(Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1892). 210 x 150 mm. (8 1/4 x 6"). 2 p.l., 123 pp. ONE OF 300 COPIES on paper (and 11 on vellum).
Original publisher's flexible vellum, original silk ties. Full-page woodcut frontispiece engraved by W. H. Hooper after Edward Burne-Jones, two pages with full woodcut borders, numerous 10-line and smaller woodcut initials. Peterson A-6; Sparling 6; Forman 106; Walsdorf Collection 6; Walsdorf "William Morris" 6; Tomkinson, p. 109. The vellum with just a hint of soil, text one shade less bright than an ideal copy, but an excellent copy, entirely clean throughout, with virtually no signs of use.
This is a pleasing copy of one of Morris' most popular literary works, and an item of equal interest for its obvious aesthetic merit as for the writing itself. Founded in 1891, the Kelmscott Press produced 53 titles in 66 volumes, and its founder, William Morris, created three notable typefaces. In his "Note" about the press, which took the form of the final Kelmscott book, Morris said, "I began printing books with the hope of producing some which would have a definite claim to beauty, while at the same time they should be easy to read and should not dazzle the eye, or trouble the intellect of the reader by eccentricity of form in the letters." First published in book form by Morris in 1888, the present work has been called by DNB "the most remarkable of his prose writings" and "a work of singular elevation and beauty," whether classed as a romance or as a study in the philosophy of history (it qualifies as either). Morris was deeply involved in the movement of guild socialism, which sought to abolish social and economic hierarchy as well as to return dignity to labor and restore beauty to handicrafts in defiance of the mass production at the heart of industrialization. In "John Ball," Morris dreams his way back to the 14th century--a time of cottages, village greens, and no urban blight--to follow the course of Wat Tyler's rebellion, of which the fiery egalitarian priest John Ball was one of the doomed leaders. Ball preached that as descendants of Adam and Eve, we are all on the same level, and the frontispiece by Burne-Jones illustrates our first parents in the act of elemental gardening. In "A King's Lesson," the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus sends his nobles out to the vineyards to labor, that they may learn that the peasant life is not one of idleness. Before they were issued together as a book, "John Ball" and "King's Lesson" first appeared separately in "Commonweal," a journal of the Socialist League, in 1886-87. (ST13832)
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PJP Catalog: SE18BF.053