William Morris

On the printing of Books, as reported in the Times


Mr. W. Morris delivered a lecture at the New Gallery on Thursday evening "On the Printing of Books". The lecture, which was the first of a series of five to be given by different lecturers under the auspices of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, was delivered in the North Gallery, which was completely filled by an appreciative audience. The chair was taken by Mr Cobden Saunderson.

Mr. W. Morris, who was received with cheers, demonstrated by means of lantern slides the various stages which printing had passed through from the time of its invention until the third decade of the 16th century. The first slide exhibited depicted a manuscript Bible written probably about the year 1290, which was practically the form of all the subsequent books he would have to shown them. The art of printing on its institution was a Teutonic art, he might even say a German art. The first books were printed actually in Germany at Mainz, on the Rhine. The German printers spread themselves all through Europe adn recruited their ranks with a certain number of Frenchmen, who were educated in their school, and together they were, for the first decade at any rate, the printers of all the books printed in Europe. The next slide exhibited showed a page from the first book printed in a book form with movable type. It was a Bible printed by Gutenberg at Mainz around 1453, the year of the taking of Constantinople by the Turks. There was thus a coincidence in the dates of these two events which had so great an influence on the new birth of letters which was shortly to be made manifest to the world. The initials of the book were painted by hand and not printed. The type of the books was rather stately in form, and was afterwards called missal type because many missals were printed in it. It was what they might call full-blown Gothic. Next came a picture of a Psalter printed at Mainz by Gutenberg in 1457, and this was follwed by another representing a book printed by Gutenberg with the help of Schaeffer. This slide showed an initial B printed in two colours, and the book afforded the first example of printing in two colours. Strange to say, having succeeded in printing as well as could be desired in two colours, printers never tried to do so again, probably because it was a process of great difficulty. The remaining slides illustrated the transitions from Gothic to Roman type, all the peculiar characteristics being pointed out by the lecturer as he proceeded. Pages were exhibited from works printed by Mentelin,at Strasburg, in 1473; by Schweinheim and Pannartz at the monastery of Sabiaco, near Rome, in 1467; by Friburger Crantz and Gerring, at Paris in 1471; by G. Zeiner , at Augsberg in 1472; by Jenson, at Venice, in 1476; by U, Zell, at Cologne; by Schüssler, at Augsburg, in 1472; by Jean de Pres and P. Gerard, at Abbeville, in 1486; by G. Leew, at Antwerp, in 1486; by Caxton, at Westminster, in 1477; and by Wynkin de Worde, at Westminster, in 1495; and by Bertelette, in London, in 1532. Finally, Mr. Morris exhibited slides representing pages from "The Golden Legend" and "Troy" printed by himself at Chiswick last year. In summing up the points of his lecture, he said that to produce good books as far as the artistic point of view was concerned they must print on pretty good paper, with good type, and the type must be put on the proper position on the page. This last point was very important, for whenever they saw a book that was rightly put upon the paper, even if the type was bad and the paper not good, the book would look rather pleasant than otherwise; whereas if the book were not properly put upon the paper it would always seem that something was wrong. When they had paid attention to these points they would have books which anyone could read with pleasure, and he thought it was something to feel that they were reading a little bit through their eyes as well as through their mind. (Cheers.)


On the Printing of Books (as reported by Times)


  1. 2nd November 1893, at a meeting in the North Gallery of the New Gallery, 121 Regent Street, London. The meeting was sponsored by the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.


The Times, November 6 1893, page 4. Morris's original notes have been lost.