Franciszka Weinles was born on 28 June 1907 in Warsaw, the daughter of the Jewish artist Jakub Weinles. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw in 1931. Stefan Themerson was born on 25 January 1910 in Plock, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire). His Jewish father was a physician and social reformer. Stefan studied physics and then architecture at Warsaw University, but his real early interest was photography and film making. The two met in 1929 and were married two years later.

Living in Warsaw until 1935, Stefan wrote children book that were illustrated by Franciszka. Together they produced a number of short experimental films. In the winter of 1937/8 the couple moved to Paris joining an international circle of artists and writers. Stefan wrote for various Polish publications in Paris; Franciszka illustrated children’s books for Flammarion. 

With the declaration of war in 1939, both enlisted. Stefan joined the Polish army; Franciszka was seconded as a cartographer to the Polish Government in Exile, first in France and from 1940 in London. With the German invasion and the Allied collapse, Stefan found himself desperately trying to escape from France. Towards the end of 1942 he succeeded to make his way to Lisbon and was transported to Britain by the RAF. 

Having been reunited with his wife, he joined the film unit of the Polish Ministry of Information and Documentation. There he and Franciszka produced Calling Mr Smith, an account of Nazi atrocities in Poland. In 1944 the Themersons moved to the West London district of Maida Vale, where they would stay for the rest of their lives. At the time of their naturalisation on 13 April 1954, the couple lived at no. 49 Randolph Avenue. 

Stefan and Franciszka established the Gaberbocchus Press in 1948. The choice of name was inspired by the Latinised version of Lewis Carroll’s inventive nonsense poem ‘Jabberwocky’ that was included in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass.

With Franciszka as artistic director and Stefan as editor, the Press was active until 1979 and published fifty-nine titles. In the typical private press tradition, work began from home by printing their first books on a hand-press using hand-made paper. As the press developed the titles were professionally printed. They kept an office in Formosa Street where, from 1957 to 1959, they also ran the Gaberbocchus Common Room which was a meeting place for artists, scientists, and members of the public to exchange ideas and enjoy readings, music performances, and film screenings. 

A characteristic of all the Press’s publications was the intimate relationship between image and text as an expression of content. The output included works by Apollinaire, Jankel Adler, and Bertrand Russell’s The Good Citizen’s Alphabet. Gaberbocchus also introduced Kurt Schwitters to an English audience. 

Born in June 1887 in Hanover and educated at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Dresden, Schwitters was conscripted into the army between March and June 1917, but was declared unfit for active service. The senseless slaughter of war had shaken his faith in the cultural norms of his generation. He became a prominent figure within the Dada movement, but his status was undermined with the rise of Hitler. 

In 1937, four of his works were included in the notorious Entartete Kunst (‘Degenerate art’) exhibition. Thirteen other works were removed from German museums. Forced to leave Germany he settled at Lysaker, near Oslo. When German forces attacked Norway he fled to Britain, arriving in Edinburgh in 1940. 

Kurt’s Dadaist reputation meant nothing in England. Singled out as an enemy alien, he was interned at Douglas on the Isle of Man. Behind barbed wire, Hutchinson Internment Camp held so many academics and artists that it functioned as a kind of university-in-exile. Kurt Schwitters performed his poems there and painted portraits. 

After obtaining his freedom he returned to London and moved into an attic flat at no. 3 St Stephen Crescent, Paddington. He exhibited in several galleries, but with little success. At his first solo exhibition at the Modern Art Gallery in December 1944, forty works were displayed but only one was sold. An outsider, he remained virtually unknown as an artist. In 1944, he met Edith ‘Wanty’ Thomas. In 1945 they moved to Ambleside in the Lake District. On 7 January 1948 Schwitters received news that he had been granted British citizenship. He died the day after.

Themerson first met Schwitters in 1943 at a London meeting of the PEN Club. Kindred spirits, they became friends. In 1958, the Gaberbocchus Press published Schwitters in England: 1940-1948, the first presentation of the author’s prose and poems in English. In his introduction Stefan praises Kurt’s art of collage as a conscious attempt to ‘make havoc’ of cultural conventions. The presentation of the book was a fitting tribute. Its unorthodox design with multi-coloured papers and striking cover reflects a rejection of established procedures that Schwitters would have appreciated.

Averse of the vulgar commerciality of publishing, a key objective of the Press was to produce ‘best lookers rather than best sellers’. A refusal to conform is best illustrated by the 1951 publication of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi.

Hallmarks of the playwright’s style are absurdity and irreverence, characteristics that inspired the Themerson edition. Printed on yellow paper, Barbara Wright produced her translation by hand on lithographic plates to which Franciszka added the witty drawings that capture the spirit of the play. For its presentation and design, it became the most acclaimed book of the Gaberbocchus Press.

In 1952, Franciszka created masks for a reading of the play at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; she also designed life-size puppets for s stage performance by the Stockholm’s Marionetteatern in 1964, and finally drew ninety episodes of a comic-strip version of Ubu in 1969. 

At Themerson’s invitation, the Gaberbocchus Press was taken over by De Harmonie publishers in Amsterdam in 1979. Two years later, Stefan delivered the annual Huizinga Lecture at Leiden University and it was through this strong Dutch connection that some of his novels gained recognition in the English-reading world. In 1985, De Bezige Bij in Amsterdam published a translation of an English manuscript which they titled Euclides was een ezel (‘Euclid was an ass’). It motivated Faber & Faber to publish an English version in 1986, now called The Mystery of the Sardine.

Franciszka died in London in June 1988. Stefan passed away in September that same year. Together, they had spent more than four creative decades in exile, underscoring Stefan’s credo that writers carry their culture with them wherever the city of refuge may be. Having to resist threats of patriotic fervour and nationalism, exile – be it externally or self-imposed – is the artist’s natural condition.      

Jaap Harskamp, PhD at Amsterdam University (Comparative Literature), Researcher at European University Institute (Florence), Curator Dutch & Flemish Collections at British Library (retired), Researcher at Cambridge UL. His work has been published by the Wellcome Institute, British Library, and Brill. He writes a weekly blog for the New York Almanack at

Porn and Pansies – Red Lion Street (London)

During the later nineteenth century middle class society was obsessed with righteousness and ill at ease with modernist art. Whilst the writer depicted the bourgeois as a malicious fool (le père Ubu is the ultimate caricature in a tradition going back as far as Balzac’s César Birotteau), the upright citizen fought back by taking the artist to court and making him pay for his ‘immoralities’. 

