WM at Marlborough College / by Sasha Ward

This is where William Morris was at school for 3 years, he lived in A house (interior, above left) with its simple winding staircase - now no longer a boarding house and filled with flags. The College Chapel has one window commissioned from Morris & Co. in 1875. As usual what I look for are the WM designed background patterns, a lovely dark green with bright orange fruit in the centre and a familiar looking acanthus leaf below.

In the library archive is a shelf of rare Morris related books, including a vellum bound Kelmscott Press "Sidonia the Sorceress" presented by WM and shown below. (Click to enlarge)


"The fact is, my dear fellow, that at present the absolute duties of my life are summed up in the necessity of taking care of my wife and my daughter, both of whom in one way or other are in bad health. My work of all kinds is really simply an amusement taken when I can out of my duty time". From a letter from WM to John Bruce Glasier, 1892.

In the 1890s this amusing work was mainly for the Kelmscott Press, and as I read these late letters I became increasingly interested in the ornamental capitals that he was designing at that time. There are different plant types used seemingly randomly around the letters, as you can see in the open pages above, and also different ways of integrating the letter with the background foliage. 

The four letters on the left (above) are separate from the foliage, the next two show stems twining around the letters (and making them less legible as far as I'm concerned), while the two on the right are pierced by the stems of flowers and vine tendrils. There are lots of these pierced letters, their appearance is, to me, disturbing and 3-dimensional.