Building and traversing a pocket cathedral
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In 1894, Edward Burne-Jones, an illustrator who often worked with William Morris, compared the Kelmscott Press’s edition of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer to a “pocket cathedral.” A cathedral is an ornate architectural space, and the Chaucer is extensively illustrated. While no single book is completely representative of the press, most Kelmscott books were minimally illustrated. In “The Ideal Book,” Morris supports books that have an “architectural arrangement.” This refers to a holistic composition in which all elements function harmoniously, and permit easy legibility. This is a structural description that can be achieved even if the book lacks ornamentation. This means that volumes other than the Chaucer are suitable for analysis as architecture. I will demonstrate how the Kelmscott Press’s edition of Morris’s The Wood Beyond the World, with its single illustration, draws the reader into a holistic and transformative space that functions like a cathedral.