Rejecting much of contemporary written and visual art, opponents argued that vicious doctrines vitiate the mind of the young, indecent pictures befoul their imagination, explicit books deprave their character. Goethe had no hesitation in stressing that the young can read without risk, but alarmists disagreed. They warned parents to protect their children against the treacherous power of fine sounding words and alluring imagery. 

The battle between writer and censor has raged for centuries throughout Europe. It was a conflict in which the latter long held the upper hand. The French Revolution acknowledged the communication of ideas as a fundamental human right. Every citizen shall be free to speak, write, or print. The reality of these freedoms was continuously undermined – even in France. Political censorship was not abandoned.

The censor was supposed to uphold the moral fibre of the nation too. In Britain, the Walpole Government passed a law in 1739 which handed the Lord Chamberlain the authority to oversee public performances. Unlicensed productions were punished by closure of the theatre and imprisonment of its actors. 

This power was extended by the 1843 Theatres Act. Works by Dumas and Ibsen were refused licenses, as was Oscar Wilde’s Salome. Even The Mikado had its permit temporarily withdrawn on the occasion of a visit by the Japanese Crown Prince in 1907. Before 1968, theatres were prevented from staging any play that mentioned homosexuality, venereal disease, or birth control. In that year, a new Theatres Act was passed that removed the Lord Chamberlain’s licensing power. Plays were left subject to scrutiny under obscenity laws only.

Sigmund Freud’s thinking on sexuality had a liberating influence upon literature. In parallel with the demand for modernity rose the emancipation movement. In 1928 Radclyffe Hall published The Well of Loneliness. The fact that the novel portrayed lesbianism as ‘natural’ outraged both critics and readers. Although without direct sexual references, a British court judged the novel obscene as it defended ‘unnatural practices between women’. Publicity over the legal battle increased the visibility of lesbians in society. 

Charles [Carl] Lahr was born in 1885 at Bad Nauheim, Rhineland, into a farming family. A political agitator, he fled Germany in 1905 to avoid military service and went to England. In London he encountered the anarchist Guy Aldred, founder of the Bakunin Press. During Kaiser Wilhelm’s state visit to London in 1907, Lahr was bundled out of a restaurant on Leman Street for yelling out that the bastard should be shot. He remained under police suspicion. After the declaration of war in 1914, he spent four years of internment in Alexandra Palace alongside hundreds of other ‘enemy aliens’. 

In 1921 Lahr took over the Progressive Bookshop at no. 68 Red Lion Street, Holborn, which he ran with his wife Esther Archer. Their tiny outlet may have shared the ground floor of an eighteenth-century building with a jumble shop, but it played a cameo role in countless literary memoirs of the twenties and thirties. 

In addition, Charles and Esther set up the Blue Moon Press, publishing small editions of short stories. They taunted the inter-war censor with pamphlets on The Benefits, Moral and Secular, of Assassination, and with James Hanley’s the homo-erotic fiction. The couple also produced a literary magazine named New Coterie (Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence were amongst its contributors). 

Lahr took the risk of distributing the first edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (published in 1928 by the Italian bookseller Pino Orioli). Banned in Britain and America, dispatch of the novel proved difficult, and copies were scarce. This created a vacuum that was filled with pirate editions. 

Lawrence decided to produce a cheap edition of Lady Chatterley to undercut the illicit trade, but he was unable to find a publisher prepared to brave the censor. Victor Gollancz was interested, but would only consider an expurgated manuscript. Lawrence refused. The novelist finally found a publisher in the intriguing figure of Edward William Titus, a Polish-born American who was married to the cosmetics giant Helena Rubinstein and owned the Montparnasse rare bookstore ‘At the Sign of the Black Manikin’ (opened in 1924) and was founder of the Black Manikin Press. Titus brought out a cheap, paper-bound edition of Lady Chatterleyin May 1929. 

In London, Lahr continued as a clandestine distributor of the novel, agreeing to take 200 copies of the paperback. By March 1930 D.H. Lawrence was dead. That year, the first London edition of Lady Chatterley was produced in a basement workshop near Euston Station. There were 500 copies in all, each bearing a false Florentine imprint: ‘the Tipografia Guintina, directed by L. Franceschini’. 

Following the controversy surrounding Lady Chatterley, postal workers acting under instruction from Scotland Yard opened a registered parcel sent by Lawrence from Florence to his literary agent Curtis Brown in London. The package contained two typescripts of Pansies, the last book of poems Lawrence saw published in his lifetime. It was confiscated on grounds of indecency. 

Even though abridged versions were circulated by Martin Secker in London and Alfred A. Knopf in New York (in July and September 1929 respectively), Lawrence promptly produced a fuller version. The typescript was smuggled through English customs by Welsh novelist Rhys Davies. Printed in August 1929 by P.R. Stephenson of no. 41 Museum Street, London, an uncut edition of the book was published privately for an audience of 500 subscribers by Charles Lahr. 

The Obscene Publications Act was passed in 1959. The bill intended to strengthen the law concerning hard-core material and divided such publications into the two categories of pornography and literature. It was left to a jury to decide whether a printed document (as a whole) had sufficient redeeming merit as literature to sanction its preservation. 

The first test of the new Act was the Lady Chatterley trial. The prosecution failed. A less repressive regime was imminent. A mature society would no longer accept random censorship by the authorities. Following the dramatic court case, Penguin won the right to publish the novel in its entirety in October 1960. The first run of 200,000 copies was sold out on the first day of publication.

Exile is a double-edged experience. James Joyce and Ezra Pound stressed the intellectual necessity of being abroad, presenting exile as a vehicle for individuality and liberation. For others, exile was a bitter and frustrating experience. In his career Charles Lahr went through the whole gamut of emotions. He started his career in London as an ‘outsider’ with the courage to take on the authorities as a publisher and bookseller, but his later years were dark. By the 1930s he found himself in financial difficulties. Friends gathered a collection of stories together on his behalf, published in 1933 as Charles Wain, but his problems deepened. 

In 1935, Foyle’s in Charing Cross Road reported theft from its stock. The thieves were caught and they claimed to have sold on the stolen books to the Progressive Bookshop. Lahr was arrested. Threatened with deportation to Germany – a terrifying prospect for a denaturalised citizen with a Jewish wife – he confessed and spent six months in Wandsworth Prison. His bookshop was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1941. He ended up selling books for the Independent Labour Party at King’s Cross. Lahr died in London in 1971 – an immigrant martyr for the freedom of expression.

