Skip to main content
Use the right side menu to identify relevant boxes and place requests.

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, as well as books from Morris' personal library, the Kelmscott press, and others, and ephemera.


  • 1751-1976

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the special collections reading room staff.


2.85 Linear Feet (1 half Hollinger, 1 oversize box, and 1 binder)

187 Items : Books

Scope and Contents

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 collection also contains books from Morris' personal library, his printing press, the Kelmscott press, and others. The material spans the period from 1751 to 1976.

Biographical / Historical

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 three series:

Series 1
Series 2
Series 3

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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

Existence and Location of Copies

Select materials from this collection have been digitized and are available in either Digital Collections or the Internet Archive.

Related Materials

A published collection of Morris' correspondence spanning 1848 to 1896 titled The Collected Letters of William Morris is available to request from the Libraries catalog.

Microfilm containing drafts, fragments, notes, notebooks, translations, diaries, prose, lectures, and addresses spanning the entirety of Morris' writing life held by the British Library is also available to request from the Libraries catalog: William Morris literary manuscripts in the British Library, London. These manuscripts are among those used by May Morris, his younger daughter, when preparing her Collected Works of William Morris, 24 vols., 1910-1915, and the supplementary William Morris, Artist, Writer, Socialist, 2 vols., 1936, in which many of those unpublished in Morris's lifetime were printed and described for the first time. The reels are arranged by manuscript genre. More information can be found by searching the manuscript reference codes in the British Library's online catalogue.

Finally, Libraries staff created an online exhibition, How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris, which highlights Morris' written works, political activism, and artistic endeavors.

Processing Information

The 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 housed in an acid-free box. In 2015, the collection was arranged into two series and described in a preliminary finding aid. The books and ephemera series were added to the finding aid in 2021.

Guide to the William Morris papers
Processed by Caitlin Rizzo.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2010-02-23: EAD markup checked and verified using Oxygen software by Jennie Levine Knies.
  • 2017-05-16: Finding aid title, finding aid date, finding aid status and related materials note revised and finding aid filing title, related accessions added by Maya Riser-Kositsky.
  • 2017-08-30: Processing information added by Caitlin Rizzo.
  • 2017-11-07: Finding aid reviewed and minor updates made by Caitlin Rizzo.
  • 2021-09-17: Marcella Stranieri and Liz Caringola created Series 2: Books and Series 3 Ephemera; added item-level information to Series 1: Correspondence; and added links to digitized items in August and September 2021.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

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