Ann S. Dean’s book Burne-Jones and William Morris in Oxford and the Surrounding Area (A Heritage art guide) (London: Heritage Press, 1991) is a brief, eighty pages in total, guide to the works of Pre-Raphaelite art, stained glass, drawings and paintings which can be found in the West. The geographical aim of this book is to cover those within ‘easy reach’ of Oxford and include references to Kelmscott Manor, Stroud, Banbury, Windsor and Reading.
Whilst the aims of the book are quite high, the look and feel of the book is remarkably dated, considering it was published less than thirty years ago. The colour of the plates, the quality of the photography, and the design of the type face etc. would have both Burne-Jones and Morris turning in their graves. The colour illustrations are also available in two postcard books of eight cards each: ‘A William Morris Postcard Book’ and ‘A Burne-Jones Postcard Book’.
The text is best described as lazy. There is no conclusion at all, and it was only on turning the final page that I realised I had finished the book. There are typos throughout and Ms. Dean could have done with a good copy-editor before going to print with her text. I understand there are later editions and one can only hope, although I can’t confirm, that the numerous errors were the cause of those reprints and as such, were removed immediately. Whilst the text is draft at best, in terms of what one would happily ascribe their name to, the content is clearly well known, comfortable, and at ease. It is a shame the delivery mechanism lets this knowledge down, or rather, undermines its premise and consideration. The ‘Further Reading’ section confirms the reading and awareness of all societies, authors, and contacts you would expect from an author working in this field.
The book does include previously unpublished images, e.g. the Morris painting Beata Domina, and makes reference to the then unpublished work William Morris: A Life for Our Time by Fiona MacCarthy the main edition of which was finally published in 2010. Dean’s book also includes close-up details of textiles and stained glass throughout, and makes mention of works by other main Pre-Raphaelite figures, e.g. Madox Brown and D.G. Rossetti although interestingly little attention is given to Hunt (we should bear in mind the title specifically focuses upon Burne-Jones and Morris alone).
This book is, and it makes no secret of the fact, a guide. It fulfils that criteria well enough, providing a gazetteer with a map, details of work locations, museum times, locked churches, and it even goes down to the level of listing accommodation or eating venues (which is risky as establishments are quick to change hands, disappear or become something awful, like a Tesco Metro, these days). The text will no doubt appeal to the general reader, or rather a reader who is looking to make time savings whilst on a visit to the area. It is not, and nor will it, particularly appeal to the academic except as an aide memoir.