William Morris and the European Artistic Connection

Abstract :

The lecture is connected to my researches – the influence of the Kelmscott Press over the European private press movement. Among many examples, I chose to put the stress on an obvious connection between late 19th century French and British private press. My aim is to bring  into the light the links between William Morris’ Kelmscott Press and Lucien Pissarro Eragny Press both in substance and form.

According to William Morris, Middle Age and early Renaissance Art of the Book had to be considered as a guideline for the production of books. This idea has to be considered as the foundation of Morris’ Book Aesthetics and was spread all over Europe.The substance and form problematics was  a point especially covered in two texts.

Firstly, we’ll talk about The Ideal Book lecture that Morris gave in 1893. His demonstration was about the strong connection between Architecture and book arrangement.

The second text – Aims in founding the Kelmscott Press (1895)- deals with similar ideas and opens this way:

« …

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.

… »

These two texts which initiated Morris’ Book Aesthetics principles gave rise to major precepts that have definitely left their mark on late 19th and early 20th centuries private press holders: the will to update the art of making books,  that was agonizing due to omnipotent sales and distribution considerations;
the moral obligation to get back to the very source of the Art of the Book in order to appropriate a part of its knowledge and formal aspects;
the complete control over the book production, from the editorial contents to its arrangement without forgetting the decoration and the use of quality paper and inks;
and last, the idea that a good book is made of a scholarly substance and a form to emphasize it. The latter, as well as adapting to the literary content, must have a coherent ornamental significance – beautiful and striking in its own. It can’t be a sycophantic decoration but has to be regarded as important as the text.

At the very end of the 19th century, these ideas went around in Europe and got mixed with others. Some people blatantly made them their own and began manufacturing books with the ideas of Beauty, Ethics and Good in mind. Of course, the result was somewhat different but the philosophical approach surely derived from Morris’ principles.

We could choose many examples, but being a French member of the William Morris Society I’d rather present a French British illustration. Therefore, I will talk about Lucien Pissarro’s Eragny Press which really acted at that time as a bridge between French and British Aesthetics. What is more, even though the lives of Lucien Pissarro and William Morris hardly had anything in common we can still establish the convergence of their political ideas as Pissarro was then very close to French socialist and even anarchist league.


Type de document :
Communication dans un congrès
The 50th Anniversary Congerence of the William Morris Society, Royal Holloway - University of London, 2005, Londres, United Kingdom. 2005
Liste complète des métadonnées

Contributeur : Okina Université d'Angers <>
Soumis le : vendredi 7 décembre 2018 - 17:16:22
Dernière modification le : mercredi 19 décembre 2018 - 14:14:01


  • HAL Id : hal-01948499, version 1
  • OKINA : ua18315



Florence Alibert. William Morris and the European Artistic Connection. The 50th Anniversary Congerence of the William Morris Society, Royal Holloway - University of London, 2005, Londres, United Kingdom. 2005. 〈hal-01948499〉



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