The Kelmscott Chaucer is the greatest and most influential book never to have been read. This apparent paradox is due to two factors. First, its appearance, the density of type and illustration, the interwoven magnificence of the page, are so overwhelming that the would be reader is simply defeated by its wealth. The eye, invited to admire so much visual magnificence, is absorbed by it and strays away for the actual text. Secondly, the book was originally expensive and is now even more so; those who turn its pages do so with care lest they mar its clean white pages or strain its elegant binding. Its creator, William Morris, would have been mystified and annoyed by these reactions. To him, the creation of a book in which text, decoration, and illustration were a single whole, none of whose parts could be separated from each other, was a tribute to the text, the greatest tribute that could be paid to it. No greater tribute to the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer, could be paid than to give his works the finest possible form. The Kelmscott Chaucer was widely hailed as a masterpiece when it appeared on June 16, 1896, and rapidly sold out. It is not the least of the abiding results of Morris s life and work to set the standard by which the quality of book production is measured. Still more important is the respect due to a great book, and if all the Kelmscott Chaucers, scattered about the world, have a purpose today it is to encourage such respect. Worldly wisdom may require most of them to be preserved from the hands that Morris would have wished to turn their pages; that they can now do so in electronic form is surely a fate that he would have applauded. Commentary by Nicolas Barker, 2 CD set.