T.E.L.'s Kelmscott Chaucer

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T.E. Lawrence's Kelmscott Chaucer, bound by Doves Bindery, 1897.

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The initials 'T.E.L.' in pencil on the free endpaper.


Blind stamp of The Doves Bindery, 1897, on turn-in of back cover.

T.E.L. acquired several Kelmscott Press books, and is believed to have acquired the Kelmscott Chaucer by as early as 1919. Friend, Robert Graves, would recall that Lawrence's rooms at All Souls College, which he held between 1919 and 1922, included "antiquities, crafts, rugs, exotic fittings, and his most persistent addiction, books...," including a Kelmscott Chaucer (Orlans, 2002 122).

The Kelmscott Chaucer is included in a "complete list of the books, other than his own writings, in the possession of T.E. Lawrence at the close of his life" (A.W. Lawrence 476, 481):

CHAUCER, G. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited by F.S. Ellis, ornamented with pictures designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and engraved on wood by W.H. Hooper. Printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 1896, 17 1/4 in. 'T.E.L.'

T.E.L.'s Kelmscott Chaucer is one of 48 in full pigskin binding, designed by Morris and executed at the Doves Bindery. The binding on T.E.L.'s copy is dated 1897.  The initials 'T.E.L.' are visible in pencil on the upper right corner of the front free endpaper, a frequent inscription of ownership in Lawrence's books.

Another close friend, Clare Sydney Smith, observed that T.E.L. valued very few possessions, "But books he did value as something more personal and owned many beautiful ones" (166).