• Photographs, Pens, and PrintWilliam Morris and the Technologies of Typography

In November 1888, influential printer and engraver Emery Walker gave a lecture on historical typefaces to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, which featured lantern slide enlargements of early printed typographic examples. These enlargements prompted William Morris to try his hand at type design. This article reconsiders Morris’s turn to typography and printing through a focus on both the scale at which he designed, and the combined luxuries of intensive study and contemporary technology that allowed him to do so. In examining both the enlargement technologies that made Morris’s designs possible, and the vital role of handwriting in his type design, the interdependence of craft and technology at the Kelmscott Press emerges.

The origin story of William Morris’s typefaces for the Kelmscott Press has an almost mythic status. In November of 1888, the influential printer and engraver Emery Walker (1851–1933) gave a lecture on historical typefaces to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, an event that compelled Morris to try his hand at type design. Morris had long been interested in letterforms and was a practicing calligrapher, but until this point he had not designed any cast type himself. Walker’s lecture featured lantern slide enlargements of early printed typographic examples and, although Morris owned many incunabula and manuscripts, according to May Morris, “the sight of the finely proportioned letters so enormously enlarged, and gaining rather than losing by the process, the enlargement emphasizing all the qualities of the type… stirred in him an overwhelming desire to hazard the experiment.”1 The three typefaces that Morris designed were named for the books in which they were first used: Golden type from The Golden Legend, Troy type from Histories of Troy, and the Chaucer type from the Chaucer (Figure 1), and they were clearly indebted to the incunabula and manuscripts that he studied. However, as this article will argue, Morris’s engagement with technologies of both photographic and calligraphic enlargement was of equal importance to these early-printed antecedents. That is, despite perceptions of Morris as anti-industrialization and pro-idealized medievalism, his working practice in typographic design was a synthesis of forward- as well as backward-looking technological embrace: a melding of machine and craft.

In what follows, I reconsider Morris’s turn to typography and printing through a focus on both the scale at which Morris designed, and the combined luxuries of intensive study and contemporary technology that allowed him to do so. Ultimately, Morris’s use of modern technology may have been just as important to the Kelmscott Press as his views on craft. The photographic enlargements facilitated a more interactive study of the medieval examples he admired, while the manuscripts and incunabula he studied were of course inextricably tied to handwriting and calligraphic technologies. [End Page 245]

Figure 1. Catalog and prospectus from the Kelmscott Press, produced by Morris and Sydney Cockerell, 2 July 1894. Image courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.
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Figure 1.

Catalog and prospectus from the Kelmscott Press, produced by Morris and Sydney Cockerell, 2 July 1894. Image courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

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Changes in pen shape and paper quality—not to mention the technological imprint of the enlargements themselves—also shaped how Morris created his letterforms. The central role of lantern slides in Morris’s type design runs counter to lingering misconceptions of Morris as exclusively opposed to modern technology. I argue that Morris’s reliance on these enlargements, and their attendant utility in both photography and calligraphy at the end of the nineteenth century, reveals a technological hybridity at the heart of Morris’s design practice. Morris’s interactions with Walker’s enlarged photographs, and the shifting scalar possibilities that they fostered, allowed him to create sanitized ideal typefaces, simultaneously bringing his work towards, and distancing it from, handwriting and handcrafting. The process of enlarging and copying as practiced by Walker made it possible to examine letterforms in various sizes, with an increased ability to view and thus remove blemishes and imperfections inherent in handwriting. An analysis of this technology clarifies both Morris’s working practice and his theories of mechanization by examining the layering process that the enlargements engendered. By turning to enlargement as a way to master design, Morris was able to view projected letters as large, disconnected, sculptural objects, which he could then trace, rephotograph, and refine. The forceful weightiness of his typography was achievable through enlargement technologies, and was therefore a crucial factor to the heaviness and visual density of the Kelmscott Press.

Reviews of Walker’s lecture identify the projected typographic samples as the event’s main attraction. In the November 16, 1888 Pall Mall Gazette, Oscar Wilde praised, “Nothing could have been better… a series of most interesting specimens of old printed books and manuscripts were displayed on the screen by means of the magic lantern… the size of course being very much enlarged.”2 Wilde’s review points to the twinned strands that led Morris to design type: Walker’s technologically enhanced enlargements, and the calligraphic referent that both men championed. Walker ably proved “the intimate connection between printing and handwriting—as long as the latter was good the printers had a living model to go by, but when it decayed printing decayed also.”3 A large part of the lecture was devoted to discussing the progressive degradation of handwriting, and the typographic problems that emerged when letterforms were further distanced from the hand of the scribe. Morris was moved by the demonstration, noting in a letter to his daughter Jenny that “there were magic-lantern slides of pages of books, and some telling contrasts between the good and bad,” were evident, pointing to the role of the enlargements in making the details of the letterforms more visible.4 [End Page 247]

Walker’s lecture notes attest to the centrality of the enlarged images to his argument, “which was that the main factor in a well printed book was the type.”5 He “selected many examples of earlier and later printing and had lantern slides made from them. This method of bringing home a point to the audience was then comparatively novel and the lecture, in spite of my poor delivery, was generally considered a success.”6 Later, while traveling with Walker through wintry London, Morris is said to have proposed “a new fount of type,” spurred on by the lecture he had just witnessed, predicated on the novelty of the enlargements.7 Walker became a crucial collaborator with Morris, but declined an official partnership offer. This may have been because Walker was too busy, lacked the capital, or had “some sense of proportion,” as he replied to Morris, who had posed a partnership offer by warning Walker, “I shall want to do everything my own way.”8 Despite Walker’s reticence, he became, in the words of contemporary Walter Crane, Morris’s “constant and faithful helper in all the technicalities of the printers’ craft.”9 Walker’s knowledge, his lantern slides, and his photogravures were the material and technological basis for the successful operation of the Kelmscott Press.

Morris, it is well known, opposed the use of machinery when it was used to restrict workers’ rights—when factory production and industrialization led to drudgery, boredom, and safety violations. But contrary to notions of Morris as anti-modern technology, his reliance on nineteenth-century photographic innovations, and the shifting scale and tracing that they facilitated, was imperative to the foundation of the Kelmscott Press. In 1896, a month after Morris’s death, Frank Colebrook described Morris’s cautious embrace of machinery in a lecture to students at the St. Bride Printing School, remarking that “Morris has no hatred of printing machines so long as they do not convert the ‘minders’ into being also printing machines.”10 Morris also welcomed using machines to cast his type; as Henry Halliday Sparling related, Morris said “from all I hear, there wasn’t much fun” in hand casting.11 After the initial punches were made by Edward P. Prince, the mechanical typecasting was completed at Fann Street Foundry under Talbot Baines Reed.12 The foundry utilized the Benton-Waldo pantographic punch-cutting machine, where a “follower” pen traced the image onto a wax-coated plate, which was then covered with copper, leading to a raised outline on this “pattern plate”; this process allowed for letters to be easily scaled and consistently replicated.13 Walker’s enlarged projections were also easily scaled, which was essential to Morris’s process of drawing and rephotographing the letterforms. The importance of scalability for both designing and punch-cutting at the end of the nineteenth century demonstrates the [End Page 248] ability of new technologies to foster interactive design. The photographs also crucially allowed and encouraged close study, essential for Morris’s craftsmanship; while we might assume mechanized “aids” would allow the creation process to be more streamlined, the translation of images through enlargement and tracing actually made the process slower and more deliberate.