Jaap Harskamp, PhD at Amsterdam University (Comparative Literature), Researcher at European University Institute (Florence), Curator Dutch & Flemish Collections at British Library (retired), Researcher at Cambridge UL. His work has been published by the Wellcome Institute, British Library, and Brill. He writes a weekly blog for the New York Almanack at

A Belgian at the Bodley

The Victorian establishment preached that art and literature fulfilled crucial ethical roles in society. If a creator dared to stray from the moral code, he was taken to court to be punished for his audacity – and so was his publisher. Critics of Émile Zola despised his ‘lavatorial’ literature and he felt the full power of repugnance when his novels were rendered into English. In 1888/9 publisher Henry Vizetelly of Catherine Street, Strand, was twice convictedof indecency for issuing two-shilling translations. The issue of ‘Corrupt Literature’ was discussed in the House of Commons in May 1888. Zola was rejected as an ‘apostle of the gutter’. To politicians and press barons, the moral health of the nation was at stake. The establishment was shocked when authors and artists of the Aesthetic Movement challenged the status quo by celebrating artistic, sexual, and socio-political experimentation. Having separated art from morality, they demanded an art for its own sake, that is: the disinterested pursuit of beauty. 

Our textbook narrative runs as follows: by the 1890s the term decadence had become fashionable and was used in connection with aestheticism. It originated from Paris and was used to describe the poetry of Baudelaire or Gautier with connotations of refinement, artificiality, ennui, and decline. Decadence was the complex literature of a society that had grown over-luxurious. From France, the movement spread to England thanks to the intervention of figures such as Walter Pater, Arthur Symons, and Oscar Wilde. For a literary movement driven forward by foreign inspiration, however, a number of conditions have to come together. First and foremost, there is a simultaneous emergence (a ‘generation’) of talented representatives; then there is the essential support of a publisher prepared to take risks; and finally, there is the need for publicity (a ‘succès á scandale’ if possible). For such a movement to find wider acceptance and lasting significance in a hostile environment, the presence of a foreign ‘ambassador’ is of particular value. All these elements came together at a property in Vigo Street, Mayfair. Running between Regent Street and the junction of Burlington Gardens and Savile Row, this street was named after the Anglo-Dutch naval victory over the French and Spanish in the 1702 Battle of Vigo Bay during the War of the Spanish Succession. 

In 1887 Exeter bookseller Elkin Mathews and Devon-born John Lane formed a partnership in London to trade in antiquarian and second hand books. They established themselves at no. 6B Vigo Street, Mayfair. Over the shop door was a sign depicting Rembrandt’s head, which had been the insignia of the previous business on the site. Its new owners decided to replace the sign with that of Thomas Bodley, the Exeter-born founder of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and call their business The Bodley Head. Initially, Lane was the silent partner, but by 1892 he became actively involved in the running of the firm. From dealing in antiquarian books the partners changed direction and began to publish contemporary ‘decadent’ poetry. The Bodley Head became a sign of modernism. Nowadays, the house is associated with Ernest Dowson and The Book of the Rhymers’ Club (1892), with Aubrey Beardsley and the cover design of Oscar Wilde’s Poems (1892), and in particular with publication of the stunning Yellow Book series (1894/7; edited by Beardsley and Henry Harland). A contributor to the periodical was George Egerton (real name: Mary Chavelia Dunne). Her Keynotes (1893) caused a sensation by tackling controversial themes including sexual freedom, alcoholism, and suicide. In the public mind, whipped up by the popular press, Vigo Street smelled of immorality. When details about Oscar Wilde’s trial became widely known in April 1895, the premises of The Bodley Head were attacked by a stone-throwing mob.

Disagreements about the running of the firm led to the partnership to be dissolved in September 1894. Lane took the sign of The Bodley Head and moved to new premises in the Albany, Piccadilly. Mathews remained in Vigo Street and published the first editions of a number of important literary works, including Yeats’s The Wind among the Reeds in 1899, and James Joyce’s Chamber Music in 1907. Lane now concentrated mainly on publishing fiction. When he died in February 1925, control of the company passed to Allen Lane, a distant cousin who had learned the book trade from his uncle. He would become the founder and creator of Penguin Books. John Lane’s ‘ambassador’ was a man whose aesthetic outlook and artistic practice were formed by avant garde movements in Antwerp, Brussels, and Paris. The Bodley Head helped push the career of a Belgian poet and illustrator and, in doing so, integrate Continental modernism into mainstream British art and literature. 

Jean de Bosschère was born on 5 July 1878 in Ukkel (Uccle) in the Brussels region. He spent his childhood in Lier and studied art in Antwerp during the late 1890s when the city’s cultural scene was dominated by Art Nouveau. He began writing essays and monographs on (Flemish) art. He published his first collection of poetry Béâle-Gryne in 1909 to which he added his own illustrations in the style of Aubrey Beardsley. He also drew inspiration from Paul Claudel’s spiritual (Catholic) writing and the (French) symbolist poetry of his friend Max Elskamp. The theme of his first ‘poem-novel’ Dolorine et les ombres (1911) is the opposition between life and dream, between divine and profane love. Its content provoked an accusation of Satanism. The book was printed by Paul Buschmann (the ‘house printer’ of the Antwerp Society of Bibliophiles) in a limited edition of 250 copies. His approach was inspired by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press in its ambition to create a perfect harmony between page, typography, and illustration. The Antwerp-based artist René Leclercq provided the novel with a portrait of the author. The impeccable presentation of this novel, aimed at a limited audience, set a precedent for all his later publications.

When World War I broke out, De Bosschère fled to London and settled in Hampstead. John Lane recognised his talent as a poet-illustrator and appreciated the hothouse temperature and erotic sophistication of his creative endeavour. In 1917 The Bodley Head published a collection of his poems under the title of The Closed Door. The translator of these poems was a significant figure. Frank Stuart [F.S.] Flint was a prominent member of the Imagist group. A poet and translator with a sound knowledge of French modernist literature, he ‘competed’ with Ezra Pound for being the brains behind the Imagist movement. The collection made an impact and the poet was admitted to the London elite of modernists. He influenced T.S. Eliot and befriended Pound, Joyce, Huxley, and others. In 1922, tribute was paid to his work by the American translator and Romanist Samuel Putnam in The World of Jean de Bosschère, published in an edition of 100 luxurious copies (with a letter of introduction by Paul Valéry). It cemented his place in the English-speaking world. 

