Kelmscott Printer's Device

The Pursuit
Of The Ideal:
The Life And Art Of
William Morris

An Exhibition at the University of Michigan
Special Collections Library
September 9 - November 2, 1996

Occasionally there appears a person whose prodigious talents force us to stand back in awe. Maybe the person is a poet, maybe a pianist, maybe an inventor, a research scientist, an athlete, a potter. But rarely do we find someone in our midst who excels in many fields, whose seemingly unending vigor reflects vision, intellect, learning, skill, and craft.

Such was the man William Morris: painter, poet, translator, designer, decorator, craftsman, manufacturer, businessman, printer, artist, socialist, reformer, husband, father, friend. To honor this life and commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his death, the Special Collections Library at The University of Michigan has mounted this exhibit. Included are first and early editions, descriptions and photos of his art, and a fine array of books from his Kelmscott Press. The story describes one of the great Victorians, a man who was at once a dreamer and idealist as well as a realist and pragmatist. At the time of his death, his attending physician is said to have remarked that here lived a man who accomplished “more work than most ten men.” Literary critic George Sampson, when he was summing up Morris’s amazing career, said, “His whole strength of purpose was dedicated to the reconstitution of modern life, upon conditions that would bring beauty to all men.” Morris’s enlightened vision still beckons to our contemporaries, and perhaps is one explanation for his enduring reputation.

The Exhibit
The full exhibit was on display at the Special Collections Library from September 9 through November 2, 1996. A catalog is available by contacting the Library at Special Collections Library, University of Michigan, 920 North University, Ann Arbor, MI 49109-1205 (telephone: 734-764-9377). This electronic presentation is a shortened version intended to highlight key events and accomplishments in Morris’s life. Because of copyright restrictions, it unfortunately omits the illustrations of Morris’s crafts, especially those produced by his manufacturing firm, Morris & Co. Other materials have also been left out due primarily to the time required to download images. For all of this, however, we are happy to share a few of our materials representing some of Morris’s finest work.