The printing at Kelmscott Manor was done on an iron handpress, the Albion, which was invented by Richard Cope in 1823, and named for the toggling mechanism that it utilized. In contrast to earlier wooden presses, the platen on the Albion was easier to move due to advances in the toggle and lever, which allowed for a smoother pull with less resistance. There were several benefits to this method of printing, which permitted more careful adjustments and subtle degrees of pressure with less physical stress on the person operating the press.14 Morris often had no qualms adopting nineteenth-century innovations—whether the Albion press or mechanical typesetting—particularly if they helped spare some tedious labor. Yet simultaneously, Morris’s view of preindustrial technology remained nostalgic, and he stated that “pleased as I am with my printing, when I saw my two men at work on the press yesterday with their sticky printers’ ink, I couldn’t help lamenting the simplicity of the scribe and his desk, and his black ink and blue and red ink, and I almost felt ashamed of my press after all.”15 He remained adamantly pro-guild, while also romanticizing the idea of the solitary scribe. Rather than disparaging his printing enterprise at the Kelmscott Press, Morris’s passion for incunabula and manuscripts was enhanced through his embrace of photographic technologies, which allowed him to design and examine examples on vastly different scales concurrently: a complement to his valorization of the medieval, not a detraction from it.

Walker’s lecture has been documented as an important linchpin that jumpstarted Morris’s career as a type designer. In the 1957 exhibition “The Typographical Adventure of William Morris,” the organizers noted that the relative simplicity of receiving photographic enlargements from Walker “no doubt gave Morris the idea of studying the old letters” in a new way, “an example of Morris using modern techniques to achieve a result. The method has since become standard form.”16 John Dreyfus stated that Morris’s encounter with the enlarged images was “the first occasion known to me of a type designer using photography both to study types and to produce his working drawings,” an assertion recently reinforced in the work of William S. Peterson.17 Morris’s contemporaries H. Halliday Sparling, Frank Colebrook, and Sydney Cockerell extensively documented the working processes at the Kelmscott Press, as well as Morris’s book collecting [End Page 249] and his relationship with Walker.18 The importance of the enlargements is evident in scholarship on the press, particularly as a tool to understanding Morris’s design process—Peterson elucidates the paradox of the Kelmscott Press, “the quintessential example of an arts-and-crafts longing for the pre-industrial age… built upon a foundation of photography, one of the most sophisticated forms of technology in late-Victorian England.”19 This technological foundation, as we shall see, was a necessary framework for Morris to study manuscripts and incunabular printing. The ability to work from enlargements allowed Morris to “perfect” typography, distancing his process from handcraft while simultaneously valorizing the handcraft of the past. I argue that these technological specifics are vital for understanding the nuanced layering of trace, drawing, photographic processes, and historical precedents that informed Morris’s work. This allows us to study how the enlarged letters led to the sumptuous design choices of the Kelmscott Press, which influenced the rest of the fine press movement.

In 1885, Walker and Walter Boutall created the firm “Walker and Boutall, Automatic and Photographic Engravers,” where they developed a form of process-engraving that was ideal for illustrating books with photographs.20 Process-engraving was closely related to photogravures, a photo-mechanical transfer where a copper plate is exposed to a film positive and then etched, leading to an intaglio print with the detail of a photograph. At the time, this was the best way to reproduce photographic images quickly. Photogravures were initially developed by William Henry Fox Talbot, who also invented the photographic system of positive and negative photography, the calo-type method, which allowed for an infinite reproduction of prints from a negative, and is the basis for modern photography. Walker’s photographic lantern slides were made at his photo-engraving firm, many from Morris’s books.21 “Automatic” in the firm’s title references part of the photographic process, but it also connotes a disembodied activity. The act of photo-engraving is implicitly not reliant upon human “crafting,” in contrast to calligraphy.

This human crafting was central to prior typographic developments, as it was for Morris—just in a modified way, with a photographic intercessor. Morris’s Roman font, Golden, is indebted to the work of two Venetian printers, Nicholas Jenson (1420–80) and Jacobus Rubeus (active 1470–80s). Walker showed Leonardo Bruni’s Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Jacobus Rubeus in 1476 (Figure 2), and Pliny the Elder’s Historia naturalis, printed by Nicolas Jenson in 1476 (Figure 3), photographed from books that Morris owned. Golden is a humanist, old style Roman: the letters are based on incunabular typefaces, which in turn were based on handwriting. [End Page 250]

Figure 2. Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi (Venice: Jacobus Rubeus, 1476). Image courtesy of the Hunterian Library Special Collections, University of Glasgow Library.
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Figure 2.

Leonardo Bruni, Historiae Florentini populi (Venice: Jacobus Rubeus, 1476). Image courtesy of the Hunterian Library Special Collections, University of Glasgow Library.

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Figure 3. Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis (Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1476). Image courtesy of the Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum Digitale Bibliothek und Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
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Figure 3.

Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis (Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1476). Image courtesy of the Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum Digitale Bibliothek und Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

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The scribal hand is visible in the oblique stress on the bar of the lowercase e, for instance, the same way that the line would be made with the nib of a pen. Further characteristics of these Italian typefaces include a tilted axis on the o, thickly bracketed serifs, a double-storied g, and diamond-shaped punctuation, which suggest the depositing of ink from a broad-nibbed quill pen. These early printers were working directly within the technological and cultural influence of manuscript creation, producing texts for a reading public that was used to seeing certain kinds of letterforms. Their design choices reflect both cultural expectations and technological options, which meant that handwriting and printing were symbiotic in Rubeus and Jenson. Morris is tapping into the long-standing importance and centrality of handwriting to printed letterforms, but he did so through a distinctly late nineteenth-century method, demonstrating the co-presence of old and new in his typographic designs.

Morris studied incunabular types “photographed to a big scale” and then in his words “drawing it over many times before I began designing my own letter; so that though I think I mastered the essence of it, I did not copy it servilely.”22 This working practice involved repetitive drawing, facilitated by tracing enlargements. Once the drawings were mastered, he could introduce changes. It is this trajectory that is central to arts education—one starts with life drawing and moves to abstraction, generally not the reverse. In a 1917 submission in the Times Literary Supplement, Walker described the difficulties in designing a new type, since “the designer of a new fount, when he seeks to base it on an old one, is confronted with the problem of finding out details of it, so obscured nearly always are the shapes of the letters by over-inking and imperfect presswork.”23 Crucially, the enlargements allowed for the “finding out details” of older typefaces, which freed up Morris to modify the letterforms to more modern usage, an intersection of old craft and new technology. The reinterpretation afforded by the enlargements gave Morris the ability to perfect incunabular typefaces by examining them at a large scale, noting the blemishes, and “correcting” them. As Colebrook stated in his lecture, “the old style fanatic copies the incidental chips and marks and roughnesses over which the original cutter used language of old style vehemence, they being simply defects due to the rudeness of the tools or the materials used. Morris is dead against imitation for imitations sake.”24 Morris was not just obsessed with an idealized medieval past—he instead utilized technology to improve upon the past. Yet it is also worth noting that he was working with enlargements, not magnifications. The images are bigger, but the components were still sometimes a bit obscured, observed via a technological innovation that inhibited as well as enabled “finding out details.” [End Page 253] Walker’s point about “over-inking and imperfect presswork” also divorces the enlarged letterforms from their more utilitarian purpose. When examined at a large scale, the letters become almost sculptural objects, removed from their original context. No one at Walker’s Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society lecture was trying to read the original Latin: they were looking at the shapes of the letterforms.

