As an indication of the revival of printing and the art of book-designing, the Treasure Room of Widener Library now has on exhibition a collection of books printed on vellum and issued by the chief modern English presses. Among the most valuable editions is a beautiful edition of Chaucer, bound in white pigskin, and printed on vellum, an edition of which only 13 are in existence. Another valuable and interesting book is an edition of Emerson, presented to the Library by the printer, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson in 1908. On the inside cover he writes:
The Library of Harvard University and dedicated to the memory of America's great Philosopher, the Author."
An old "Book of Hours", printed in Venice is another treasure.
The art of book-designing is a recent development in printing. The first Eng- lish printed books by Caxton had for type the Flemish script which was perhaps the ugliest of all forms of writing. This evil influence dominates the whole of English printing for the greater part of the nineteenth century, and is not yet extinct.
The beauty of a printed book, plain or decorated, depends on a number of considerations, of which the design of the type is perhaps the most important. It is no exaggeration to say that in no printed book between the closing years of the fifteenth century and those of the nineteenth was any attempt made to obtain them all.
The secret of a beautiful book was lost until William Morris, a great student and designer of books, revived the art. He started the experiment by founding the "Kelmscott Press" in 1891. Many other presses such as the "Ashendene Press," "Doves Press," "Kelmscott Press," "Essex House Press," and in this country the "Merrymount" and "Riverside Presses," were founded soon afterward.
Vellum printing was the severest test of these presses, but all of them are distinguished by beauty of type and lettering, coloring of the pages, spacing, and the quality of the ink