Skip to main content

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) from such artists as Jane and May Morris, John Singer Sargent, and William Nicholson. There are also letters from 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 William Adams.


  • 1897-1939


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Katharine Adams, 1862-1952

Katharine Adams (1862-1952) was an English bookbinder who was associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. During the course of 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 Rev. William Fulford Adams. In 1865, her family moved to Little Farringdon, Oxfordshire. A few years later the artist and textile designer William Morris (1834-1896), who went to school with Rev. Adams, moved his family to nearby Kelmscott Manner. 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's 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 (1853-1953) and T.J. (John Thomas) 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, Gloucestershire 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 Laurentia McLachlan (1856-1953), OSB, the Abbess of Stanbrook, who was an authority on church music. In 1913, Adams married Edmund James Webb (1853-1945) the son of Rev. Benjamin Webb and Maria Elphinstone Mill. Webb was an independent scholar. 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.

In 1898, Adams won first prize at the Oxford arts and crafts exhibition and shortly after she began receiving regular commissions from such leaders in the Arts and Crats 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, who became a close friends. Early in the 20th century, Adams began exhibiting both in Europe and abroad, including in St. Louis, Missouri, winning several awards over the years. 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.

Katharine Adams died in Gloucestershire on October 15, 1952.


0.23 Cubic Feet (1 box)

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

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.

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

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

700 Boylston Street
Boston MA 02116 United States