Illustrated by Beatrice Pagden
Introductory note by John Bidwell
Housed in The Morgan Library & Museum in New York is a rarely-seen jewel of Arts and Crafts book production – a personalised copy of William Morris’s poetic masterpiece Love is Enough, hand-illustrated on every page with vibrant floral watercolours by Beatrice Pagden and strikingly bound by the legendary Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson for its original owner, Morris’s publisher and confidant, Frederick Startridge Ellis.
Every element of this unique volume has now been recreated for the first time in our meticulous facsimile: the fresh colours of the beautiful illustrations, the luxurious binding (including the tiny signature, 18 C-S 87, that is blocked on the doublure), and even the feel of its pages. The result is a breath-taking combination of text, illustration and case that perfectly embodies Morris’s vision of the ‘beautiful book’.
If a chap can’t compose an epic poem while he’s weaving a tapestry he had better shut up
William Morris (1834 – 1896) was the greatest artist-craftsman of his age, a tireless advocate of the virtues of the handmade and a reviver of lost traditions from calligraphy to manuscript illumination, tapestry and hand-printing. He is best known today for his iconic designs for wallpaper and fabrics, but during his lifetime he was held in even higher regard for his achievements as a writer: as a translator of Icelandic, Greek and Latin literature; a pioneer of science fiction and fantasy; and, above all, as a poet of the same standing as Browning and Tennyson.
The reader who can . . . remain unmoved, or fail to be haunted for the rest of his days by its flowing harmony and subtle rhythm, may write himself down as an irredeemable philistine
Love is Enough is Morris’s most ambitious and intricate poem. It tells the tale of Pharamond, a legendary Frankish king, whose recurring dream-visions of his true love prove so disturbing that he abandons his throne and embarks on a desperate, and possibly futile, quest to find her.
As an adult, Morris’s daughter, May, could remember her nine-year-old self listening ‘with delight and awakening curiosity’, as Morris read his work-in-progress to friends and family. Its elaborate interweaving of five different metrical systems, including non-rhyming alliterative passages by which Morris single-handedly reinvented a neglected early English verse form, led one contemporary reviewer to describe Love is Enough as ‘an almost perfect poetry’.
Inspired by medieval dramas, Morris presents the central story of Pharamond as a morality play, acted out before an unnamed Emperor and Empress, who are themselves watched by a crowd of loyal subjects. These nested narratives are punctuated in turn by lyrical passages described as ‘The Music’, and appearances by a personification of Love itself in a variety of guises.
Facsimile of a unique copy of a first edition held at The Morgan Library & Museum, New York (PML 77075, gift of John A. Saks, 1981). Abundant floral illustrations by Beatrice Pagden. Original binding commissioned from Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson replicated in cowhide blocked in gold on front, back, spine and doublures. Five raised bands. Limited to 750 hand-numbered copies and 20 lettered copies which are not for sale
Facsimile bound by hand by Richard Mayer in Esslingen-Zell, Germany, and printed by Memminger Mediencentrum, Memmingen, Germany, on Natural Evolution paper.
An introductory note, newly commissioned from John Bidwell, Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings at The Morgan Library & Museum, accompanies each facsimile. The note has been printed on Zerkall Bütten by Memminger Mediencentrum. Slipcase bound in teal Baronesse cloth blocked in gold. 152 pages. Book size 9˝ × 5¾˝
View our blog post on Creating the facsimile of Love is Enough
No glimpse of the inner life of Morris was ever vouchsafed even to his closest friends… It is a subject on which he never spoke except in Love Is Enough
Love is Enough is now recognised as Morris’s most self-revealing work. He started writing it at the end of 1871, immediately after his return from a cathartic expedition to Iceland, undertaken to escape life in a strained ménage à trois with his wife, Jane, and her lover, the pre-Raphaelite painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Seen in this light, the emotional turmoil of Pharamond, his gruelling journey in search of peace and fulfilment, his encounter with a usurper and his faith in the all-conquering power of love take on an intensely personal meaning.
Illustrations should not have a mere accidental connection with the other ornaments and the type, but an essential and artistic connection
As he worked on Love is Enough, Morris was also immersed in the medieval manuscript tradition, and producing his own handwritten and illuminated texts, including his exquisite manuscript of The Odes of Horace. His initial intention was that the first edition of Love is Enough would be a printed version of these ‘painted books’, the text framed by borders of entwined foliage and flowers, richly illustrated with woodcuts by his friend, Edward Burne-Jones, and enhanced with hand-applied colour and gilding. When this over-ambitious visual scheme had to be abandoned, Morris went to the other extreme, stripping away all of the decorative elements and leaving the poem unadorned.
When Love is Enough appeared in 1873, the front cover was decorated and there was a single vignette designed by Burne-Jones. But one copy of this first edition, now a treasure of the Morgan Library, fulfilled Morris’s unrealised pictorial vision. One of just 25 ‘large paper’ volumes produced for private circulation, it originally belonged to Frederick Startridge Ellis, Morris’s publisher and one of the greatest bibliophiles of the 19th century. And in an extraordinary labour of love, all 135 pages of Morris’s text were exquisitely illustrated for Ellis by his niece, Beatrice Pagden.
Surrounding, and occasionally spilling over, her hand-ruled margins are stylised swathes of tumbling foliage, and a multitude of flowers and wild fruits that recall the original cover design and Morris’s imagined ornamental borders. The whole scheme is carefully thought through, with Pagdenʼs images relating directly to Morris’s text, or symbolising the themes of the passage they adorn. Each design is painted with painstaking attention to detail, with scarcely any species repeated, and with every flower seen from several different angles, and from fresh bud through to full bloom.
To preserve this treasure, Ellis commissioned a stunning tan morocco binding from Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, a leading light in the emerging Arts and Crafts movement and a renowned perfectionist. Cobden-Sanderson was so proud of the binding - with its elegant gilt-tooled rose and flower pattern framing Ellis’s initials on the front cover and the date it was created on the back - that the book was displayed in the very first exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Society in 1888, as an example of both the movementʼs ideals and of his own finest work.
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