Troy and Chaucer, Morris’s blackletter typefaces, were also based on incunabular examples, stemming from fifteenth-century German printmakers such as Peter Schoeffer in Mainz, Johannes Mentelin in Strasbourg, and Johann Zainer in Ulm.25 In contrast to the Golden, the process for the black-letter was more straightforward, or at least less tortured. Walker claimed that Morris “drew the whole alphabet straight away—more or less ‘out of his head,’” yet as Peterson noted, the archival record shows that Morris did a great deal of drawing and reworking of the blackletter, too.26 Troy and Chaucer are not as vertical as some of the incunabular examples, again proving their modified format. While interested in historical correctness, Morris was also worried about the rise of “bogus medievalism,” a form of recovery particularly popularized in the nineteenth century by Owen Jones, whose pseudo-medieval designs are a hallmark of Gothic Revival architecture in England.27

When we examine the Troy type used in Kelmscott’s Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis (1896, Figure 4), we can see the influence of blackletter printing. Troy is notably non-spiky: there is roundness to the bowls in the letters, with contrast that suggests the use of a broad-nibbed pen. In comparing it to Boccaccio’s De Claris mulieribus (Figure 5), printed in 1473 by Johann Zainer in Ulm and held in Morris’s library, similarities are evident in the roundness of the forms, and the sharp angle on the diacritical marks. Yet Troy is not a copy, of course: Morris’s uppercase D is more stylized, as is the lowercase a, to choose just two examples. As a reprinting of a fourteenth-century text, the fitness of the Troy for the Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis is evident. At the same time, Morris was also not copying fourteenth-century printing conventions, either. He objected to the use of contractions and tied letters, noting that “I entirely eschewed contractions, except for the ‘&’…. I designed a black-letter type which I think I may claim to be as readable as a Roman one, and to say the truth I prefer it to the Roman.”28 It is this readability that does mark Troy and Chaucer, which avoided the pitfalls of angularity and overcrowding.

An example of this tension between historically accurate design and attractive fakery: Gothic scripts were often very narrow and compressed, which was due in large part to scribes trying to save space on their precious [End Page 254]

Figure 4. Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, July 1896). Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Washington.
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Figure 4.

Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, July 1896). Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Washington.

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Figure 5. Giovanni Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus (Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1473). Image courtesy of the Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum Digitale Bibliothek und Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
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Figure 5.

Giovanni Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus (Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1473). Image courtesy of the Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum Digitale Bibliothek und Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

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paper reserves. Scribes were also required to write quickly, as the copying process needed to meet the demands of church and customer. These tendencies towards space-saving and haste were exactly what Morris was trying to reverse at the Kelmscott Press. There is a key cognitive dissonance here. Morris fetishized blackletter as a pseudo-medieval handcraft, while it was being created in the nineteenth century through a completely different, scaled up, “rationalized” method of production. Medieval scribes were not tracing letterforms over and over to perfect them; they were writing as quickly as possible, and from this repetitive process individual styles were born. While Morris’s practice was also repetitive, he instead worked from existing examples to slowly and deliberately create his own. His typefaces were an attempt to reintegrate letterforms into a holistic approach to book production, where design and content were cohesive. The extensive amount of white space on the sumptuous pages of the Kelmscott Press books was a signifier of intentional gratuitous excess, standing as a visual mark of Morris’s resistance to industrialization. It was simultaneously counter to the scribal copying to which he was indebted.

Part of Morris’s critique of nineteenth-century typefaces was their association with commercial printing. He described his ideal Roman as a “letter pure in form: severe, without needless excrescences; solid, without the thickening and thinning of the line, which is the essential fault of the ordinary modern type, and which makes it difficult to read, and not compressed laterally, as all later type has grown to be owing to commercial exigencies.”29 Charles Ricketts (1866–1931), a fine press printer and proprietor of the Vale Press, stage designer, and aesthete, stated that the only way to save typography was to “add to it an element of harmony which it lacks at present.”30 Like Morris, Ricketts located the defects of modern printing with mechanization and the pressure to publish more cheaply, “primarily from the need to economize on space in order to save money; an economy, it should be added, which has been pushed so far that words have become almost illegible if it were not for the immoderate use of white spaces between them,” believing that earlier printers were at an advantage over nineteenth-century revivalists because they had closer ties to better handwriting.31 Concurrently, Walker also believed that “the most successful of the founts used by the so-called ‘private presses’ are not exact copies ‘stolen’ from antiquity, but modifications adapted to modern usage.”32 It is clear that Morris followed this dictum as well: he was designing with nineteenth-century technology for nineteenth-century readers. Yet these readers were also conditioned to expect modern style letterforms, born out of eighteenth-century typefaces that were narrower and lighter than what Morris produced. [End Page 257]

One of Walker’s main targets in the lecture was a contemporary copy of Ruskin, which was printed in Bodoni, a narrower eighteenth-century Roman. In the Fors Clavigera from 1871 (Figure 6), the use of this modern typeface and extensive leading produced a page that was grey and unimpressive. Walker located the design problems of the Ruskin “in the wrong proportions of margins, in excessive space between lines and words, in faulty type-design, and in the use of cheap ink and paper.”33 Morris referred to Bodoni letterforms as “sweltering hideousness… the most illegible type that was ever cut,” with Walker adding at the lecture that Bodoni is “to whom we are indebted for the ungraceful types now used in Blue books and newspapers.”34 The emphatic verticality of Bodoni and other late eighteenth-century typefaces stands in stark contrast to the medieval and incunabular examples that Morris and Walker both favored.

Morris and Walker’s argument is predicated on the conviction that good printed letterforms were contingent upon on good handwriting. Walker stated in his lecture that “if we want beautiful type, we must write beautifully,” tying type construction to writing, and therefore implicitly to the medieval and calligraphic.35 In his lecture notes, Walker had originally written “we must teach children to write beautifully” and replaced it with “we must write beautifully.” It is a small substitution, but suggests Walker’s worry about the degradation of handwriting, as humans moved further towards mechanized production at the end of the nineteenth century. He was concerned about the loss of the art of writing without educational initiatives to combat it, yet the nineteenth century was actually a flourishing period for nascent public school systems in England.36 Walker’s real problem, as we will see, was with steel-nibbed pens, which served to change the shape of letterforms. The loss of knowledgeable practitioners of older technologies, equivalent to a loss of preservation, is present in discussions about punchcutting as well—the rise of mechanized punchcutting made workers like Edward P. Prince into a sought-after commodity. With the decline of guilds and printing houses, these concerns were brought to the fore in the nineteenth century.

The visual hallmarks of modern typefaces, such as Bodoni, are the density of white space on the page and extensive leading between lines, combined with the thinness of the type, which produced an overall greying effect. Henri-Jean Martin described modern style as the “triumph of white over black,” on the page, leading to works that were comparatively lighter, paler, and less dense than early printing.37 In contrast, Morris’s letters are forcefully black, standing in sharp contrast to the white page. Morris did not use any leading between lines, as “he sought to achieve the solid rectangular [End Page 258]

Figure 6. John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1871). Image courtesy of the HathiTrust, Google digitized.
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Figure 6.

John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1871). Image courtesy of the HathiTrust, Google digitized.

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page of the Mediaeval book.”38 Moving beyond aesthetic preferences, modern faces are more mechanical, and to certain quarters in the nineteenth century, they were viewed as visually and materially inferior. Morris and Walker were not alone in reviving incunabular faces as a way to counter modern style. Part of the nineteenth-century critique of thinner types was their associations with the feminine. Theodore Low De Vinne (1828–1914), the father of American high-quality printing, urged a return to “masculine printing” in an article of the same title in 1892.39 While his criticisms were couched as aesthetic concerns, they point to an uglier side of the argument: as more female authors and readers were given publishing space, male printers could turn reactionary against the newer market, and against the typefaces that signified it. According to Megan L. Benton, “reformers, in exalting preindustrial type forms and production methods, were also implicitly invoking the superiority of a past in which men (not machines, and not women) dominated book culture itself.”40

Yet these value judgments could also be reversed: modern types were seen as refined, and older types as rough. Partisans of modern typefaces praised them for being delicate, “a word which then suggested to the writer related adjectives like fine, sensitive, graceful, and exquisite, while old-face types were labeled heavy, coarse, and clumsy.”41 Delicacy and fineness here correlated to “refinement—that is, a more advanced state of civilization—whereas Morris, when he turned his attention to type-design, saw thin strokes as a symptom of modern decadence and overreacted by thickening his own Golden type tremendously.”42 Even if Morris had not been morally opposed to modern types—which he very vocally was—they would have looked aesthetically incorrect in his books, totally overwhelmed by the borders and wood engravings.43 Central to Morris and Walker’s dismissals of contemporary fonts is their conviction that the deficiencies are mechanically rooted, pushed by commerce to be thinner and more compressed. Divorcing letterform construction from the act of handwriting was viewed as a problem, yet by tracing and drawing from photographed examples—instead of writing—Morris was actually moving away from handwriting, too.

