UBC Library Acquires Rare Limited Edition Chaucer Book



UBC Library has acquired a copy of Kelmscott Press's The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, described by the poet William Butler Yeats as "the most beautiful of all printed books."

Printed in a limited edition of only 438 copies, the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer was published by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press in 1896. Morris spent four years designing what he believed to be the ideal book. Celebrated for its unique type, lavish decorative borders and remarkable illustrations, the poet William Butler Yeats later described it as the “most beautiful of all printed books.”

“The acquisition of this copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer is a significant coup for UBC,” said Gregory Mackie, assistant professor in UBC’s department of English. “Books like this one almost never come onto the international market, and only 48 copies exist in the world with this particular binding.”

A joint acquisition by UBC Library and the faculty of arts, the Kelmscott Chaucer was purchased for $202,000 USD after two years of fundraising efforts..

“The Chaucer will not only help our students better understand the English-speaking world’s book culture at the end of the 19th century,” said Siân Echard, head of the English department, “but it will also help illuminate that period’s profound engagement with the even more distant past of the Middle Ages.”

The Kelmscott Chaucer is available for viewing at the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC.

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VIDEO: UBC Library acquires copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer

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