sax,</i> deluxe limited edition, signed, NY, 1959. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Walt Disney, signature on title-page of Ward Greene’s <i>Lady and the Tramp,</i> first edition, first printing. $3,000 to $4,000.

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