William Morris, father figure of the Arts & Crafts movement, founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891—in his fifty-seventh year and with only five years before his death. His intent was to publish limited edition illustrated books fusing the spirits of Art and Craft. In his last year, 1896, Morris published Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis in an edition of two hundred and fifty.
The printing was an iconic example of that fusion: specially designed “Kelmscott” type composed gracefully on handmade paper. What you may not know is that Kelmscott productions were not often bound in the exquisite materials we often associate with “fine press” editions; that aspect was reserved for the buyer, who would select a binder and allow that artisan to marry the binding with the artistry of Morris’s printing—a natural extension of the A&C collaborative ideal. My copy (yes, I have one) is in the original paper-covered boards and slipcase, butI have often thought to have it bound. The trick is finding a binder.
Yesterday, while sleuthing another topic, I happened upon the work of an English artist of the Pre-Raphaelite wing of the A&C: May Louise Greville Cooksey [1878-1943]. I missed her by two years. She was certainly late among Pre-Raphaelites, most of whom had peaked at least a generation earlier—about the time she was born. As someone who has never been comfortable with the time into which I was born, I can almost understand being born into the wrong gender. With compassion and commonplace medical miracles, the latter can be “fixed.” My problem requires time travel.
The Anglo-Catholicism that goes hand in hand with both the Arts & Crafts and Pre-Raphaelitism has been characterized as limp, emasculated, syrupy and saccharine. Many participants in the Ecclesiological phenomenon of mid-century—which spawned both the A&C and P-R—took the ultimate step in their exploration of liturgy and its appropriate space: they abandoned the Anglican/Episcopal denomination for a spiritual home in the Romish church. Read Cardinal Newman’s biography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, some time.
You might be surprised to learn that Dakota Territory was touched by Ecclesiology in the 1880s when Rev B. F. Cooley, a “High Churchman” from Massachusetts, came here—escaped is more accurate—and transplanted his own understanding of design and religiosity in the eastern third of what was about to become North Dakota. One hundred and thirty years after the fact, you can still see some of Cooley’s notions scattered in the landscape: churches of his creation in Pembina, Casselton, Lisbon, Jamestown, Devils Lake. Don’t bring them up if I’m within earshot, because I simply can’t shut up about them and the others gone to become parking lots and worse. So you might imagine that this Anglo-Catholic phenomenon found its way to Agincourt, Iowa as well. It did and its residue is the Episcopal church of Saint Joseph-the-Carpenter, my opportunity to engage the movement directly and test my knowledge. [Technically, that what all of Agincourt has been.]
There’s an impending addition to the mix that I probably shouldn’t mention. But there are rumors of a religious icon whose painting is in progress; an Arts & Crafts (rather than Orthodox) image of Saint Ahab that will hang across the street from Saint Joe’s at the Romish church of Christ the King. It still seems appropriate.