Morris’s letterforms were allowed to sprawl, to luxuriate in more space, an option not available to most early printers—or any printers beyond the fine press movement. In opposition to a push towards the fast and cheap, Morris’s design process instead evoked a mantra of “slow printing”: he examined the enlargements, tracing the letterforms repeatedly to understand their general shape, creating “a group of free-hand drawings, still to the same large scale,” which Walker then photographed and reduced to the [End Page 260] scale of the original type.44 These transcriptions spanned drawing and photography. May Morris’s perspective on this point deserves to be quoted at length:

The enlargements enabled Father to study the proportions and peculiarities of the letters. Having thoroughly absorbed these, so to speak, he started designing his own type on this big scale. When done, each letter was photographed down to the size the type was to be. Then he and Walker criticized them and brooded over them; then he worked on them again on the large scale until he got everything right. The point about all this is… that while he worked on the letters on this large scale, he did not then, as is often done with drawings for mechanical reproduction, have the design reduced and think no more about it; it was considered on its own scale as well; and, indeed, when the design had passed into the expert and sympathetic hands of Mr. Prince and was cut, the impression—a smoked proof—was again considered, and the letter sometimes recut. My father used to go about with matchboxes containing these “smokes” of the type in his pockets, and sometimes as he sat and talked with us, he would draw one out, and thoughtfully eye the small scraps of paper inside. And some of the letters seemed to be diabolically inspired, and would not fall into line for awhile, and then there were great consultations till the evil spirit was subdued.45

This process of enlargement-trace-drawing-reduction was technologically revolutionary, but it also fit simultaneously into a timeline of typographic changes, with attendant challenges in sizing, adapting, and designing.

There were two forms of enlargements in use: lantern slides at Walker’s lecture, and photographic prints for later study. Enlargement technologies, as a method of enlarging objects by projecting them with controlled lighting, were not possible until the late nineteenth century when the world had been electrified with steady controlled light. The technology that Morris and Walker used was thus very new, demonstrating Morris’s willingness to be an early adopter, concurrent with his social-labor concerns about mechanization.46 Since the invention of the daguerreotype in the 1830s, photography walked a fine line between art and science, freezing scenes and allowing for extended observation. Lantern slides were most often a standard and very small size, around 3¼ × 4″. They would be reduced from the original glass plate negative size to fit the lantern, through the process of rephotographing. Walker’s lecture would have involved glass plates appropriate for use in a magic lantern, projected onto a wall or screen, as a way to study [End Page 261] the enlarged projected version. Like an overhead projector today, the focus and the size of the image depended on how near or far the slide was from the wall. Lantern slides were also usually positive glass plate images: the negative glass plate would have been contact-printed onto another glass plate to make the positive.47

Morris also extensively studied from photographic prints, which were produced by Walker and Boutall. To enlarge or reduce the size of an image in the second half of the nineteenth century, the process would be to just take another photograph of the image with a different-sized camera. For example, if the original image was taken on an 8 × 11″ negative, in an 8 × 11″ camera, that could be rephotographed with a larger camera and glass plate, or with a smaller one, to make a larger or smaller image. This would allow Morris to view his designs at various sizes; this shifting of scale is a necessary hallmark of the projected enlargements, too. The process may seem inefficient and unwieldy to us, but it made sense at the time. When May Morris talks about Walker photographing and reducing, this would have been the process that he utilized. Morris’s process was to trace from photographic enlargements, modify his designs, and then have Walker photographically reduce the image to be equivalently sized to a piece of type. In letters to Edward F. Stevens, Walker simply explained part of the enlargement process: “We made photographs of a considerable number of types enlarged to a uniform size of five times of the originals. All the books from which they were taken were in his [Morris’s] own library.”48 The systematic nature of this practice is not unexpected, but it does reinforce the use of enlargements as slightly clinical and standardized design aids.

It is one thing to design at a large size and reduce down, and quite another to actually punch cut the letters, and this is where the distinctions between theoretical design and craftsmanship divided. Sparling describes the punches cut “with great intelligence and skill” by Edward P. Prince, who was in “constant consultation with Morris while at work on them.”49 Morris noted on the initial “smoked” print of the h about Prince’s “tendency to make everything a little too rigid and square is noticeable: Can this be remedied.”50 The back-and-forth process between Morris and Prince, who was an established punchcutter, speaks to the technical changes and shifts between drawing a letter and producing it in metal. This pattern of exchange is common typographic practice—although Morris, as a notorious perfectionist, was probably more finicky than some of his type-designing brethren. The increasingly specialized division of labor in the nineteenth century was a contributing factor to these communication failures, part of a longer trajectory in the separation of punchcutting and designing into two [End Page 262] distinct jobs; this division was oppositional to the “perfected” typefaces that Morris was envisioning.51

In turning to both the calligraphic hand and enlargements, Morris worked in a scribal design method that was filtered through contemporary technology. He had the benefit of funds and reputation to throw into his printing enterprise, while serving as a model for his peers by reinterpreting older fonts and using higher quality paper and inks. The Kelmscott printings are an embodiment of allusive typography, where the type matches in tone and aesthetic intent the content of the text.52 When stripped away from borders, wood engravings, and pseudo-medieval page design, Golden feels heavy and slablike, but the whole effect collectively works to create an integrated page. Allusive typography is the link between the enlarged scale of the pages of Morris’s books, and the enlarged scale of the type projected on the wall: space for the type to breathe, on the page and in photography. To accomplish this integration of text and aesthetics, Morris and his colleagues had to master awareness of historical precedents with knowledge of contemporary expectations. Enlargements allowed for perfection by exactly replicating typographic elements to be the exact shape that the designer wanted. Yet there is something decadent about a too-perfect font, one that cannot actually be created by fallible human hands. Craftsmen like Prince were restricted through the technological process of printing, affected by innovations that served to move typefaces further from the hand of the scribe.53

The changes between Morris’s initial designs, from the enlargements to the finished faces, show that what might be visualized could not actually be rendered. However, it would be physically possible to get the lowercase h exactly how Morris wanted it, in the digital version of the Golden—purchasable today for $35 in either Original or Bold—because physical human fallibility has been reduced as part of the design process. Benton described this as “the ability of the machine to achieve a fineness of line that eluded the pen stroke,” a development that simultaneously expanded some areas of type design while limiting others.54 Printing is an inherently technical process, and the “change of typefaces must be traced back to new needs necessitated, or new possibilities opened, by technical improvements.”55 Typographer Ruari McLean pointed out that the move from metal type to filmsetting also led to a greater variety of forms, since “many letter forms which could be drawn with a pencil, a pen, a brush or a crayon could not easily be cut or cast in metal.”56

While enlargements were crucial for Morris’s design process, so was the comparatively simple act of writing by hand. Changes in letterforms are inextricably linked to changes in pen shape and usage. At his lecture in 1888, [End Page 263] Walker showed a page from Ludovico degli Arrighi’s copybook, Il modo de temperare le penne con le varie sorti de littere ordinate, printed from woodblocks in Rome in 1523. Arrighi, known to Victorian audiences as Vicentino, was a sixteenth-century Venetian scribe and typographer. Morris owned a copy of this Arrighi, and would have been able to see it enlarged at the lecture, and close at hand in his library. When the enlarged copybook page appeared on the screen, according to Oscar Wilde, it “was greeted with a spontaneous round of applause.”57 Il modo de temperare le penne was a calligraphic guide with practical instructions about how to sharpen quills and shape letters, a product of a time when quills and parchment and linen paper were the primary method of written communication.58 The illustrations are instructive, in one instance showing the reader how to turn a raw quill into a writing instrument through a number of strategic cuts (Figure 7). Arrighi also highlighted different scripts (Figure 8), many of which have a flourish to the letters that would be harder to replicate in metal-casting. Since Arrighi’s letters were carved out of a woodblock, there was more fluidity of line possible, with closer visual ties to handwriting.59 Arrighi’s calligraphic examples are in keeping with contemporary writing instruction, and the letterforms in Il modo de temperare le penne affected later italic types.60 The Arrighi guide was a sixteenth-century woodblock printing of calligraphic models, which was subsequently rendered in enlarged form through the magic lantern for a nineteenth-century audience.

