The Hodson Collection - Kelmscott Library

Exceptional Arts and Crafts Collection for Sale

Bloomsbury Auctions offers possibly the last opportunity to acquire key Arts & Crafts and Kelmscott pieces with unparalleled unbroken provenance

Finding prints by the likes of Dürer, Hogarth and Mantegna forgotten for over thirty years in a garage in a private house, must rank as one of the most exciting moments of my professional life,’ said Mike Heseltine the Books and Manuscripts Consultant at Bloomsbury Auctions.

Bloomsbury Auctions is delighted to offer one of the most complete and important private collections of Kelmscott and other Private Press material to appear on the market for decades. Books, Manuscripts, Prints and Drawings from the Collection of Laurence W Hodson will be offered for sale at Bloomsbury Auctions, London on Thursday 4th April.

Connoisseurs and collectors will undoubtedly be very excited by the 17 woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer and the first state engravings by William Hogarth; the very rare group of 16th century engravings from The Triumphs of Caesar after Mantegna by Andrea Andreani alone, are estimated to fetch between £12,500-17,500.

A unique aspect of the library is that it was formed as the books were being published, and that these books have been kept together to this day. Thus the Hodson Collection offers connoisseurs, collectors and lovers of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement a unique opportunity, and possibly the last opportunity, to buy key pieces with an unparalleled and unbroken provenance.

Laurence W Hodson (1864-1933) was a man of taste and foresight. He was a well known collector and philanthropist in his day, he was a founder of Birmingham University and Chairman of the Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1902 as well as an ardent admirer, patron and friend of William Morris and his circle. Hodson had a passionate interest in contemporary Private Press and after Morris’ death in 1896, he negotiated the future of the library at Kelmscott House and the Kelmscott Press. Although he was neither artist nor craftsman himself, it is obvious from correspondence offered in the Collection, that he was a good friend of the Morris family, Sydney Cockerell (the secretary of the Kelmscott Press) and Arthur Gaskin and his wife Georgie, both talented all-rounders. Hodson lectured on the work of his friends, and was even sent a set of the 87 glass slides of Sir Edward Burne-Jones’s illustrations for the Kelmscott Chaucer, for use in one of his lectures, and these slides are also offered in the sale.

William Morris was probably the greatest single influence on the Arts and Crafts movement. Mainly inspired by the Pre Raphaelites, he was a master craftsman, designer, poet, writer, printer and even political propagandist; it has been said that Morris was ‘a master of all trades and Jack of none.’ He founded his original firm in 1861 and thirty years later the Kelmscott Press was born, its aim was to produce books ‘which it would be a pleasure to look upon as pieces of printing and arrangement of type.’

The books from the Hodson Collection include a complete collection of the Kelmscott Press (1891-1898), nine of which are printed on vellum, and five additional items, some of which are unique. As Mike Heseltine from Bloomsbury Auctions says, ‘One could form complete collections of the press books printed on paper, but it would be impossible now to match the special copies and the extra material here; it is highly unlikely that another intact collection of the period has survived in private hands.’

The Hodson Collection encompasses a complete collection of books from the Vale Press (1893-1904), many with bindings designed specially for Hodson by its founder Charles Ricketts and most of his bindings have Hodson's initials on the upper cover or spine. Ricketts provided virtually all the illustrations as well as all the borders and other decorations for these books personally supervising the typesetting and layout of every book.

Other presses in the Hodson Collection include the Eragny and Doves as well as Essex House, which was founded by Laurence Hodson and C.R. Ashbee. Amongst the manuscripts is also a fascinating group of autograph letters from William Morris, May Morris, Charles Ricketts and other artists and craftsmen as well as William Ruskin and Oscar Wilde.

Morris and Burne-Jones met as first year students at Oxford in 1852, and became the closest of friends and collaborated throughout their lives. One of the letters in the sale is from Morris to Hodson in which he politely turns down an invitation, ‘I am very sorry but much as I should like such a pleasant excursion I cannot come, as I always go to the Burne-Jones on Sunday when we are in London both.’

Another focal point is the group of forty-four wood engraved illustrations for Cupid and Psyche reproduced by William Morris and originally designed by Burne-Jones for The Earthly Paradise of 1860. The total number of sets from any of the various early printings is probably twelve or less, of which this is apparently only the fifth to be located. The Earthly Paradise, a series of classical myths and other tales put into verse by Morris, it is one of his earliest published works, first published without illustrations in 1868 and is estimated to fetch £6,000-8,000. The woodcuts are important as they anticipate the wonders that Morris and Burne-Jones were to produce much later at the Kelmscott Press.

A particularly attractive piece in the sale is Arthur Gaskin’s Annunciation, depicting the Virgin Mary reading and seated on a bench in a blue cloak while the angel Gabriel approaches behind her holding a small flower. This charming oil painting on wood estimated at £8,000-12,000 is signed and dated 1898; it was shown at the Art and Industrial Exhibition, Wolverhampton in 1902 and in a letter to Hodson, Gaskin describes it as ‘the best I have done.’

The Books, Manuscripts, Prints and Drawings from the Collection of Laurence W Hodson will undoubtedly set pulses racing amongst connoisseurs of William Morris, the Arts and Crafts movement and collectors of Private Press. As Mike Heseltine, the expert in charge remarked, ‘I’ve known this collection for over 26 years, but it is only now that I have been able to inspect and work on its contents in detail. The prints and manuscripts had not been looked at or appreciated for many years, so their reappearance caused great excitement. Studying the letters, books and artwork in depth has brought to light the close relationship established between Laurence Hodson and the authors, artists and craftsmen he admired so much. Work on the collection has provided many fascinating discoveries and enormous pleasure.’ This final part of the Hodson Collection is expected to fetch around £400,000.

A fully illustrated online catalogue will be available mid-March at and

For further press information and illustrations please contact: Vanessa Clewes Salmon, email:

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Dreweatts - 04 March 2013