Inspired by Morris' love and admiration for the concept of the medieval book, where text was handwritten and illuminated or printed with wood engraving illustrations, bound in leather, clasped over wooden bands (in particular, Giovanni Boccacio's 'De Claris Muliebribus' printed in 1473, of which Morris had a copy). The first of the three types used for the Kelmscott Chaucer, the Troy type, appears in early specimens for 'The Franklin's Tale' from 'The Canterbury Tales', which dates from June 1891.
The earliest designs for the Kelmscott Chaucer date to February 1893 when Morris produced plants and ornament designs for the border as well as the title page. Burne-Jones produced the illustrations, 87 in all (in which 85 are extant and in the Fitzwilliam Museum). The book was printed at the Kelmscott Press, Upper Mall, Hammersmith.
Morris announced that four different styles of binding would be produced for the text, the most luxurious edition of 48 bound in either full or half pigskin white leather at the Doves Bindery from a design by Morris; Birmingham's edition is one such copy. Included in the inside front cover are various newspaper clippings.