The move toward broadpens from pointed quills in the eighteenth century is an instance of technological innovations affecting letterforms. Traditional quills were more apt to wear down on wood pulp paper, which supplanted rag and linen paper in the nineteenth century.61 Quills were then replaced by steel-nibbed pens, which had developed in France in the middle of the eighteenth century. By the time of the Kelmscott Press, steel-nibbed pens were the norm, and due to the “metallurgy, markets, and machine-building” engendered by the Industrial Revolution, relatively inexpensive, both cheap to produce and hard to break.62 Pointed quills had the benefit of being sharper then broadpens, which also linked them to burins used in engraving.63 Importantly, the lines they produced were also thinner, and pointed quills were more sensitive to pressure from the hand, meaning a sharper contrast in line size was possible, which heightened the contrast between thin and thick strokes.64 Pointed nibs allowed for finer, sharper terminals, the ending point of penstrokes. The serifs in Bodoni are thin and flat, for example, while the serifs in Golden are at an angle, suggesting the lifting of the pen in the act of writing.65 The modern typefaces that Morris [End Page 264]

Figure 7. Pen instructions, Ludovico degli Arrighi, Il modo de temperare le penne con le varie sorti de littere ordinate, Rome, from woodblocks cut by Ugo da Carpi and Eustachio Celebrino, c. 1523. Image courtesy of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.
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Figure 7.

Pen instructions, Ludovico degli Arrighi, Il modo de temperare le penne con le varie sorti de littere ordinate, Rome, from woodblocks cut by Ugo da Carpi and Eustachio Celebrino, c. 1523. Image courtesy of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

[End Page 265]

Figure 8. Calligraphic samples, Ludovico degli Arrighi, Il modo de temperare le penne con le varie sorti de littere ordinate, Rome, from woodblocks cut by Ugo da Carpi and Eustachio Celebrino, c. 1523. Image courtesy of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.
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Figure 8.

Calligraphic samples, Ludovico degli Arrighi, Il modo de temperare le penne con le varie sorti de littere ordinate, Rome, from woodblocks cut by Ugo da Carpi and Eustachio Celebrino, c. 1523. Image courtesy of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

[End Page 266]

and Walker hated were indebted to new pen shapes, and were then popularized as a way to print more quickly and cheaply.

The ability to work from enlargements was the primary motivating force behind Morris’s type design. His previous printing experiences were mostly with mainstream presses; his commercially printed books were produced at London’s Chiswick Press, whose typographic choices reflected the Caslon revival by printing from early eighteenth-century British examples.66 He and Burne-Jones had considered making a deluxe Earthly Paradise in the 1860s, but Morris abandoned it because he could not find a typeface that effectively worked with the wood engravings.67 Throughout his career, Morris did often weigh in on design choices—designing the cover for the Reeves and Turner/Ballantyne Press The Earthly Paradise in 1890, for instance—but generally shied away from more specific typographic suggestions. While concerned with page layout, his interest centered on ornamentation—like the effect of borders and illustrations—rather than the typeface itself.68 When coupled with samples of handwriting, and Morris’s own interest in calligraphy, Walker’s lecture was a crucial juncture.

Yet Morris’s interest in calligraphy is part of the broader story. At a practical level, he had a great deal of prior experience crafting letterforms. He also continually placed manuscripts higher than incunabula in his artistic hierarchy, typically valorizing handcraft. At the same time, his own calligraphic output was in large part that of a dilettante. Morris dabbled in calligraphy, using incongruous materials indiscriminately, and often stopping transcriptions before the whole work was completed.69 His approach to calligraphy was nonspecialist, yet the results are often charming, greater than the sum of their parts. A Book of Verse, designed for Georgiana Burne-Jones in 1870, is a prime example. Decorated with gouache inset panels by Edward Burne-Jones, Morris’s text intertwines with snaking vines and foliage, a referent for both his wallpaper designs, especially “Willow,” and the later foliate borders in the Kelmscott Press works. In “Meeting in Winter,” Morris’s delicate script owes a much greater debt to Renaissance humanist letterforms, like Arrighi, and Carolingian miniscule, with the rounded slope of the letters, than it does to blackletter. Jerome McGann argues that A Book of Verse was the first time Morris achieved a “total integration of all its textual elements,” thanks to his artistic collaborations and “cooperative design,” an important step on his way to forming the Kelmscott Press.70 The look of A Book of Verse and his later printing is different, however. There is a good deal of leading between lines, producing a lightened effect—the sort of effect that Morris would revile in commercial printing twenty-five years later. This production was obviously created under different circumstances [End Page 267] than his printing enterprise, but it is notable how few immediate visual parallels there are between his handwriting and his typefaces.

Although Morris’s aim was not to produce historically correct calligraphic specimens, he did turn to the Arrighi while designing the frontispiece for A Dream of John Ball (Figure 9). Underneath Burne-Jones’s wood-engraving is Morris’s couplet in roman capitals, “When Adam Delved and Eve Span / Who Was Then The Gentleman,” which has calligraphic lifts on several of the terminals. As Morris wrote to Walker in 1892, “I helped myself out of that piece of Ludovico, which by the by is more than halfway toward black-letter.”71 Walter Crane described the Golden as effectively a “Roman type under Gothic influence”—but so were Jenson and Rubeus, too.72 Print history has segmented these two typeface categories, but their collective indebtedness to calligraphy is something that Morris drew from for his typefaces. Again, according to Crane, Morris was “wont to say that he considered the glory of the Roman alphabet was in its capitals, but the glory of the Gothic alphabet was in its lower case letters.”73 Morris’s letterforms are a hybrid of the two, and he often traced Gothic and Roman letterforms on a single sheet of paper, demonstrating the sort of historical blending that occurred during the fifteenth century, when both typefaces existed simultaneously.74

Despite this historical consciousness, Morris was cavalier about the pens that he used; his own quills were often cut irregularly, and he used crow quills instead of goose quills, which led to a much narrower nib.75 Calligraphy gave him the tools he needed to work with the photographic enlargements. This sort of calligraphic training contributed to Morris’s drawing from Leonardo Bruni’s Historiae Florentini populi, printed by Rubeus (Figure 10). The lines composing Morris’s letters are angular, and they awkwardly intersect. The g is self-consciously rigid, while the long s betrays an almost jerky motion of the pen at the apex of the letter. But these letters were not written with a broadpen: they were traced from a photographic print and then filled in with a narrower pen. The sketched letters in the bottom line suggest Morris’s process of tracing, inking, and reworking.

