My favourite famous volume goes further back in time. The oldest book in our collection is a medieval incunabulum, a 1478 edition of the Postilla in epistolas Pauli, also called Epistles or Letters of Paul. As we see from one of the bookplates, this particular volume belonged to William Morris, the Victorian artist, designer and poet. It was part of his private library in Kelmscott House, Hammersmith.
The book, printed in black ink, gothic type and double columns, also has some handwritten additions, added in the text in very bright red ink. When placed next to A. C. Swinburne’s Atlanta in Calydon: a tragedy, also in our library, and published by Morris’ Kelmscott Press, one cannot help but notice the exquisite medieval feel that trickles from one volume onto the other.
The format of the text, the red against the black, the crafted binding… this is a textbook example of Morris taking inspiration from early printed books for his own published volumes, a step towards his revival of the crafts and aesthetics of the medieval past.