A period of intense activity would follow. He illustrated classic works by Aristophanes, Ovid, Strato, and Apuleius, but he was very much involved with contemporary literature too. In 1927, he illustrated the Boni & Liveright edition (New York) of The Poems of Oscar Wilde. In 1928 he produced the plates for Baudelaire’s Little Poems in Prose, translated by Aleister Crowley, and published in a limited edition of 800 copies. Two years later, he enriched Richard Aldington’s translation (from the French) of Boccaccio’s Decameron with fifteen full-page colour plates. His distinctive, often grotesque style of fantasy illustration (with reminders of Jeroen Bosch) fitted children’s books as well. He authored and illustrated The City Curious (published by Heinemann in 1920), a masterpiece that rivals the achievements of Lewis Carroll. The choice of material indicates that his work was marked by a fascination with the erotic, the obscure, the child-like, and the occult. The pioneering technique of chromolithography as a method of colour printing which was developed in Paris by Godefroy Engelmann and refined by his son Godefroy II during the latter decades of the nineteenth century, did lend itself very well for his work and he applied the technique with great skill. It made him was one of the great colour-plate artists of the early twentieth century.

Apart from The Closed Door, John Lane published four more of books in which Jean de Bosschère participated:

1922: 550 copies of De Bosschère’s Job le Pauvre with fourteen illustrations by the author; frontispiece by Wyndham Lewis; text in French & English.

1923: 3,000 copies of The Golden Asse of Lucius Apuleius; translated by William Adlington; introduction by Edward Bolland Osborn; illustrated by De Bosschère. 

1924: 3,000 copies of Gustave Flaubert’s The First Temptation of Saint Anthony; translated by René Francis from the 1849/56 manuscripts; illustrated by De Bosschère.

1925: 3,000 copies ofThe Love Books of Ovid; a translation of Ars Amatoria by J. Lewis May; illustrated by De Bosschère.

The author and illustrator himself was back in continental Europe by then. His love affair with the translator Vera Anne Hamilton had blossomed in 1920, but she died two years later. He left London towards the end of 1922, spending the remaining years of his life in Paris, Brussels, and Sienna, where he worked on his novels and poetry collections. He remained a prolific artist, but his days of glory were gone. With the darkening socio-political atmosphere of the 1930s, modernist artists came under attack. The general movement was away from individual vision towards joined values. Contemporary society was attacked for the disintegration of principles and decline of moral authority. The brutality of Nazism, the fury of Fascism, and the emergence of Bolshevik realism, dealt a mortal blow to modernist exploration. De Bosschère’s work sunk into relative obscurity. He died in January 1953 in France. From 1946 onwards, he kept a diary titled Journal d’un rebelle solitaire (as yet unpublished). Jean de Bosschère’s work deserves a catalogue raisonné – urgently.

Typography in Adversity

Of the 45,000 Americans who declared themselves conscientious objectors during the Second World War, a number went on to become important figures in later cultural life. Objectors were drafted in a programme that was set up as an alternative to military service. The Civilian Public Service system (CPS) provided camps where members of the so-called historic peace churches (Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker) and other objectors were put to work in areas of ‘national importance’ such as forestry, fire fighting, and social services. From 1941 to 1947, some 12,000 men who were willing to make a contribution to the war effort but refusing to do military service, laboured in 152 CPS camps throughout the United States. They served without wages and minimal support from the government. The cost of maintaining the camps was carried by their congregations and families. CPS men served longer than regular draftees, not being released until well past the end of the war.

Established in 1942, Camp Angel at Waldport (CPS Camp no. 56) was one of three conscientious objector camps in Oregon. It was administered by the Mennonite Central Committee. Located on the rugged coastline, the main work of the interns was the reforestation of Blodgett Peak Burn, an area that had been heavily logged during the First World War and that had suffered severe wildfires after the war. Among Camp Angel’s conscientious objectors was the poet William Everson. He founded the Fine Arts Camp which brought together creative individuals from different disciplines. Poets, writers, theatre workers, painters, woodworkers, potters, photographers, and fine art printers were among those allowed to transfer to the camp. There they performed plays, held regular poetry readings and concerts, and put on a version of the operetta The Mikado. At Waldport, wives and women friends rented cabins at the nearby beach and performed in the theatre productions at the camp. Together in post-war San Francisco they founded the Interplayers Theatre. Poets Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, and writer Henry Miller were pacifists who joined the new arrivals from Waldport, and birthed the ‘San Francisco Renaissance’ in the arts which evolved into the ‘Beat Movement’ of the 1950s and 1960s.

William Everson was a poet, critic and small printer. He was born in Sacramento, California. Both his parents were printers. Registered as an anarchist and pacifist, he was sent to Camp Angel. During his time as a conscientious objector, Everson completed The Residual Years, a volume of poems that launched him to national fame. In 1948, he joined the Catholic Church and took the name of Brother Antoninus when he joined the Dominican Order (he was nicknamed the ‘Beat Friar’). He left the Dominicans in 1969 and married a woman many years his junior. Everson was poet-in-residence at the University of California where he founded the Lime Kiln Press, through which he printed high quality fine-art editions of his own poetry and that of others. Another fascinating character interned at Waldport was Adrian Wilson. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in July 1923, he had been fascinated by the art of printing since a young age. At the camp, Emerson had been able to acquire an old printing press where Wilson could apply his typographical skills. As a result, two magazines were produced at the camp The Illiterati and The Compass, in addition to programs for the plays and elegant books of poetry. At the camp’s press, Wilson’s typesetting and presswork skills progressed rapidly.

The camp’s official newsletter was The Tide, but the interns founded their own Untide Press, which published volumes of poetry by Glen Coffield, Kenneth Patchen, Bill Shank, and Jacob Sloan. The very first book published by the Press appeared in November 1944. It was Everson’s War Elegies. Published in an edition of 975 copies, this collection of poems was hand-set in Goudy Light and Futura types and printed in red and black (stapled into apricot paper wrappers, printed in black and blue) on Linweave Early American paper, the book was illustrated by architect and painter Kemper Nomland Jr. The latter was also interned at Camp Angel and involved with the fine arts group where he designed several book covers, worked on The Illiterati, and produced several paintings. After the war, Adrian Wilson would become an internationally known printer, typographer, and scholar – designing scores of books for the University of California Press.

