The quality of printing in general declined in the early part of the 19th century. The rise in literacy and the demand for cheap books on woodpulp paper, as well as the introduction of the steam powered printing press were three of the factors for this phenomenon. It was only later in the 19th century that finely printed and bound books began to reappear in the market place.
William Morris, the English designer and socialist, revived the art of fine printing in the 1890s. The Grosvenor Library began to assemble a collection in the 1940s of works published by Morris and his Kelmscott Press with a nearly complete run in place by the late 1950s, with one notable exception. The famous Kelmscott Chaucer was donated to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library by the Wickser family in 1976.
Today, the Grosvenor Rare Book Room collection includes over 1,500 titles from approximately sixty of the modern British, American and Continental presses. In addition to Kelmscott, there are volumes from British presses such as Ashendene, Cuala, Curwen, Doves, Dun Emer, Eragny, Essex House, Golden Cockerel, Riccardi, Vale and others. Representing the American fine printers are the Book Club of California, Colt, Derrydale, DeVinne, Dwiggins, Ellis, Elston, Gehenna, Grabhorn, Mosher, Pynson, Ritchie, Rogers, Updike, Warde and more. Officina Bodoni and the Cranach Press are two fine examples of the Continental presses in the collection. The Grosvenor Rare Book Room also houses a substantial collection of materials from the Roycroft Press of East Aurora, NY and the Aries Press which was based in Eden, NY in the late 1920s.