The stock of the Ward Library is often supplemented by donations from old members of the College and we do not always know what we will find. In 2011 we were bequeathed a very large donation of books from the library of Mr David G. Marriott, (1927-2009) who had matriculated at Peterhouse in 1948. We added 270 titles to stock, mostly English literature and history, and the remainder were sold and the proceeds used to purchase further titles for undergraduate use. The books had arrived packed fairly haphazardly in large cardboard boxes and were mainly a mixture of popular and standard works in all subjects. In a box of much-loved, but rather dusty, children’s books from the 1930s and 40s, we spotted a vellum-bound book, with broken silk ties, which seemed out of place.
On opening it, we recognized at once the unmistakable title-page of a Kelmscott Press work by William Morris. It was a first edition copy of The Wood beyond the World. The colophon records “Printed at the Kelmscott Press, Upper Mall, Hammersmith. Finished the 30th day of May 1894.”
William Morris, (1834–1896), was an author, artist and designer and visionary socialist. The Wood beyond the World was the third of his magical–realist romances, set in an imaginary past, and written at the end of his life. In 1891 Morris had set up the Kelmscott Press at 16 Upper Mall in Hammersmith, in order to produce books which would be a pleasure to look at as well as to read.
The typeface used is Chaucer, one of the three typefaces – Golden, Troy, and Chaucer – that Morris designed for the Press. He also designed the borders, half-borders and ornamental initial capitals. The work is printed in black, with shoulder notes and chapter titles in red, on Batchelor handmade paper. The wood-engraved frontispiece is designed by Edward Burne-Jones and engraved on wood by L. Spielmeyer.
The donation also produced a copy of The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, published by J.M. Dent & Sons in 1938 and printed by Hague and Gill Ltd, with engravings by Eric Gill. In a limited edition of 550 copies this is signed by ‘Eric G.’
Eric Gill (1882–1940), was an artist and craftsman, a sculptor and wood engraver, and social critic who led an unconventional and controversial lifestyle. Like Morris, he designed and cut type, notably Gill Sans and Perpetua, still in common use throughout the world.
We were also pleased to discover a number of first editions of poetical works by T.S. Eliot, including Little Gidding, East Coker and Burnt Norton, published by Faber between 1940 and 1942.
And, finally, a Journey of the Magi published by Faber and Gwyer in 1927, printed at the Curwen Press, and illustrated by E.McKnight Kauffer.