The History of Reynard the Foxe, translated from the Dutch by William Caxton.
Observations on a copy of the Kelmscott Press printing of this book in the Special Collections of Kent State University Library.
Bound in limp vellum. From the Library of Paul Louis Feiss.
Printed by William Morris, Kelmscott Press, December 15, 1892.
The quality of this book as a whole is just amazing. It is... perfect. It is clearly one of the better things that William Morris did. It is not just the quality of the design, but also the quality of the printing. I have seen a couple other of his books, in the Kent State University collection, and they were nice, but they were not this good. The quality of the printing is perfect. The impression of the letterpress on the page is crisp and dark without being smashed into the paper.
The woodcut borders are far more expansive than in the smaller books. Also far more varied. And as in The Recuyell of the Historeys of Troy, the transparency of the paper is worked with. It's a reasonably heavy paper, but it is still somewhat transparent. The designs from the margins of one page show through to the margins of the facing page. And it is done carefully. Very carefully. Perfectly.
There's a bit of foxing to the paper. Not so spotty as in many books, but spread out. But still spotty.
The person who cut the pages open did it rather carelessly. Sadly. I don't know why. It looks like they used a knife that was too sharp. But Paul Louis Feiss was a knowledgeable book collector. Perhaps an owner prior to him. But some of the borders are cut into a bit. Gah!
The spacing between the characters is good.
I don't like the color of the red so much as in the books published a year or two later. But it is a nice clear, crisp impression of the red.
The woodcut borders seem to have been rather heavily inked, in some places, to good effect. In others, they are inked normally, and that works well there too. This copy appears to have been early in the print run - the woodcuts are extremely crisp. And, if I recall correctly, they were reused in later books and elsewhere in the same book. Still, so much variation that I don't notice the difference. The borders are floral in nature, but do not appear to be of any specific flowers or plants.
This text, which appears illegible in so many reproductions, is so readable here. I don't know whether it is the way the printing is done, the nice letterpress impression, or what. But it works.
It’s the black. The text is just so darn black. Not overinked… but the black is such a black black. The pigment is so excellent.
The size of the book is also right - about 9 x 12 inches, and with perfectly sized margins.
Unlike some of Morris's other books, where the quality gets better as one goes along, the quality of this book remains constant the whole way through.
There is, in places, a tiny bit of running in the red. I've seen this in other books by other authors… the difficulties of finding perfect pigments for bright colors.
The vellum of the cover is dirtied and worn at the edges… it appears this book has been used.
Thank you, Paul. Thank you for sharing such a perfect book.
If you are looking for this book at your local city or university library, the title is The history of Reynard the Foxe, printed at the Kelmscott Press, in either 1892 or 1893. If you have access to WorldCat, there are three relavent entries: accession numbers 705700; 4395043; and 21703282.