LETTERS FROM THE 15TH CENTURY: ON THE ORIGINS OF THE KELMSCOTT CHAUCER TYPEFACE. A STUDY, WITH SPECIMEN LEAVES, OF THE INFLUENCE OF THE EARLY GERMAN PRINTERS ON WILLIAM MORRIS' MASTERPIECE.
(McMinnville, Oregon: Phillip J. Pirages, 2019). Text: 244 x 154 mm. (9 1/8 x 6 1/8"); Case: 502 x 372 mm. (19 3/4 x 14 5/8"). ii, 75 pp. ONE OF 47 COPIES (numbered I-XLVII) bound in flexible vellum from a total edition of 165 COPIES.
Bound in flexible vellum with ties (inspired by Kelmscott Press bindings) by Amy Borezo, who also constructed the case holding the volume and leaves. The book printed letterpress on Zerkall Book Laid Vellum paper by Arthur Larson at Horton Tank Graphics. Book layout by Jill Mann. EACH COPY WITH FIVE LEAVES: ONE FROM THE KELMSCOTT CHAUCER with woodcut borders, woodcut beginning word, and a woodcut scene designed by Edward Burne-Jones, AND ONE EACH FROM THE PRESSES OF FOUR GERMAN PRINTERS FROM THE 1470s--PETER SCHOEFFER, JOHANN MENTELIN, GÜNTHER ZAINER, AND ANTON KOBERGER, the Zainer leaf featuring at least one woodcut initial. The incunabular leaves consistently excellent, with only minor defects, and the Kelmscott leaves (which were never part of a bound volume) in entirely fine condition.
This is a unique leaf book in the way that it combines three elements: a significant private press production involving people at the top of their craft, a scholarly commentary that contributes to a further understanding of the history of printing, and--most important--five leaves: one from the Kelmscott Press "Works" of Geoffrey Chaucer and four from books issued by German printers at work in the 1470s. The book has been printed and bound by hand by gifted professionals; the essay addresses a topic of significance to typophiles in a considerably more thoroughgoing way than has been done before; and the assemblage of leaves represents a powerful visual reinforcement of the text, as well as an opportunity to share in the ownership of four important incunabula, along with the extraordinary Kelmscott Chaucer. The story of the production is heavy on serendipity: in the winter of 2012, after purchasing a very incomplete copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer at auction, we considered the possibility of producing a leaf book, but because the Chaucer--universally considered to be one of the most beautiful books ever printed--had been written about by so many different people in so many different ways, we didn't know what aspect was left for us to explore. The one topic we fastened on as thus far inadequately examined is the origin of the work's typeface. We soon learned that Morris, who is known to have owned more than 500 incunables, most admired--and was, consequently, most likely to have been influenced in his typographic design by--Peter Schoeffer of Mainz, Johann Mentelin of Strassburg, Günther Zainer of Augsburg, and Anton Koberger of Nuremberg. Over the course of the years succeeding the purchase of the defective Chaucer, we were fortunate beyond all expectation to acquire incomplete books from each of these four eminent printers. As a result, the present leaf book will allow the reader not only to read in the accompanying essay about the influence on Morris of his typographic forebears, but also to compare with his or her own eyes the resemblances between the Kelmscott leaf and the leaves from four centuries earlier. (ST15039cA)