As in the Kelmscott Press books, Morris’s calligraphy was aesthetically balanced by illuminated borders and illustrations. This visual density has led to charges that the Kelmscott books are illegible, or at the very least that their main point is not legibility. They have been viewed as impressive art, but not as books. Despite Morris’s professed aims to make books that were easy to read, by not troubling “the intellect of the reader by eccentricity of form in the letters,” the works were frequently criticized by his historian-colleagues, especially in the twentieth century.76 “Notes on Morrisania” in 1896 stated that the Kelmscott books were better for collectors, not readers, [End Page 268] an idea which persists.77 Bruce Rogers acknowledged in 1900 that Morris’s types were handsome, but that readability was “lacking in all three faces, and that is the first requisite. His books are, some of them, very beautiful but they are rather curiosities of bookmaking than real books.”78 We are now also viewing his printing through the lens of modern typefaces and commercial bookmaking. If one is used to reading Bodoni, or even Times New Roman, then of course Golden will look dense and dark.

Figure 9. William Morris, A Dream of John Ball and a King’s Lesson (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1892). Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries.
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Figure 9.

William Morris, A Dream of John Ball and a King’s Lesson (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1892). Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries.

The critical assessment of the Kelmscott Press and legibility stands in contrast to Morris’s stated intention: “I have always been a great admirer of the calligraphy of the Middle Ages, and of the earlier printing which took its place. As to the fifteenth-century books, I had noticed that they were always beautiful by force of the mere typography.”79 The last part of this statement is an important summation of Morris’s design ethos, as he strove to combine beauty and utility. The books were beautiful because of the typography, and typography is ultimately there to be read.80 Yet “beautiful by force of the mere typography” also suggests Morris’s interest in typographical impact and weightiness. His letterforms are physical objects: heavy, slab-like, and carved. They are made to be noticed. Their forcefulness stems from this potent combination of historical models and nineteenth-century innovations, [End Page 269] possible through Walker’s enlargements of those valorized earlier printing examples, modeled on handwriting. As McGann notes, Morris’s typographic choices act to “foreground textuality as such, turning words from means to ends-in-themselves. The text here is hard to read, is too thick with its own materialities.”81 Morris’s typefaces incorporated design elements from the scribal hand, but the use of enlargements complicated human invention and human error. In Oscar Wilde’s review for the sculpture lecture a week before Walker’s talk, he wrote, “next week Mr. Emery Walker lectures on Printing. We hope—indeed we are sure, that he will not forget that it is an art, or rather it was an art once, and can be made so again.”82 The Kelmscott Press emphatically declared printing to be an art.

Figure 10. William Morris’s pen drawing from an enlarged photograph of Leonardo Bruni’s Historiae Florentini populi (Venice: Jacobus Rubeus, 1476). Reproduced in William Morris and the Kelmscott Press: An Exhibition Held in the Library of Brown University (Providence: Brown University Library, 1960). Previously held in the John M. Crawford Jr. collection; current location unknown.
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Figure 10.

William Morris’s pen drawing from an enlarged photograph of Leonardo Bruni’s Historiae Florentini populi (Venice: Jacobus Rubeus, 1476). Reproduced in William Morris and the Kelmscott Press: An Exhibition Held in the Library of Brown University (Providence: Brown University Library, 1960). Previously held in the John M. Crawford Jr. collection; current location unknown.

Type designing is contingent upon technological imperatives. It is also a physical act.83 For Morris, the process involved tracing from the enlargements and drawing and redrawing the letterforms, before they were rephotographed at a scaled down size. As May Morris relayed, he also carried around smoked proofs in a matchbox. Smoked proofs were a standard design step, created by burning the face of existing type and imprinting that “smoke” onto a piece of paper. This imprint can then be examined for flaws, [End Page 270] or transferred onto a new piece of steel to cut a new punch that is the same as the model. It is an intermediary moment between initial design and printing. The act of turning scraps of paper in your hands to examine the smoked letters is different, physically, than turning a piece of metal type in your hands, but the impulse to move and arrange is the same. There is also a time element inherent in this studied looking: tracing letterforms and examining smokes is a luxury, one which many type designers could not have afforded. This sort of careful leisureliness is also inherently opposed to capitalist print production. In his 1896 lecture, Frank Colebrook pointed to the time-privilege of Morris’s printing: “The task requires time and patience. But Morris never grudges time. ‘If it takes a fortnight we must get it so,’ he says. The parallels must be perfect. I need not say there must not be any meandering of white athwart the page owing to bad spacing. No one at the Kelmscott would perpetrate such an outrage.”84 Enlargement technologies allowed for this attention to detail, and the ability to slowly rework at various scales, which was vital to Morris’s craftwork.

Larger pictures emerge from small details, and the larger picture for Morris’s printing is visual and physical. Pieces of type are difficult enough to punch and to handle in the best of circumstances. They are minute, relatively easy to break or wear down, and sometimes hard to read, especially when composing backwards and upside down; the smoked proof was necessary to assess the acceptability of the design. The already sizable difficulty in seeing the letters was exacerbated by Morris’s weakening eyesight in his later years. His eyeglasses are now located at Exeter College, Oxford, along with the rest of the contents of his desk at his death, with lenses thick enough to suggest optical difficulty.85 Modern typefaces and comparatively grey text blocks became legible in the nineteenth century in a way that they would not have been before, in part due to better eyeglasses and better light-sources.86 While the enlargements allowed for close study and replication in pursuit of typographic perfection, they were also a necessary aid for Morris, a technological advancement that allowed him to be able to see at a larger scale, and therefore to design. The enlargements were a facilitator, as part of a localized process. Morris and Walker lived down the street from each other in Hammersmith, and Morris drew inspiration from books that had been in his library. Seeing these books in a different format—with the letters dissected from their original context, projected as stand alone, sculptural objects—was the impetus needed for Morris to turn to type design.

The photographic enlargements also speak to Morris’s relative privileges: to have a well-connected and supportive friend like Emery Walker, to own [End Page 271] incunabula and manuscripts, to receive an Oxford education, and to amass money and connections. At the same time, he was part of a much broader printing and typographic community, and is now established as the revitalizer of the fine press movement. In Peterson’s summary, Morris’s achievement ultimately was bringing together “the complaints and proposed remedies being expressed by a number of his contemporaries, to give them a unified intellectual framework, to communicate them with extraordinary eloquence, and finally to carry his precepts out in action by producing a series of stunningly beautiful books at the Kelmscott Press.”87 To this assessment we must add that his achievements are contingent upon technology—both his embrace of it, and critical response to it. Morris drew from a photographic trace, a double removal from the original scribal hand. This reworked method of handcrafting is a technology, too.

It is worth remembering that our experience of nineteenth-century print on paper is really a trace rendered by another physical object, an inked piece of metal. Type is technically “something that you can pick up and hold in your hand. Bibliographers mostly belong to a class of people for whom it is an abstraction: an unseen thing that leaves its mark on paper,” where a typeface has come to mean “not the top surface of a piece of type, nor even of many pieces of assembled type, but the mark made by that surface inked and pressed into paper.”88 Trace was a key aspect of the enlargement process, allowing for exact copying and then modification. “Madeness,” as outlined by Joseph Leo Koerner on the concept of “factura,” the “aspect of the thing,” is visible through an objects’ material history as both an action and result of making.89 Ricketts despaired of modern type because it does not “show the influence of formative processes, nor does it reveal any logic in the anatomy of forms, nor does it have any special element of beauty.”90 What Ricketts wanted was the visual manifestations of formative processes, as a way to prove care, learning, and practice. With William Morris’s Kelmscott Press types, we have the rare chance to see his formative process, and the confluence of technological factors at play is an essential consideration for any visual or bibliographical work on his printing. We can examine traces and layerings of pens and photography: Morris’s actions, and the result.

Anna Wager

Anna Wager is a PhD candidate in Art History and Textual and Digital Studies at the University of Washington. Her dissertation examines the transatlantic relationship between architects, embroiderers, printers, and typographers in the nineteenth century, and the collaborative Arts and Crafts objects they produced. She has held fellowships at the Boston Athenaeum, the Delaware Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and Columbia University Libraries.

