Worth a closer look: Morris collection

Walking through the doors of the Collins Memorial Library, most of us speed past the reading room and the circulation desk and head straight to the Learning Commons computers. Typing out those last few pages of the paper due in less than an hour or printing out the reading materials for a class that we just remembered, we often neglect to look at the constant rotation of displays in front of the circulation desk. Fortunately, there is still time for you to view the “William Morris and the Art of the Book” collection currently on display in the library through Oct. 14.

The William Morris showcase contains books and printings by Morris and his publishing company Kelmscott Press Books, as well as items from the private collection of avid Morris enthusiast and collector Jack Walsdorf. Also on display is an amalgamation of printed volumes influenced by Morris’ life and accomplishments.

Who is William Morris, and why has a collector like Jack Walsdorf attained nearly 6,000 books on his life, works, and influences? Morris was a man of many trades from architecture to social reform, as well as a historic preservationist. For the purpose of the library display, Morris is a printer, publisher, writer and illuminator.  Influenced by a love of nature, wildlife illustrations cover and frame his intricately designed works in a way reminiscent of the décor of medieval texts.

Morris’ love of literature and the printed word finds a temporary home in our own library. As a printer and publisher, Morris’ goal was to produce books that were both beautiful and legible. His attention to detail in creating what he dubbed the “ideal book” can clearly be seen in the meticulous care he took in forming and publishing his works. Appreciation for his work is evidenced by the love and time put into the collection of his books by enthusiasts such as Jack Walsdorf.

Original copies of Morris’s works such as the essay “A Factory As It Might Be” and “The Kelmscott Chaucer” can be found in the library display cases, along with literary works of those influenced by Morris’ style, and literature such as volumes from Elbert Hubbard’s press.

This colorful display demonstrates the great breadth of influence of the unique Morris. From the teachers that influenced him, to his own works and to those artists and works that came after him, the quick nine-display collection gives the visitor a large basis upon which to understand the effect of Morris on the literary and decorative world.

The exhibit has intrigue for all interests. If you have a love for literature and literary history, then the rare items on display will surely tickle your fancy.  However, the display not only shows printed works but also gives insight into Morris’ personal life, which was surprisingly full of matrimonial scandal. In addition, the display showcases works that demonstrate how Morris and his followers used his style of decoration for various social campaigns.

The collection on display combines the simple beauty of literature and art in a seamless and informative manner. Through the items, you can see the amount of time and love invested by collector Jack Walsdorf as he assembled his collection.

So don’t pass by yet another of the many displays rolling in and out of the library and miss the opportunity to learn something new about  such a prominent figure in the history of literature as William Morris. Collins Library frequently offers us the chance to enjoy and learn from unique and prestigious exhibits such as the one currently occupying the foyer. You can also learn something new in the library you frequent daily, such as the origins of the newly acquired antique printing press also on display with the William Morris collection. Remember to take the time to look up as you pass by the circulation desk and spend a few minutes appreciating everything that the library has to offer, starting with the “William Morris and the Art of the Book” exhibit, around until Oct. 14.