We have learned that Dr. Leon Fine of Los Angeles, a new member of the Grolier Club, owns a Kelmscott Chaucer (3.103 and 4.748 in our census). This is a quarter-linen copy originally purchased by George James Howard, ninth Earl of Carlisle (1843–1911), of Castle Howard, Yorkshire, an aristocratic artist who was on very friendly terms with both Burne-Jones and Morris.
Howard left the book to his daughter, Lady Dorothy Howard/Henley (who died in 1968), and her inscription appears on the front pastedown. The book remained in the family until it was sold to Dr. Fine by Simon Finch (London) in 2002.
Peter Harrington (London) is offering a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer for £68,500. The book is bound in “20th century blue morocco over bevelled boards by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, gilt panelled spine (gilt tooled on the raised bands with a fleur-de-lis motif), single-line gilt border on sides three-line gilt turn ins. Housed in a morocco trimmed blue cloth, fleece lined slipcase.” There are no bookplates, signatures, or other marks of ownership.
Philip J. Pirages (McMinnville, Oregon) is offering for sale a quarter-linen copy in excellent condition ($95,000). There are no bookplates, signatures, or other marks of ownership.
Bloomsbury Auctions recently (17 March 2016, lot 1010) sold an ex-library copy from the Norfolk County Library for £24,000. It was a quarter-linen showing some signs of wear.
Bloomsbury Auctions (London) will offer a copy of the Chaucer on 23 October 2014, lot 147 (estimate price: £15,000–20,000). It is described as a worn and loose quarter-linen binding but internally fine.
[Update, 13 November 2014.] Sold for £23,560 including premium.
On 22 September, 2014, in San Francisco, Bonhams is offering a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer in a quarter-linen binding, slightly worn and soiled. It was formerly owned by Martin and Marjorie Mitau (1900–1973), with “their signed bookplate, bookseller descriptions tipped into the front leaf and paste-down.” Estimated price: $30,000-$50,000.
Martin Mitau (1900–1973) and Marjorie (née Fleishhacker) Mitau (1906–1983) were both San Franciscans and lived in the Bay Area all their lives. He was a member of Roxburghe Club of San Francisco and the Book Club of California, and their collection was strong in California fine printing.
[Update, 29 September 2014.] Sold for $46,250 including premium.
Tom Riedlinger has recently sent us a scan of this portrait of Robert Catterson-Smith, a pastel painting by T. Murray Bernard Bladon in about 1920. It was for many years owned by the Central School of Arts and Crafts in Birmingham and is now in the Jenden/Riedlinger Collection.
The original label read: “R. Catterson-Smith M.A. | Principal of the Central School of Arts and Crafts 1903–1920 | Director of Art Education for the City from 1911.”
Catterson-Smith, it will be recalled, was the young Birmingham artist hired by Morris to assist in the preparation of Burne-Jones’s illustrations for the Kelmscott Chaucer. Burne-Jones’s designs were delicately shaded pencil sketches that proved to be unsuitable for the bold, medieval-looking wood-engravings Morris had in mind. Hence his sketches were photographed by Emery Walker’s firm so that Catterson-Smith could trace over them, and then in turn those modified tracings were transferred to woodblocks. There were some complaints at the time because Catterson-Smith’s name was not mentioned in the colophon of the Chaucer; one suspects that Morris was unwilling to acknowledge publicly his heavy reliance on photographic technology.