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William Morris papers

 Collection 0092-LIT
English author, designer, manufacturer, and artist William Morris (1834-1896) is best known for his association with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and as a central figure of the English Arts and Crafts Movement. He was influential in the emergence of socialism in England in the nineteenth century, having founded the Socialist League in 1884. Morris's more well known works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), The Earthly Paradise (18681870), A Dream of John Ball (1892) and News from Nowhere (1893). In 1891, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press, which produced books modeled after fifteenth-century incunabula. The press produced 53 titles during its 7-year operation. His 1896 edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, called the Kelmscott Chaucer, is often regarded a pinnacle of book design. The collection includes correspondence from Sydney Cockerell, Jane Morris, and William Morris, a manuscript by Stopford Augustus Brooke, and nine reels of microfilm from the British Library's William Morris Papers.


  • 1885-1904

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


0.25 Linear Feet (.25 linear feet and 9 microfilms)

9 microfilms

Scope and Content of Collection

The papers of William Morris contain correspondence and manuscript materials, including drafts, fragments, notes, notebooks, diaries, and translations spanning all periods of Morris literary career. The material spans the period from 1857 to 1904.


William Morris was born at Elm House, Walthamstow in Northeast London on March 24, 1834. In 1853, Morris left for Oxford where he began his studies at Exeter College where he met Edward Burne-Jones. During his three years in Oxford, Morris edited and financed the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. He also apprenticed in the offices of architect G.E. Street where he met Philip Webb.

In 1856, Morris left for London where he was introduced to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Under the influence of Rosetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Morris began to briefly pursue painting. However, by 1858 Morris had moved on to publish his first volume of poetry, The Defense of Guenevere. The next year on April 26, 1859, Morris was married to Jane Burden. In 1861, Morris first daughter Jane Alice (Jenny) was born and shortly his second daughter Mary (May) was born in 1862.

In the years that followed, Morris continued writing alongside other business ventures. In 1861, he formed the decorative art firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, & Co along with Ford Maddox Brown, Gabriel Rosetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Philip Webb, Charles Faulkner, and others. Between 1868 and 1888, Morris continued to publish volumes of his own work and translations from various Icelandic writing. Throughout the 1880s, Morris became increasingly in political movements: he joined the Democratic Foundation in 1883, left the group to form the Socialist League in 1885, and left the Socialist League to form the Hammersmith Socialist Society in 1890.

A year later in 1891, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press for which he is most well-known today. The Kelmscott Press remained in operation between 1891 and 1898. The Press is widely associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement and the revival of fine press. Morris died at the Kelmscott House on October 3, 1896.


This collection is arranged in two series:
Series 1
Series 2

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the William Morris papers from collector John J. Walsdorf in 1985.

Related Material

A published collection of Morris' correspondence spanning 1848 to 1896 is available. Four volumes of The Collected Letters of William Morris are available in the Maryland Room.

Processing Information

This William Morris Papers were purchased by the University of Maryland Libraries in 1985. At that time, the correspondence was placed in acid-free folders and thoused in an acid-free box. In 2015, the collection was arranged into two series and described in a preliminary finding aid.
Guide to the William Morris papers
Processed by Caitlin Rizzo.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742