Creative Objectors

With the outbreak of the First World War Europe went suicidal. In Britain a whole generation of young and able men were sent to the trenches – mass graves of mud and madness. The youngsters had cheerfully left London by train, drinking, singing, and waving farewell to their loved ones. ‘Give it to them’ – such was the confident message shouted from the platforms at Victoria Station. War was a game, an adventure that made men out of boys, and turned suckers into soldiers. It was one’s pride and duty to fight for King, Country and Empire. It would be a brief affair anyway. Britain was an unrivalled world power, a dominant force for justice and democracy. The nation had God on its side. It proved all too brief for most of the service men. They were sacrificed in an insane battle of artillery, a war of infernal machinery in which soldiers acted merely as the living material of mindless mechanization. In the first two weeks of the war there were 20,000 casualties.

Some refused to join the party. To them, life was made hell in Britain. They received the ‘white feather’ (traditional symbol of cowardice) treatment. The Order of the White Feather had been founded in August 1914 by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald with the aim of coercing men to enlist in the British Army. Women were encouraged to present those not wearing a uniform with a white feather. Those who objected did so for religious, political or philosophical reasons. D.H. Lawrence was one victim who suffered brutal treatment in Britain for his refusal to fight. Stanley Morison was another one. Born in Tavistock Road, Wanstead (East-London) on 6 May 1889, typographer and printing historian Morison had to learn his skill the hard way. He was self-taught. Having left school early after his father, an unsuccessful commercial traveller, had ran off, young Stanley was forced into employment in order to support the family. He started his working life as a clerk with the London City Mission. The work was not fulfilling and he spent much of his time in museums and libraries. In early 1913 he made a crucial career switch after securing a post as assistant in the office of The Imprint, a new monthly periodical devoted to typography. Morison set out to make a career in printing (although there were no family connections with the trade).

In 1916, conscription was introduced into Britain. Morison made known his conscientious objection to war service. It took considerable courage to do so. His appeal against conscription on religious and moral grounds was dismissed, and on 7 May 1916 he was arrested spending time in prison Eventually he accepted alternative employment, and by the time the war ended he was engaged in farm work. It had been a deeply demoralizing episode in his life. Francis Meynell, son of the author, suffragette and prominent Roman Catholic convert Alice Meynell, was another conscientious objector who spent time in prison for his principles. Meynell’s name is associated with the leftwing press and the Daily Herald in particular. In 1922, he founded the Nonesuch Press, a private press he ran in co-operation with author David ‘Bunny’ Garnett. Meynell used Monotype machines to replicate the more laborious methods of handset type. His attitude towards the machine differed from his predecessors. In fact, he embraced the machine: ‘Our stock in trade has been the theory that mechanical means could be made to serve fine ends; that the machine in printing was a controllable tool’. The press issued books that combined Monotype’s modern techniques and fonts in styles that were very traditional. The output of Nonesuch was essentially an extension of the Arts and Crafts Movement’s ideals. The press published 140 fine editions of poetry and literature. The Meynell collection is held at Cambridge University Library. It comprises part of his personal library and includes around 260 volumes. Modernist poet John Rodker, son of a Jewish immigrant corset-maker from Poland, was one of the ‘Whitechapel Boys’, a group of artists who met together in the pre-war period in the area around Whitechapel Art Gallery. A conscientious objector during the war, he had been on the run before being arrested in April 1917, imprisoned, and then transferred to the Home Office Work Centre at Dartmoor. In 1919 he started the Ovid Press, a private press which lasted about a year. It published T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and portfolios of drawings by Wyndham Lewis and others.

In 1916, Meynell and Morison established the Guild of the Pope’s Peace. Pius X had died in 1914 and was succeeded by Benedict XV. The latter was appalled by the war and condemned the continuation of the slaughter. The Guild was set up to print and distribute Benedict’s political appeals and his attempts to end the bloodshed. The world, including the Catholic world, did not listen. People preferred to lend their ear to the phraseology of Lloyd George, Kitchener, or the Kaiser. In August 2009, the British Security Service MI5 released a set of documents concerning ‘Communists and suspected Communists’ in Britain over the period 1916-1949. Files KV 2/3041-42 contain information on Francis Meynell. They record how he came to notice as an active peace campaigner during the First World War. The Guild of Pope’s Peace was viewed by British officials as being an especially suspicious organization – not only did it campaign for peace at any cost, but because of its Catholic nature it was viewed as being pro-German. The file includes suspicions that he was involved in propaganda designed to undermine the morale of the British army. By his involvement with the Guild, Morison was under suspicion as well.

Morison was a complex man living in turbulent times. In politics he was a radical who had no time for the Roman curia and who resented the monarchy. Communist friends dissuaded him in 1921 from applying for membership of their party. When young, he searched for certainty, for an anchor that would stop him from drifting in a sea of social unrest. Like many other creative minds of his generation he sensed that everywhere, within man and without, there was instability and chaos. In the midst of material abundance and technological advance, man seemed to have lost control. Morison’s quest is symptomatic for that of many other pre-war intellectuals. The soul of modern man, they feared, was oddly split between a feeling of supreme power and an intense sense of anxiety. Many looked for support outside themselves, for something that was bigger and more encompassing than mere individualism. In December 1908, Morison found the discipline of the Catholic Church. His conversion influenced his work. He showed a keen interest in the hymn book and other Catholic writings and his first typographic work was done for the Church. In his English Prayer Book Morison examined the history of the various liturgical books used in public worship, from their origins in apostolic times to the later stages of their development. Taking up the study of the story of printing, he became an expert on typographic history. Not a theorist – Morison had a practical turn of mind which used past achievements to enrich the present. By happy coincidence, he proved to have a fluent style of writing which helped him spreading his ideas and create a faithful following. His collected writings, over two hundred books, articles, reviews and prefaces, affected the taste and knowledge of all those concerned with book production (his fine collection of books was presented to Cambridge University Library, where it is kept in the Morison Room).

Meynell had begun his career in his father’s publishing house Burns & Oates. In 1916 he founded the Pelican Press. Morison became design supervisor at the Press in 1918. At the Pelican he produced his first study on typography The Craft of Printing: Notes on the History of Type Forms (1919) in which he establishes the relationship of Caslon and the Didots to Jenson and Aldus, and the connection between calligraphy and typography. What makes the book interesting is that Morison not just investigates the history of type design, but treats it as a subject worthy of serious study. It took two centuries after the start of printing with moveable type that people began to take the process seriously as an art, rather than just a technical means of transferring writing into print. In 1921 Stanley left Pelican and joined the newly founded Cloister Press where he was in sole charge of design. Working there he used Catholic imagery in designing many of his pages. However, the Cloister Press was short lived and Morrison moved on. In 1922 he was a founder-member of the Fleuron Society which was dedicated to typographical matters (a fleuron being a typographic flower or ornament). From 1925 to 1930 he edited The Fleuron, a journal that was (and remains) appreciated by professionals and connoisseurs alike for its superb artwork and printing. His final essay in The Fleuron entitled ‘First principles of typography’ was frequently reprinted and translated.

