Romaunt of the Rose

Item author: Chaucer
Grant Value: £1,500 from FNL's B. H. Breslauer Fund
Item cost: £5,000
Item date acquired: 2015
Item institution: Reading University, Library
Town/City: Reading
County: Berkshire

An early twentieth-century edition of ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ by Geoffrey Chaucer. This publication was the first book printed by the Florence Press, an imprint of Chatto and Windus, intended to compete with private presses by producing books of similar style and beauty. The press commissioned a special type and often hired well-known artists to add lavish illustrations in a Pre-Raphaelite style. Other fine quality editions produced under the Florence Press imprint included editions of Keats, Blake, Boccaccio and St Francis of Assisi

The ‘Romaunt’ was printed in 1908, and is an excellent specimen of early twentieth-century presswork. It includes twenty colour plates, with ten by the Scottish painter, illustrator and war artist, Keith Henderson (1883–1982), and ten by the artist, illustrator and theatre designer, Norman Wilkinson of Four Oaks (1882-1934). The two artists shared a studio in Paris with the artist Maxwell Armfield in the early 1900s. Due to differences between catalogue records, it is difficult to tell how many copies of this book exist in the United Kingdom, but there appears to be only a small number. This copy is no. 7 of a limited edition of 12 printed on vellum.

The University of Reading is well-known for its established and growing expertise in book and printing history, and this volume will complement the University’s significant holdings in the areas of printing, publishing and typography. The University holds the Archive of British Publishing & Printing which includes the archive of Chatto & Windus, and this new acquisition complements the archive’s holdings, particularly as the book is mentioned specifically in correspondence and other records held in the archive.

This grant was awarded from FNL's B. H. Breslauer Fund, thanks to the generosity of the President and Officers of the B. H. Breslauer Foundation.

Plate by Norman Wilkinson from 'Romaunt of the Rose'. Image courtesy of Reading University Library.
Plate by Norman Wilkinson from 'Romaunt of the Rose'. Image courtesy of Reading University Library.