Recent Acquisitions: Two Specimens of Design

The Archives & Special Collections recently acquired a lovely edition of Shakespeare's poems produced by the Kelmscott Press.  One of 500 copies, this 1893 edition features original vellum bindings.  The Kelmscott Press was founded by William Morris, the Pre-Raphaelite printer, designer and architect who was associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in order to produce books using medieval technologies and type as a direct response to the increasing mechanization and mass-production of books in nineteenth century England.

Another recent acquisition to the Archives existing holdings on art and design is Johann Itten's Utopia.

Published in 1921, this book highlights the contribution of Itten to one of the central principles of the Bauhaus school: that students should be taught in the abstract language of colour and form before tackling more specific areas of the visual arts.  Although earlier colour studies had been in use by artists and studied by Itten, his twelve-point colour system correlating with a twelve note musical scale marks an important departure from previous pedagogical systems.

The Bauhaus was, like the Arts and Crafts Movement, founded in the ferment of utopianism.  This utopianism coexisted in tension with more orthodox and rationalist elements of the school. Itten's greatest contribution was in his design of the Vorkurs, a “mandatory six-month process of induction, designed to liberate the creative energies of students and to sensitize them to the properties and potential of different materials and techniques” (See Harrison).  Itten’s involvement in Mazdaznan religious health movement divided the Bauhaus and after clashing with the director Walter Gropius, he left the school.


Harrison,Charles. Art in theory, 1900 - 2000: an anthology of changing ideas Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishers, 2003.

Krementz, Jill. "Jill Krementz Photo Journal - Bauhaus 1919-1933"  review of Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity The Museum of Modern Art November 8, 2009-January 25, 2010. New York Social Journal  Available at:

Itten, Johannes and Urban Roedl. Dokumente der Wirklichkeit. Weimar : Utopia Verlag, 1921. Call number: 12133.

Shakespeare, William. The Poems of William Shakespeare. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1893.  Call number:12340.


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