Our Public Library has Just Completed its Kelmscott Press Collection!!!

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s predecessor, the Grosvenor Library, began to assemble a collection in the 1940s of the fine press works published by the Kelmscott Press, securing the majority of the Press’ printing by the late 1950s. The famous Kelmscott Chaucer was donated to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library by the Wickser family in 1976. In recent years this Library resumed investing in the few Kelmscott titles it lacked, – according to William S. Peterson’s authoritative checklist of 53 works in The Kelmscott Press. The Rare Book Room displayed the collection as it was to date in its 2010 -2011 The Ideal Book: William Morris and the Kelmscott Press exhibit.

The final lacking item was something that was already owned by the Library in facsimile and, although the Rare Book Room sought an original printing, it was not likely that one would soon or ever become available. That last Kelmscott item the Library needed was not a book, rather it was a printing of trial pages for the Lord Berners’ translation of Froissart’s Chronicles of which only 32 copies were issued in September 1897. However, William Morris had wanted to achieve the Chronicles for some time but postponed it for other projects. When Morris died in October 1896 the book had not been printed, but friends of Morris distributed that trial pages as homage to him.

In March 2020, it was discovered that London-booksellers Peter Harrington was selling an original copy of the Froissart Chronicles trail pages. The Library reserved the copy, then the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown put the sale and delivery of the item in limbo. After several anxious months, the last Kelmscott finally shipped and arrived on August 7, 2020, completing the Library’s collection!

Although it took the Kelmscott Press less than ten years to design and produce a beautiful body of 53 fine press works and it took this Library about seventy five years to collect them all. That the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library has a complete Kelmscott Press Collection is something to be very proud of—especially because we are a public Library!

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