From 1923 to 1967 Morison was typographic consultant for the Monotype Corporation. His research into historic typefaces during the 1920s and 1930s led to the revival of the Baskerville and Bembo types. In 1931, The Times newspaper commissioned the Corporation to design a new typeface. Morison decided that the ‘classy’ paper needed a face whose strength of line and economy of space would correspond with its editorial approach and appeal to the reader at the same time. Times New Roman, drawn by Victor Lardent and initially released in 1932, was the result. As a design it was unique in newspaper typography. Based on old style (or Garalde) types, it was more condensed than previous newspaper types, and had greater contrast. Times New Roman remains popular for papers, magazines, and annual reports. Between 1945 and 1948 Morison held the post of editor of the Times Literary Supplement. He was a member of the editorial board of the Encyclopaedia Britannica from 1961 until his death in 1967. His relentless search for certainty is evident throughout his work. While working for The Times, he was given the nickname of The Printer’s Friend for his constant altering of proofs until the desired result was achieved. Morison was totally pre-occupied with fitting everything into predetermined patterns. To overcome chaos was the ultimate force driving him forward, both in his work and in his private life.

Type for Psychologists

A private press is a small business undertaking for the production and publication of special books – it is at the same time much more than that: printing and publishing is a statement, a worldview, an alternative lifestyle.

The Hogarth Press was established by Leonard Woolf in 1917 as a therapeutic pastime for his wife Virginia who was recovering from one of her frequent bouts of ill-health and shattered nerves. It was named after Hogarth House in Richmond where they were living at the time. Its first manifestation was a small hand press which they installed in a spare room of their home. Working from an instructional handbook, they taught themselves how to set the type and print a page. They did all the menial tasks of running a small home-based publishing business themselves. Virginia spent hours wrapping up volumes in brown paper parcels for dispatch to booksellers. There was no formal publishing policy. Their ambition was to ensure that the Bloomsbury circle could publish work that, in Leonard’s words, the ‘commercial publisher would not look at’. The fame of the Hogarth Press was in first instance associated with the literary reputation of its celebrated founders and the range of talented friends to which they gave an audience. Their first project, Two Stories, was a hand-printed booklet containing a story by each of them, Leonard’s ‘Two Jews’ and Virginia’s ‘The Mark on the Wall’. One hundred and fifty copies were printed and bound in Richmond, and sold by subscription. The Press emerged as a commercially viable publishing enterprise following the unexpected success of Virginia’s Kew Gardens in 1919. It allowed them to publish experimental works by an up and coming generation of authors such as Katherine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot, Clive Bell, C. Day Lewis, Robert Graves, E.M. Forster, Christopher Isherwood, and others. The Press also provided avenues of expression for photographers, illustrators and designers, including John Banting, Vanessa Bell, Dora Carrington, Roger Fry, and Duncan Grant. They were involved in the design of the book jackets and a distinctive typography which established a recognizable ‘Hogarth’ style of presentation.

In 1921 the Press acquired better printing equipment and moved to more central premises in Tavistock Square. It began publishing translations of work by writers such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Gorky. Constance Garnett had been one of the first translators of Russian nineteenth-century authors making their work accessible to an English audience. Many British authors learned about Russian literature through her enormous efforts (she produced seventy-one translations). Through Garnett’s intervention, Virginia Woolf became an admirer of Dostoevsky. The cultural rapprochement between Britain and Russia in the early twentieth century provided a favourable atmosphere for Woolf’s promotion of Russian literature. Between 1917 and 1946 The Hogarth Press published fifteen translations. The main source of information was Samuel Solomonovich Koteliansky who, as a student, had been involved in the revolutionary movement. To escape prosecution, he settled in England in 1911 and never returned to Russia. The first book Koteliansky and the Woolfs worked at together was Maxim Gorky’s Reminiscences of Leo Nicolayevitch Tolstoi, published by The Hogarth Press in 1920. Koteliansky was a crucial resource to the Press: he translated not only the work of widely known authors, but also that of a number of contemporary writers who had left Russia after the Revolution, such as Ivan Bunin and Alexander Kuprin.

In his 1964 autobiography Beginning Again Leonard Woolf wrote that Bloomsbury was not like any previous group of writers and artists who were not only friends, but were united by a common doctrine or purpose, be it artistic or political. The Lake poets, the French Impressionists, the English pre-Raphaelites were groups of that kind. Bloomsbury, he argued, was different. Politically, members held mainly left-liberal stances and opposed the cult of the military – but they would not be drawn into activism of any kind. They hated the idea of being associated with, in their own terms, proselytizers, missionaries, crusaders or propagandists. The basis of their grouping was love and friendship. Their minds had been coloured by the intellectual climate of Cambridge and the philosophy of G.E. Moore. What Bloomsbury drew from Moore was contained in his statement that ‘one’s prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge’. Bloomsbury writers and artists rejected dominant Victorian values by turning away from the public sphere towards an inward cultivation of personal relationships and individual pleasure, both in aesthetics and erotics.

The list of English authors published by the Hogarth Press is like a roll call of the modern movement. Publications include such seminal works as Eliot’s The Waste Land and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room. It is also a catalogue of who slept with whom at the time. English modernism was a mattress made in suburban London. Of sex there was plenty (it is not surprising that during the 1960s there was a revival of interest in the group). For Bloomsbury, the turn away from Victorian realism towards inwardness meant a revaluation of intimacy, of friendship, love and marriage. Author and biographer Lytton Strachey, for example, entered the Bloomsbury Group through his friendships with Clive Bell and Thoby Stevens. He had a number of affairs with several of its male members, while maintaining a long live-in relationship with the artist Dora Carrington. The latter married Ralph Partridge, thus creating a ‘ménage à trois’. After his death, Strachey’s ashes were given to Dora. Two months later she committed suicide. Virginia Woolf’s erotic relationship with Vita Sackville-West is well-documented. The latter’s work, such as her poem The Land (1926) and the novel All Passion Spent (1931), was published by the Hogarth Press. In fact, she became a best-selling writer especially after being awarded the Hawthornden Prize for literature in 1926, which added to the prestige of the Press as well.