Notes

This article owes a great debt to Emily George, Jeffrey Todd Knight, Sandra Kroupa, Matt Poland, and Geoffrey Turnovsky, for their helpful feedback and suggestions. I am also grateful to audiences at MLA and SHARP, and for the invaluable support and comradeship of the William Morris Society and the Material Texts Colloquium at the University of Washington.

1. Greta Lagro Potter, “An Appreciation of Sir Emery Walker,” Library Quarterly 8, no. 3 (July 1928): 400–14, 402.

2. Oscar Wilde, “Printing and Printers: Lecture at the Arts and Crafts,” Pall Mall Gazette (16 November, 1888): 5–6, 5. The purpose of the lecture, put on by the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, was to demonstrate and “direct attention to the processes employed in the Arts and Crafts, and so to lay a foundation for a just appreciation both of the processes themselves and of their importance as methods of expression in design.” “Talk in the Studio,” Photographic News 32 (2 November 1888): 704.

3. William S. Peterson, “Introduction,” in The Ideal Book: Essays and Lectures on the Art of the Book, edited by William S. Peterson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), xi–xxxv, xvii.

4. William S. Peterson, The Kelmscott Press (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 77. I am grateful to Peterson for printing Walker’s lecture notes, as Appendix B. John Dreyfus also discussed the structure of Walker’s talk and some of the examples cited, in “Emery Walker’s 1888 Lecture on Printing: A Reconstruction and a Reconsideration,” Craft History 1 (1988): 118–30.

5. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 78.

6. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 78.

7. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 78.

8. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 79.

9. Walter Crane, “William Morris,” Scribner’s Magazine 22 (July 1897): 88–99, 95.

10. Frank Colebrook, William Morris: Master-Printer, ed. William S. Peterson (Council Bluffs, Iowa: Yellow Barn Press, 1989), 13.

11. H. Halliday Sparling, The Kelmscott Press and William Morris, Master-Craftsman (London: Macmillan and Co., 1924), 30, 41.

12. John Dreyfus, “New Light on the Design of Types for the Kelmscott and Doves Presses,” Library 29 (1974): 36–41, 36. An extant volume of the enlargements contains a note from Reed, “Enlarged photos of early Roman & Gothic type collected and presented to me by William Morris. 1891.” Reed further noted that “these types include the models upon which the founts were designed for use in the Kelmscott Press.”

13. The Benton-Waldo machine very slightly preceded the Linotype machine, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in the 1880s, and the Monotype machine, by Tolbert Lanston and revised by John Sellers Bancroft in the 1890s; Warren Chappell and Robert Bringhurst, A Short History of the Printed Word, 2nd ed. (Vancouver, B.C.: Hartley & Marks, 2000), 199. For more on Benton and his work, see Patricia Cost, “Linn Boyd Benton, Morris Fuller Benton, and Typemaking at ATF,” Printing History 16 (1994): 27–44.

14. Chappell and Bringhurst, Short History of the Printed Word, 225. Morris’s iron Albion press is now at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

15. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 58.

16. The Typographical Adventure of William Morris (London: William Morris Society, 1957), 24.

17. John Dreyfus, “Morris and the Printed Book: A Reconsideration of his Views on Type and Book Design in the Light of Later Computer-Aided Techniques,” Kelmscott Lecture, 1986, 12. As William S. Peterson also noted in “The Type-Designs of William Morris,” Journal of the Printing Historical Society, no. 19–20 (1985–87): 5–18, the “use of the camera in copying or adapting earlier typefaces has become so common in the twentieth century that we must remind ourselves of its novelty in Morris’s day: I am not aware that any other type-designer adopted such a technique before him,” 8.

18. Especially useful in establishing what Morris owned and what he was examining is the critical bibliography of Morris’s library, by William S. and Sylvia Peterson (https://williammorrislibrary.wordpress.com).

19. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 82. In a non-exhaustive list, Peterson also discusses the enlargement process in “The Type-Designs of William Morris,” particularly on pages 8 and 11, in A Bibliography of the Kelmscott Press (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), xxi–xxii, and in Kelmscott Press, particularly 84–89. See also Dreyfus, “Emery Walker’s 1888 Lecture on Printing,” 129, and Sparling, Kelmscott Press, 57–58.

20. Walker developed his method of process engraving from Alfred Dawson’s etching instruction at the Typographic Etching Co. R.C.H. Briggs, “Introduction,” in Typographical Adventure of William Morris, 4–7, 4.

21. Dreyfus, “New Light on the Design of Types,” 36.

22. William Morris, “A Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding The Kelmscott Press: An Essay Published in 1896,” in The Ideal Book: Essays and Lectures on the Art of the Book, ed. William S. Peterson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 75–78, 76.

23. Dreyfus, “New Light on the Design of Types,” 41, quoting Emery Walker from 17 May 1917 in The Times Literary Supplement.

24. Colebrook continued, “The parrot imitates the sailor, and particularly imitates the incidental blemishes of his conversation. Printerdom is not to be an earthly parrot-dise,” 25.

25. The comparison to Peter Schoeffer is particularly important, since Schoeffer was trained as a scribe before switching to moveable type design under Gutenberg, eventually forming his own printing dynasty. Colebrook described Morris’s interest in Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible (c. 1455), identifying it as “the earliest book printed with moveable types… has many features never been surpassed” (18).

26. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 92, and referenced in Briggs, “Typographical Adventure,” 6. The blackletter was ultimately a “freer and more skillful translation of his models.” Peterson also notes that several of the lowercase Troy letters look a great deal like Schoeffer and Zainer.

27. Peterson, Ideal Book, xvi.

28. William Morris, “A Note by Morris on His Aims in Founding The Kelmscott Press,” 76.

29. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 82.

30. Charles Ricketts, “Of Typography and the Harmony of the Printed Page,” translated from French by Richard K. Kellenberger, Colby Library Quarterly (November 1953): 194–200, 198.

31. Ricketts, “Of Typography,” 196. As “heirs of the tradition of beautiful writing, they had only to look back to the ancestral forms of letters used by the scribes of the tenth and eleventh centuries, to arrive, in this process of purification, at the superior Italian typography of the sixteenth century, which we call Roman and from which comes our modern typography, through a process of corruption.”

32. Ricketts, “Of Typography,” 196.

33. Peterson, Ideal Book, xvi.

34. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 9.

35. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 327.

36. Edward Tenner, Our Own Devices: The Past and Future of Body Technology (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 190. “The steel pen helped make possible mass instruction in writing, which would otherwise have exhausted teachers as it tormented geese” (191).

37. Henri-Jean Martin, The History and Power of Writing, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 329.

38. Typographical Adventure of William Morris, 23.

39. Megan L. Benton, “Typography and Gender: Remasculating the Modern Book,” in Illuminating Letters: Typography and Literary Interpretation, edited by Paul C. Gutjahr and Megan L. Benton (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 71–93, 71.

40. Benton, “Typography and Gender,” 72.

41. Peterson, The Ideal Book, xx. This breakdown is also evident in discussions about Rococo art and architecture.

42. Peterson, The Ideal Book, xx–xxi.

43. The association of handmaking with masculinity is counterintuitive, since other “crafts” like embroidery and textile creation are often associated solely with women; one of the many contradictions surrounding Morris’s practice.

44. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 84, 92. For more on Morris and slow printing, see Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013). The focus on “slowness” extended to paper; Colebrook lamented that “Morris’s love for slow made hand-made paper reminds me that paper makers are asked at this moment if they cannot increase their turn out from a maximum of about 300 feet of paper per minute to about 500 feet” (William Morris: Master-Printer, 29).

45. Dreyfus, “New Light on the Design of Types,” 37; Sparling, Kelmscott Press, 58.

46. It was not until the early twentieth century that photographic paper moved from albumen-coated paper to chlorobromide papers, which were more conducive to enlargement. I am grateful to Jennifer R. Henneman for illuminating conversations about these photographic processes.

