We’re kicking off a new weekly feature here at UWM Special Collections - Fine Press Fridays! One of our goals in Special Collections is to document the history of the book and how the form of the book has been used by publishers and printers to express their ideas throughout time. As such, we have a strong focus on works produced by the fine press movement. The contemporary fine press printing movement originated in the 19th century with the work of Englishman William Morris. Disenchanted with current printing methods and desirous of returning to a time when books were printed with care and artistry, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891, printing books by hand using handmade paper and ink. The movement spread to several countries and continues to this day.   

Our inaugural Fine Press Friday piece is A Note by William Morris, in which Morris describes his goal to create books “which would have a definite claim to beauty, while at the same time…be easy to read and…not dazzle the eye, or trouble the intellect of the reader by eccentricity of form in the letters.” The final book printed at Kelmscott Press in 1898, the work relays Morris’s ideas of what constituted a beautiful book, his attempts to “redeem the Gothic character from the charge of unreadableness which is commonly brought against it,” the history of Kelmscott Press, and a bibliographic list of every work Morris printed at Kelmscott. One of the most unique features about this book is that it contains all three types designed by Morris; the main body of text is set in his Golden typeface, while quoted passages from Morris’s lecture “The Lesser Arts” appear in his Chaucer and Troy typefaces. The book also contains examples of Morris’s ornamentation and features a wood engraving by Edward Burne-Jones. 

See it in the catalog here.

Fine Press Friday? Yes, please!

The Dance of Death


The Dance of Death was first published at Lyons in 1538 and has undergone many editions since. It features woodcuts based on the designs of the famous Hans Holbein.

The haunting woodcuts and their accompanying verses aimed to show that Death would come for anyone, regardless of their station.





To add to the already humbling message, the book features a print of a lonely beggar crying for Death; ironically, this is the only print that does not feature Death itself.


Holbein, Hans, Hans Lutzelberger, Gilles Corrozet, and Austin Dobson. The Dance of Death. London: Chiswick Press, 1898. Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

This unassuming octavo is a 1652 copy of John Hoddesdon’s compiled Tho. Mori vita & exitus, or, The history of Sr. Thomas More, sometime Lord High Chancellor of England.  Hoddesdon was an unsuccessful writer and later turned to trade in 1658.  His life of Sir Thomas More was reissued in 1662 perhaps to pay off his debt (Hodson, ODNB). Apparently Hoddesdon’s book is not as thorough or complete as the reader thought it should have been (or maybe he really was just a terrible compiler).  The last leaf of the book features additional witty sayings by Sir Thomas More left out by Hoddesdon.  The reader did not make any other notes—only adding his or her thoughts at the end.

Jillian S.

PR2322 .H6



Here’s a look at the George Peabody Library’s collection of books and ephemera relating to The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851. First up is a lively chromolithograph of the Crystal Palace and its grounds, showcasing boating, carriage rides, and tourists taking in the sites.

Next we have a print of “Wot is to be” : or probable results of the industry of all nations in the year ‘51 : showing what is to be exhibited, who is to exhibit it : in short, how it’s all going to be done,” a look into the inner-workings of the great exhibition. This particular print showcases inventors with their patent machines for putting down revolutions, subduing Chartism, and grinding paupers’ noses. Of course, the real star of the print is the Prize Pig, because no exhibition would be complete without impressive farm animals!

The next two images are chromolithographic prints showing the Arms of All Nations (because we all know the world is comprised of nineteen countries) and the interior of the Crystal Palace’s exhibition hall.

For a more unique view of the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, check out the Lane’s Telescopic View! This ‘Telescopic View’ is made of printed paper and card, and is supplied in a slip-in card box. When you view the internal scene through the little peep hole in the cover, you see a three dimensional view of the inside of the Crystal Palace in 1851, and the grand opening by Queen Victoria. Cool, right?



August 25, 1836: Bret Harte’s birthday

Guest Post from Kassie M., Grad student in the Map Collection

This map was discovered in the map collection this summer as part of the inventory project. The map features the names and illustrations of famous American writers or their characters. Bret Harte, the famous American author and poet, is featured on a map inset.

Map: Firley, H.J. (ed.) & Boys, J. (ill.) A Pictorial Map Depicting the Literacy Development of the United States. Chicago: Denoyer-Geppert:Chicago. 1952.



The exhibition “Bound and Beyond: Structure in Book Art,” opens this Friday, September 19, and runs through October 10 in the UWM Union Art Gallery. Drawn primarily from the Book Arts Collection in Special Collections at the UWM Libraries, this show explores the innovative, structural ways in which artists conceive of the book as art. Max Yela, head of UWM’s Special Collections, will offer the opening gallery talk this Friday at 7 pm. Here’s a sampling of book works in the show.
Jeffrey Morin. “Sacred Space.”
Stevens Point, Wis., sailorBOYpress, 2003.
Maryann Riker. “Women’s Work 1.”
Phillipsburg, N.J.: JUSTARIP Press, 2009.
Jessica Poor. “Surrogate #5, Male.”
Milwaukee, Wis.: Fez Monkey Press, 2006.
Linda Smith. “House of Cods.”
Phoenix, Ariz.: Picnic Press, 1996.
Jody Williams. “Still Sense.”
Minneapolis, Minn.: Flying Paper Press, 2008.
Roberta Lavadour. “Relative Memory II”
Pendleton, Or.: Mission Creek Press, 2008.
Karen Hanmer. “Bluestem”
Glenview, Ill.: Karen Hanmer, 2006.
Claire Van Vliet. “Night Street.”
West Burke, Vt.: Janus Press, 1993.
Caren Heft. “Human Volcano.”
Stevens Point, Wis.: Arcadian Press, 2013.
Petra Press. “I Want a Prenup.”
Milwaukee, Wis.: Petra Press, 2005.
Daniel Kelm. “Neo Emblemata Nova.”
Easthampton, Mass: Wide Awake Garage, 2005.

Speaking of famous old people, this is a children’s book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1841, before the works that would later establish Hawthorne as one of the most famous American authors of the 19th century.  

Due to the solemn undertones contained in most of Hawthorne’s novels, some may be surprised to find that earlier in his career, he wrote books intended for a younger audience. This book, Famous Old People, was written as a companion to Grandfather’s Chair, which was published earlier in the year. Both are historical accounts of New England told by recalling the various owners of Grandfather’s well-traveled chair.