The Woolfs set an example to other young authors. Laura Riding and Robert Graves had both work published by the Hogarth Press. In 1927 they founded their own London letterpress publishing imprint called the Seizin Press, before moving to Spain. From 1930 to 1937, they operated a Crown Albion flatbed printing press in their house ‘Ca n’Alluny’ out of Deià, Mallorca. Besides their own work, the Press published work by authors such as Gertrude Stein, Len Lye, and James Reeves. The Seizin Press ceased to exist on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939 Riding and Graves terminated their companionship having published a total of eighteen books. More interesting is the case of another former Hogarth Press author. Nancy Cunard, daughter of Sir Bache Cunard, heir to the Cunard Line shipping business, rejected the values of her upper class background and became involved in the fight against fascism. Her list of literary lovers was impressive, including Wyndham Lewis, Aldous Huxley, Tristan Tzara, Ezra Pound, and Louis Aragon. Other admirers were James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and William Carlos Williams. Having moved to Paris in 1920, Cunard found herself at the heart of Continental modernist movements. Much of her published poetry dates from this period. She was also a passionate collector of African cultural artifacts – jewelry in particular. She was often photographed wearing African neckpieces of wooden cubes which paid homage to the artistic concept of Cubism. In 1927, Nancy moved into a farmhouse in La Chapelle-Réanville in Normandy. It was there in 1928 that she set up the Hours Press. It brought out the first separately published work of Samuel Beckett, a poem called Whoroscope (1930), and also Ezra Pound’s A Draft of XXX Cantos. Cunard published old friends like George Moore, Norman Douglas, Richard Aldington, Arthur Symons, and others. The last book of the press appeared in 1931 (during its four-year existence the Hours Press published twenty-four books) – it was an erotic farewell: The Revaluation of Obscenity by sexologist Havelock Ellis.

An intriguing aspect of the Bloomsbury Group (the ‘Bloomsberries’) was their interdisciplinary interest. The Hogarth Press was not limited to the publication of literature, poetry or literary criticism. The reason for that wider focus was the close association of Bloomsbury with the Cambridge Apostles. Founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson (later the first Bishop of Gibraltar) and eleven associates, the Cambridge Apostles is an (ongoing) intellectual society within the University. John Maynard Keynes, Leonard Woolf, Lytton and James Strachey, E.M. Forster and Rupert Brooke were all Apostles. Keynes was a civil servant, a patron of the arts, and the father of modern macro-economics. Keynesian economic theory was adopted by many Western nations after WWII and to this very day his ideas are widely discussed. In 1919 he represented the Treasury at the Versailles Peace Conference opposing the harsh reparations placed on Germany. He warned for the consequences on the wider world. In the same year he published The Economic Consequences of the Peace. His words were ignored. In July 1926, the Hogarth Press published his essay ‘The End of Laissez-Faire’ in the form of a pamphlet (the essay was based on the Sidney Ball Lecture given by Keynes at Oxford in November 1924). Keynes was romantically involved with at number of male members of the Bloomsbury Group, including Duncan Grant and Lytton Stachey. In 1925 he married Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova.

In 1934, the Hogarth Press published the debut novel In a Province by Laurens van der Post. Born in 1906 in the former Afrikaner Orange Free State, Van der Post (son of a Dutch father and German mother) was an author, farmer, diplomat, soldier, and prisoner of war. A close friend of Carl Jung, he became the principle chronicler of the Stone Age Kalahari Bushmen. At times an irritatingly pompous figure, he presented himself as a ‘defender’ of indigenous cultures in a modern world where, in his opinion, the values of economy and technology were destroying any deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all life on earth. This stance motivated his fierce criticism of Dutch colonial repression in Indonesia. In 1929, whilst working as a journalist for the Cape Times, he became increasingly critical of white rule in South Africa. In 1929 he predicted the prospect of a melting pot culture, a civilization that would neither be black nor white, but brown. Two years later he moved to London where he was introduced to the Woolfs and members of the Bloomsbury Group. They liked the treatment of racial tension in his novel. The unorthodox friendship between a white and a black man seemed to suggest a break-down of racial barriers – until conflicting forces of love, politics and peer group pressure come into play and the story explodes into tragedy and criminality.

Leonard Woolf remained the main director of the publishing house from its beginning in 1917 until his death in 1969. He had a sharp eye for detail, not just for the presentation of the printed text itself, but also for the commercial running of the Press. A one-time colonial administrator in Ceylon, Leonard directed the publishing house as if it was a part of the civil service. Every penny was accounted for. He hated waste in whatever form. John Lehmann was the most influential member of the firm. In 1938, when Virginia Woolf chose to give full attention to her creative work, he bought out her share and became part-owner and general manager. He had ambitions to transform the Hogarth Press from a cottage industry into a contemporary publishing house. He proposed that they should raise share capital and employ agents. But his ideas were antithetical to Leonard’s principles of self-reliance and independence. He overruled Lehmann, arguing that the strength of the Press was its very minimalism. Viginia died in 1941. Without her presence and casting vote, the differences between the two partners grew wider. Lehmann wanted to publish Saul Bellow and Jean Paul Sartre. Leonard refused. Priority was given to keeping Virginia Woolf’s works in print (preparations were made for the publication of her multi-volume Diaries and Letters), but other disagreements remained unresolved. The final split between them came in 1946. Leonard raised money to keep the company afloat by persuading fellow publisher Ian Parsons of Chatto & Windus to buy out Lehmann’s share. Again, personal relationships were of a complicated sexual nature. Ian Parsons was the husband of Trekkie Parsons, who had illustrated some Hogarth titles. She lived with Leonard during the week and with her husband at weekends. Both men became business partners as well as sharing a wife.

In the post-war period, the Press embarked upon a highly ambitious project: the publication of the twenty-four volume set of The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. This undertaking had been preceded by their publication of the papers of the International Psycho-Analytical Institute. The link between Freud and Bloomsbury was psychoanalyst James Beaumont Strachey, the younger brother of Lytton. During his student days at Trinity he was known as ‘little Strachey’. At Cambridge, Strachey fell in love with Rupert Brooke, who did not return his affections. He was himself pursued by mountaineer George Mallory and other male students, including Keynes with whom he had an affair. His love for Brooke never diminished. Rupert’s death in 1915 left him emotionally shattered. In 1920 James married Alix Sargant Florence and soon afterwards they moved to Vienna where James became one of Freud’s many disciples. Freud himself requested the couple to translate some of his work in to English. It became a lifetime’s work and an almost impossible task. Strachey’s approach underlines the translator’s dilemma. In his preface to the Anglicized Freud, he states: ‘I am imagining Freud as an English gentleman of science, of wide education, born in the middle of the nineteenth century’. Strachey turned Freud into an English academic. The loss is inevitable. It is the price a translator pays for his efforts.

