Category Archives: Bibliographical Press

Hogarth Press Centenary: Print-a-thon at the Bodleian

from Dennis Duncan:

Early in 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf walked into the Excelsior Printing Supply Co on Farringdon Road and bought themselves a printing press. The press, a small handpress which they installed on a table in their dining room in Richmond, came with instructions and some cases of type. The whole lot came to £19.5s.5d. That May they began work on their first publication, Two Stories (one by Leonard, one by Virginia), with Virginia setting the type and Leonard operating the press. Twenty-one years later, when Virginia finally withdrew from the company, the Hogarth Press had published 440 titles, including work by T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, Vita Sackville-West, Freud, and H. G. Wells, not to mention much of Virginia’s own most significant writing.

“Books are not turned out of moulds like bricks. Books are made of tiny little words, which a writer shapes, often with great difficulty, into sentences of different lengths, placing one on top of another, never taking his eye off them, sometimes building them quite quickly, at other times knocking them down in despair, and beginning all over again.”
-Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read a Book?” (1925)

To celebrate the centenary of the Hogarth Press, then, it seemed like a good idea to think about the role that printing played in shaping Woolf’s writing. And since the Bodleian Bibliographical Press is equipped not only with the kind of handpress the Woolfs used for their first publications, but also with the same typeface, we had an ideal opportunity to put ourselves into Virginia’s shoes for a day.

One of the earliest Hogarth publications was Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem, dated 1919 (or rather 1916: Virginia placed the final ‘9’ upside-down and didn’t catch the error until after printing, correcting it in pen in all copies). It is a wonderful and unjustly overlooked piece of modernism, and with its wild typography – different alignments, passages in caps and italics, a block of music inserted into the text – posed a considerable challenge to Virginia’s recently-acquired skills as a typesetter. Just the thing then for a public print-a-thon.Working in half-hour shifts, our team of printers – from absolute beginners to advanced setters – set out to print as much of Mirrlees’s poem as we could in a single day. Breaking for lectures by Dr Nicola Wilson (Reading) and Dame Hermione Lee (Oxford) about the Woolfs and the Hogarth Press, we ended up with a respectable eight pages, about a third of the poem.

“I’m the only woman in England free to write what I like. The others must be thinking of series’ & editors”
(Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3, September 1925)

“So,” I asked one of our volunteers, “now that you’ve set a page of type, how do you think the experience of being a printer might have influenced Virginia as a writer?”
“Write fewer words!”
A useful and hard-won insight.

Print-a-thon, May 13

On Saturday May 13 the Bodleian Libraries Bibliographical Press will hold a Print-a-thon celebrating 100 years of the Hogarth Press. The effort is to print all of ‘Paris’, by Hope Mirlees, published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1919. As Duncan Heyes  (British Library) notes,  this is ‘a radically experimental poem that challenged and developed the Woolfs’ abilities as printers.’

All enthusiasts of any ability, therefore, are welcome to join the effort, taking place in the printing workshop in the Old Schools Quadrangle, Old Bodleian Library, starting at 10:30 am. During the day we will break to hear two lectures in the Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, from Dr Nicola Wilson (Reading) at 12:00, on ‘The Other Hogarth Press,’ and from Dame Hermione Lee (Oxford) at 3:30, on ‘Virginia the Printer’.

The Print-a-Thon is organized by Dennis Duncan (Bodleian) and  Nicola Wilson (Reading), in connection with the University of Reading’s call for works on paper, and conference June 29-July 2,  https://woolf2017.com/call-for-printed-works-on-paper-hogarth-press100-exhibition/ 

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 127 to 154, printed in 2016; The Dark Lady sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 121 to 126, printed in 2016

Vile or vile esteemed? Look hard for the ‘missing’ lines in Sonnet 126. More to come on these sonnets, with notes of their making, in a later blogpost.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 100 to 120, printed in 2016

In 2016, the 400 year after William Shakespeare’s death, the Bodleian Library asked printers around the world to print his sonnets afresh. These are the results.

See more Shakespeare sonnets printed in 2016

Sonnet 117, The Press of Robert Lo Mascolo, Union Springs, New York

Sonnet 117, The Press of Robert Lo Mascolo, Union Springs, New York [detail]

Transformations in print

The Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press continues experimenting with techniques from the hand-press period. This transformation print  [see pictures of the original] held at Bodleian MS Wood E 25(10) is one of several from the 17th and 18th centuries containing the same general theme under the title, ‘The beginning, progress, and end of man’.  The Bodleian’s copy has the imprint, ‘Printed for J. Deacon, at the Angel in Guilt-spur Street‘.  The same images appear in an edition at Harvard with the imprint, ‘London: Printed by E. Alsop for T. Dunster, 1654‘; another version, ‘Printed by B. Alsop for T. Dunster, 1650‘, is in the Thomason collection at the British Library. Several other versions exist, and the Bodleian also holds a manuscript version from the 18th century.

At Broadside Day 2017, in the Weston Library, Jacqui Reid-Walsh will speak about ‘The beginning, progress, and end of man’ as an interactive text.

Meanwhile, Richard Lawrence at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press is experimenting with printing transformations using two blocks; here using reproductions in zinc based on the Bodleian’s copy. From this experiment it appears that the transformation could be achieved using two blocks, ‘Adam’ and the ‘mermaid’; one printed on the centre of the sheet, and the other printed over this on the outside, after the upper and lower edges were folded to meet in the middle. As further evidence for this hypothesis, the Bodleian’s copy shows blocks printed over the deckled edges of the paper.  We still wonder why, in these 17th-century editions at least, the title (on the outer side) and imprint (on the inner side) are interrupted by large gaps at the latitude of the join.

Thanks to Kim Vousden for graphic design to prepare the images for reproduction as printing blocks.

Collections containing over 30,000 ballads in Bodleian collections are accessible online at http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/

Register for Broadside Day 2017, to hear more about broadsides and street literature.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 99, printed in 2016

Peter Rukavina, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, printed Sonnet 99 for the Bodleian’s appeal for Shakespeare’s sonnets printed by any means of relief printing in 2016, the 400th anniversary of the poet’s death. The images below, supplied by Peter Rukavina, indicate the process. The finished product can be seen in this animation, by Adam Koszary.  https://youtu.be/2LHpc0kFzss

Sonnet 99, Peter Rukavina, Reinvented Press, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Letterpress printed on a Golding Jobber No. 8 Press.

Preparation for printing part of Sonnet 99. Photo: Peter Rukavina

Preparation for printing part of Sonnet 99. Photo: Peter Rukavina

Printer's copy for Sonnet 99, printed by Peter Rukavina

Printer’s copy for Sonnet 99, printed by Peter Rukavina

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 78 to 98

This series is called, ‘Figures of delight,’ after the title given to Sonnet 98 by Ken Burnley, Silver Birch Press. NOTE – missing sonnets will be supplied in the correct place as soon as photos are made!

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 58 to 77, printed in 2016

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 37 to 56, printed in 2016

NOTE: Sonnet 38, printed by Armina Ghazarian, in Ghent, will be pictured in an update of this post.