Exhibited at Bumpus bookshop, 1934

Close up of title page illustration, T.E. Lawrence's Kelmscott Chaucer

Detail of engraved title page illustration.

Close up of floral border, title page of T.E. Lawrence's Kelmscott Chaucer

Detail of decorative floral border on the frontispiece.

Close up of illustration and text, pages 8-9 of T.E. Lawrence's Kelmscott Chaucer

Detail of engraved illustrations and text, page 9.

Black and white image of T.E. Lawrence's Kelmscott Chaucer in 1934

T.E.L.'s Kelmscott Chaucer, as it appeared on exhibit at Bumpus bookshop, 1934.

In 1934, T.E.L. lent his Kelmscott Chaucer to J. & E. Bumpus, Ltd., Booksellers to H.M. the King, of 350, Oxford Street, W., London, where it went on display as part of an exhibition on William Morris as Printer and the Kelmscott Press.

The exhibition at Bumpus was a direct response to the Victoria and Albert Museum's William Morris exhibition, which had not fully illustrated Morris' activities in the book arts. The Bumpus exhibition put on view a copy of every book Morris produced at the Kelmscott Press and framed them in relation "to all the succeeding private presses which have drawn a part of their inspiration, great or small, from Kelmscott" (Times 14).

H.M. Queen Mary visited the Bumpus exhibition, and is said to have remarked upon and examined Lawrence's copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer. Although Her Majesty's exact remarks are not recorded, one suspects she may have commented on the size of the tome. In replying to a letter from the Manager at Bumpus, J.G. Wilson, T.E.L. noted, "I laughed when I read your very proper sentence about our dear Queen. Clearly it is time the Chaucer relapsed into obscurity again - otherwise it will grow too big for my cottage. It's a wretched book, as Morris built it: too heavy to post!" (Bodleian MS.Eng.d.3328 255).

All jokes regarding the sheer size and weight of the book aside, T.E.L. would go on to say in the same letter, written only months before his death, "It's a marvellous possession, and very good to read.  I haven't ever finished it, so it will solace my empty hours at Clouds Hill, Moreton, Dorset, which is the address, I hope of my old age" (ibid 255).