Visual Studies, University of Toronto
The Nature of the Kelsmcott Chaucer
In this talk I argue that concerns over environmental degradation shaped Burne-Jones’s illustrations for the Kelmscott Press edition of the works of Chaucer and, more specifically, that in them ‘nature’ could only be reproduced through a kind of glasshouse logic or effect. In the polluted context of Victorian London, glasshouses or artificial climates allowed plants and animals extracted from other environments to survive. Burne-Jones’s illustrations offer visions of nature similarly transplanted and sequestered or, alternatively, denuded of flora and fauna in almost apocalyptic visions that suggest that the world of and beyond the book is one of the Victorians’ (un)making.