47. The ability to show comparative examples with slide projectors, as Walker did, has had broader ramifications. Slide projectors have governed the structure of art history classes since lantern slides made it possible for the discipline to flourish in an academic setting; Heinrich Wölfflin is usually credited as the first art historian to utilize two projectors at once, allowing dual comparison of images. Joanna Drucker sees this as a limitation imposed by technology, since “art historians laid out their slide lectures on the light table in complex arrays of arguments and then had to compress the associative structure into side by side pairs to meet the constraints of the slide projector,” yet for early art historians, it would have been new and powerful. With the move from lantern slides to 35mm slides to PowerPoint, the dual imaging born of two projectors no longer has to be the norm. Yet although the technology has changed, many of us continue to teach with two images on the screen. See Joanna Drucker, Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014), 189–90.

48. Dreyfus, “New Light on the Design of Types,” 37.

49. Sparling, Kelmscott Press, 57. Prince was working in a time-honored tradition and it “could seem that punchcutting in his hands, though the instruments used might be of greater precision, was essentially unchanged as a process from that followed through by Garamond.”

50. Peterson reproduces this drawing in Kelmscott Press, 85.

51. The seminal source on the nuances in the punchcutter-designer relationship is Pierre Simon Fournier, Manuel Typographique (1764–1766), edited and translated by Harry Carter (London: Soncino Press, 1930).

52. Many catalogs on Arts and Crafts art are printed in a faux-Morrisean style, as are many critical bibliographies of Morris, a pertinent example of allusive typography’s continuing appeal.

53. Stanley Morison, Letter Forms (Vancouver, B.C.: Hartley & Marks, 1997), 99.

54. Benton, “Typography and Gender,” 73. John Dreyfus argued that “Morris was far too imbued with medieval attitudes towards creativity for him not to have some misgivings about tackling type design” in the manner that he did, and that “some of his misgivings are relevant to problems we meet today when using computer-aided and laser-technology to produce type designs.” Dreyfus, “Morris and the Printed Book,” 12. In 1924 Henry Halliday Sparling sniped “alike as readers, printers and letter-designers, we suffer from the typewriter, mechanical compositor and their concomitants—to say nothing of the unloveliness of our usual surroundings—which set up in us a subconscious barrier against the beauty we consciously seek,” Sparling, Kelmscott Press, 13.

55. S. H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1974), 1.

56. Ruari McLean, Typography (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1980), 9.

57. Wilde, “Printing and Printers,” 5.

58. These sorts of calligraphic guides became common in the 1520s, produced in Italy by Italian writing masters, and served to spread Chancery script, a hand used by bureaucrats, which remained a standard script until the nineteenth century; see Tenner, Our Own Devices, 189.

59. Other typefaces strongly based on handwriting certainly existed, like the sixteenth-century French caractères de civilité, designed by Robert Granjon, but their purposes were very different. Arrighi’s was in educational service to provide guidance about how to write, while the caractères de civilité were actually cast to print. The caractères de civilité was an impractical typeface, requiring a great deal of sorts, ligatures, and other tied letters, which often broke.

60. Bruce Rogers (1870–1957) was an influential American typographer who invented the Centaur font, and his twentieth-century italic is named Arrighi, for example.

61. Chappell and Bringhurst, Short History of the Printed Word, 198. “Different sorts of quills were tested,” including “horn and tortoise shell… sometimes reinforced with gold or other metal and tipped with a scrap of precious stone.”

62. As Tenner notes, 1.5 million steel nibs could be made from a ton of steel; in one example, Joseph Gillott, a Birmingham manufacturer, was shipping 62 million steel nibs a year in the 1840s (Tenner, Our Own Devices, 190).

63. Tenner quotes part of George Pratt’s poem “A Pen of Steel,” which is, remarkably, about steel pens and engraving: “Give me a pen of steel! / Away with the gray goose-quill! / I will grave the thoughts I feel / With a fiery heart and will” (Tenner, Our Own Devices, 190). Ricketts also claimed that by the time of Aldus, typography had “lost track of the work of the pen in an insipid or hasty purification of form at the hands of the engraver,” and since steel nibbed pens are similar in shape and affect to burins, this comparison seems particularly salient (Ricketts, “Of Typography,” 196).

64. Sparling described Bodoni thus: “[I]ts thins were thinned until they were skinnily mean, and its thicks thickened until they were potbellied” (Kelmscott Press, 25).

65. Chappell and Bringhurst, Short History of the Printed Word, 198. The axis of letters also changed, from “the axis of the forearm (which is normally oblique) to the axis of the pull-stroke (which is usually directly towards the body).”

66. Chappell and Bringhurst, Short History of the Printed Word, 224, and Peterson, “Type-Designs of William Morris,” 6.

67. Peterson, Ideal Book, xvi.

68. Jerome McGann, “‘A Thing to Mind’: The Materialist Aesthetic of William Morris,” Huntington Library Quarterly 55, no. 1 (Winter 1992), 55–74, 58.

69. Peterson charitably describes this tendency to drop works as the process of “an exceptionally busy man [who] was also notoriously impatient when confronted with time-consuming tasks”; Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 64.

70. McGann, “‘A Thing to Mind’”, 65.

71. Peterson, A Bibliography of the Kelmscott Press, 18.

72. Crane, “William Morris,” 95.

73. Crane, “William Morris,” 95.

74. Peterson, “Type-Designs of William Morris, 11.

75. Peterson, Kelmscott Press, 62.

76. Morris, “A Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press,” 75.

77. Susan Otis Thompson, American Book Design and William Morris (New York: R. R. Bowker Company, 1977), 35. Even in the nineteenth century the costs were prohibitive enough that the books were more likely bought by a wealthy clientele.

78. Thompson, American Book Design, 66.

79. Morris, “A Note by William Morris on his Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press,” 75–76.

80. Beatrice Warde’s famous essay “The Crystal Goblet or Printing Should Be Invisible” details how, in successful printing, the typography of a text should not even register to the reader, but should be subsumed to the content. The typography should appear so seamless that the reader should be able to ignore it entirely. See Warde, The Crystal Goblet: Sixteen Essays on Typography (Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1956).

81. McGann, “‘A Thing to Mind,’” 72.

82. Oscar Wilde, “Sculpture at the Arts and Crafts,” Pall Mall Gazette, London (9 November 1888): 3–4, 3.

83. Typographic terminology describes parts of letterforms as feet, arms, shoulders, necks, and faces. This linguistic borrowing reinforces the links between our physical bodies and the letters.

84. Colebrook, William Morris, 17.

85. John Dreyfus wrote convincingly in “The Invention of Spectacles and the Advent of Printing,” Library, Sixth Series, 10, no. 2 (June 1988): 93–106, about the trajectory of eyeglasses from the thirteenth century onwards, and how developments in glass, metal, optical knowledge, and scientific inquiry all changed how we saw then and how we see now. Being able to see better with the enlargements is a practical consideration here.

86. Legibility is about the material objects, but it is also about the habits and expectations of readers. The physical act of reading changed as smaller books were mass produced cheaply, and people changed reading positions to be able to see them better, holding books close to their face instead of propping them on a slanted desk. These smaller books become more legible through both these physical actions and the use of more sophisticated lightsources. See Tenner, Our Own Devices, especially “Chapter Eight: Letter Perfect?”

87. Peterson, Ideal Book, xxi.

88. Harry Carter, A View of Early Typography up to About 1600 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 5.

89. Joseph Leo Koerner, “Editorial: Factura,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 36 (Autumn 1999): 5–19, especially 9–10.

90. Ricketts, “Of Typography,” 197.

Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1499
Print ISSN
1098-7371
Pages
245-277
Launched on MUSE
2018-12-04
Open Access
No
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