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Katharine Adams correspondence

Call Number: MS Eng.288

Scope and Contents

This collection contains personal and professional correspondence written between 1897-1939 to Katharine Adams (1862-1952). Correspondents include artists Edwin Austin Abbey, Jane and May Morris, William Nicholson, and John Singer Sargent, as well as Stanbrook Abbey Abbess Dame Laurentia McLachlan, OSB. The collection includes a signed photographic print of May Morris and two pen-and-ink sketches by William Nicholson. In addition, there is one letter from Jane Morris to Reverend William Fulford Adams.


  • 1897 - 1938


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. It is the sole responsibility of the user to make their own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law.

Katharine Adams (1862-1952)

Katharine Adams (1862-1952) was an English bookbinder associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. During her career, Adams designed approximately 300 bindings, using her own hand-crafted tools to create intricate gold-tooled details. Adams was born in Bracknell, Berkshire, England on November 25, 1862, to Catherine Mary Horton and Reverend William Fulford Adams. In 1865, her family moved to Little Faringdon, Oxfordshire. A few years later the artist and textile designer William Morris (1834-1896) moved his family to nearby Kelmscott Manor. The close proximity of the families resulted in the lifelong friendship between Katharine, Jane Morris (1839-1914), an embroiderer in the Arts and Crafts movement and artists' model, and her daughter, the artist May Morris (1862-1938), who founded the Women's Guild of Arts. It was with the Morris that Adams began some early experiments in bookbinding using cobbler's leather and needlework.

Adams trained for short periods of time in London with Sarah Prideaux (1853-1933) and T.J. Cobden-Sanderson (1840-1922), then began binding professionally during the 1890s. From 1899 to the 1930s, Adams regularly exhibited her work at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. In 1897, she opened a workshop in Lechlade, and received her first commission from Jane Morris. Adams established the Eadburgh Bindery in Broadway, Worcestershire, in 1901 where she worked alone before employing and training two women assistants. During this time, she taught binding to the nuns at Stanbrook Abbey, where she became friends with Dame Laurentia McLachlan (1856-1953), OSB, the Abbess of Stanbrook.

In 1898, Adams won first prize at the Oxford Arts and Crafts exhibition and shortly after she began receiving regular commissions from leaders in the Arts and Crafts movement, including Charles Harry St. John Hornby (1867-1946), the founder of the Ashendene Press and Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962), the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, both of whom became close friends. Early in the twentieth century, Adams began exhibiting in Europe and abroad, winning several awards. She became the second president of the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1935 and in 1938 she became a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Included among Adams’ important bindings are Queen Mary’s psalter, the Tutte le opere di Dante Alighieri, (Ashendene Press, 1910), and the Doves Press Bible (1903-1905), which she bound with T.J. Cobden-Sanderson.

In 1913, Adams married scholar Edmund James Webb (1853-1945) the son of Reverend Benjamin Webb and Maria Elphinstone Mill. The couple moved to Oxfordshire in 1915 and returned to Gloucestershire in the 1930s. Adams used her maiden name throughout her personal and professional life. Katharine Adams died in Gloucestershire on October 15, 1952.


7 Folders

Language of Materials



Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purhased from Winifred A. Myers Autographs, Ltd., on the Benton Fund, 1968.

Processing Information

Materials in this collection were preliminarily cataloged in the 2020 English Civilization Collection (MS Eng.) retrospective conversion project, and added to the electronic catalog from catalog cards or earlier typed inventories of manuscripts. Item descriptions were then converted to a finding aid to ease access to complete collections and materials with shared provenance.

Information in this finding aid is transcribed from an earlier manuscript inventory, in which materials are described in several different ways. These descriptions have been retained to help researchers understand the contents of the collection. The format is described in a note for each file. The notes sometimes contain additional descriptions or paraphrases of contents. The physical items listed are further described in a physical description note which includes the number of unique intellectual items, and number of pages. Page counts include the front and back of each sheet, excluding blank pages. Single letters or manuscripts composed of multiple sheets are described as “1 item”, so a letter comprised of 3 sheets of paper with one blank side, would be described as “1 item (5 pages)”. In some cases, multiple items in the same folder may be listed separately.

This collection is held within the Boston Public Library Rare Books and Manuscripts Department's English Civilization collection.

Processing Information

Legacy data often reflects the biases of time periods and cultures in which it was created and may include direct quotations or descriptions that use inappropriate or harmful language. Descriptions based on legacy data are maintained to provide as much access as possible until the collection can be reprocessed. Efforts to replace outdated descriptions and to describe our collections in an equitable way are iterative and ongoing.

Processing Information

This electronic finding aid is transcribed from legacy data. In many cases, transcriptions were not verified against collection materials at the time of transcription. As a result, this finding aid could be incomplete and might only reflect a partial understanding of the material.

Statement on harmful description

Archival description reflects the biases of time periods and cultures in which it was created and may include direct quotations or descriptions that use inappropriate or harmful language. Creator provided descriptions may be maintained in order to preserve the context in which the collection was created and/or used. Legacy description and potentially offensive content may be made available online until a collection can be reprocessed because the access that they provide to primary source materials is uniquely valuable to the research community at large. Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections more equitably are iterative and ongoing.

Guide to the Katharine Adams correspondence
In Progress
Boston Public Library Staff and Kimberly Reynolds
2022 August
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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