For some, the availability to reproducing in large quantities was not as exciting as it was to others. During the arts and crafts movement it became popular again to create things by hand, one at a time so that the book felt more real, more personal. During the industrial revolution, people who felt that artist morality and touch was being diffused, reacted by making book design less of a mass production process, and more like a handcrafted limited edition art piece.William Morris, who grew up along the English countryside, was the son of a wine importer, who published his first volume of poems by the time he reached 24. During his time at Exeter College, he and a friend by the name of Edward Burne-Jones were intending on joining the ministry. Not long after graduating however, they both realized they wanted to become artists and because of the wealth of Morris’s father he was able to experiment as much as he desired. After Morris got married, he and his wife moved into a house that was built for them, and by helping to design and furnish the interior, Morris became inspired and joined a decorating firm in which anything from glass windows to furniture and fabrics were designed. Inspired by his firm and work, a group called the Century Guild consisting of a few young designers and artists, decided to create a magazine called The Century Guild Hobby Horse which consisted of many art pieces and articles relating to the arts and craft movement, along with the decadent movement and some art nouveau. Its paper was handmade, and included woodblock illustrations, which the served the arts and craft movement advocates well.
This movement not only encouraged the use of using human hands instead of machinery to create art, but it also encouraged beautiful thought out aesthesis in design compositions, rules, and materials so that art was able to become respected through its original form, once again. Though easy reproduction was great for advertising and the ability to share and communicate ideas, the arts and crafts movement emphasized the importance of art within printing. Mackmurndo, the one who started The Century Guild Hobby Horse, introduced how intricate and “art-like” design and typography can be, to William Morris. Morris quickly became passionate about margins, layout, typography, and all the possibilities of book design once Mackmurndo explained the techniques and processes that go into the design world, and how similar the techniques are to his idea of art. Spinning off of this explanation of art, an article called “On the Unity of Art” written in 1887, spoke about how all forms of visual expression should be considered art. Leaving us with the statement; “For when you begin to realize, that all kinds of invented Form, and Tone, and Coulour, are alike true and honorable aspects of Art, you see something very much like a revolution looming ahead of you.”
The Kelmscott press was the last piece that Morris leaves with us to ponder and appreciate as we study not only art, but also society and the artist’s mindset. Consisting of 556 pages of intricate ornamental letters, typefaces that Morris himself designed, and illustrations from Walter Crane along with many others, was the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. It involved elaborate graphics and drawings made with woodblocks, and typefaces such as Chaucer, which Morris created for this book. The book consisted of writings by Morris himself, along with those of his favorite medieval authors. This work left us with so much handcrafted beautiful parts, that you could almost feel the sweat and tears put into it when you look at the individual pages themselves, and I believe that was probably his intention.
Meggs, Philip B. “The Prolouge to Graphic Design.” A History of Graphic Design. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. 4+. Print.