It has been a fascinating round trip. The Hogarth Press was founded by Leonard Woolf as a therapeutic means to raise the spirits of a frail and fidgety Virginia. Five years after her death Leonard launched the bravest of all the Press’s undertakings in publishing Freud’s collected works. In that sense, the Hogarth Press stands as a lasting tribute to Virginia’s delicate nervous system and complex personality.

Virgil, Shakespeare and the Tour de France

In 1906 Edvard Munch finished a full-length portrait of Harry Kessler. The painting is held at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Graf (Count) Harry Kessler was a German diplomat, author and art patron. His father was a wealthy businessman and banker, and his mother, the Anglo-Irish Alice Baroness Blosse-Lynch. Young Kessler was educated in Paris and England until he was fourteen. His family moved in the highest of circles. Wilhelm I was attracted to his mother and speculation persisted that the Kaiser was Kessler’s true father. Bismarck was another family friend. Kessler was a member of the German delegation to sign the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. His liberal attitudes toward modern art would eventually provoke the rage of the Nazi regime.

Kessler’s life offers a vivid perspective on the dramatic transformation of European art and politics that took place between 1890 and 1930. In the first half of his career Kessler was an ardent champion of aesthetic modernism in Imperial Germany, becoming a friend and patron to pioneering artists and writers of his day. In his capacity as director of the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Weimar and vice-president of the German Artists League, he served as a spokesman for modern and experimental art. In the aftermath of the First World War, in which he served as a soldier and secret agent, Kessler embarked on a public career as a committed internationalist and pacifist, a stance that led ultimately to his exile from Germany upon the Nazi seizure of power. W. H. Auden called him ‘a crown witness of our times’.

It was known that Kessler had kept a diary since the age of twelve until his death in 1937 of which the earlier part was presumed lost. However, in 1983, on the island of Mallorca, a safe-deposit box was retrieved containing Kessler’s journals and correspondence, along with newspaper clippings and photographs. The valuable contents was transported to Marbach am Neckar, birthplace of Schiller and the place where the Deutsches Literaturarchiv (German Literature Archive) is kept. A team of scholars carefully transcribed the journals. The German edition of the diary runs to nine volumes. The diary itself is on a par with the private records held by Samuel Pepys, the Goncourt brothers, André Gide, or Henri Frédéric Amiel. Kessler was intimate with high society in England, France, and Germany. He knew most of the great European artists personally and supplied lively portraits of Verlaine in old age, of Degas and Renoir, of Rodin and Maillol, of Rilke and Hofmannsthal, of Cosima Wagner and Richard Strauss, of Diaghilev and Nijinsky. He was close to Elizabeth Nietzsche, the philosopher’s notorious sister. When she informed him that Friedrich was dying, he travelled to Weimar and left a moving description of Nietzsche’s final hours. Kessler was a cosmopolitan mind, a European in the proper sense of the word.

Kessler’s ideal of beauty was male. It was men bathing naked in rivers. It was working-class boys fighting in the Whitechapel boxing ring. It was Nijinsky’s dancing. As early as 1908, Kessler was attracted to Aristide Maillol’s sculpture and he invited the artist to go with him to Greece. He spent a great deal of effort persuading the firmly heterosexual sculptor to take a look at the male nude. He specifically encouraged him to use as his model the seventeen year old Tour de France racing cyclist and jockey, Gaston Colin, with whom Kessler was having an affair. Le Cycliste, also called L’éphèbe (1908) represents Colin. It was the first time the sculptor had worked on a male figure. With this statue in bronze, Kessler wanted to own a full-length nude portrait of his companion, a picture of physical perfection. However, critics considered its realism disconcerting, and even Kessler found some of its features exaggerated. This was a proper celebration of the penis. The fact that the statue is smaller than life sized deepened some of the embarrassment.

Darwin’s thinking had made a massive impact in Germany. The Origin of species was translated into German within a year after publication in England. Both liberals and socialists were attracted to the socio-economic directions Darwin seemed to have indicated. In 1899, socialist Ludwig Woltmann introduced the notion of the ‘social Darwinist’ into the academic jargon. Darwin himself had been reluctant to apply the concept of progress to biological evolution, but German thinkers were only too eager to transpose his ideas into the sphere of social life and politics and make claims of cultural and material progress (or decadence). The theory of evolution gave rise to a whole new set of moral norms. Health (fitness) and sickness (unfitness) became the criteria for making moral judgments. Eugenicists claimed that morality and ethics arise from the law of the preservation of the species. Whatever would lift man to a higher level of mental or physical perfection is moral. Sport and the building of sport stadiums became part of this drive for regeneration. In his admiration for sportsmen (he admired the modern Olympic ideal and the efforts made by Pierre de Coubertin), Kessler showed his Anglo-German background. The military of the British Empire had a long tradition of involvement in sport. Along with exercising and drilling, sport was one of the few other activities for British troops posted in colonial settlements. The army patronized sport in various ways because it enhanced fitness, boosted morale, provided a physical outlet, and countered boredom. Motivated by anxieties about perceived physical deterioration of the young, English physical culturalists represented the cultivation of a fit male body as an obligation of citizenship and patriotism. This explains the extraordinary ‘popularity’ of the war/sport and sport/war metaphors during the nineteenth century and beyond.

There is also a classical analogy that would have appealed to Kessler. Britain’s pre-Victorian overseas expansion stimulated comparisons. Roman dignity had been claimed for British monarchs and achievements by Dryden and others. In 1876 Disraeli introduced the Royal Titles Act which raised the status of the English Queen to ‘Regina et Imperatrix’. British imperialists were keen to draw a historical comparison with Imperial Rome to motivate and inspire their contemporaries. It was an appealing analogy: Rome had been a civilizing force in barbaric times and Britain’s mission was to play a similar role in the modern world. This whole odd mixture of Greece, Olympics, classical ideals, physical perfection, and regeneration, made an impact on Kessler’s development as a book designer.

In 1913, Kessler founded the Cranach Press in Weimar. Influenced by the flourishing of English private presses, he achieved publishing distinction by employing experienced artists and artisans. The relatively few productions of the Press demonstrate the highest standards of skill and craftsmanship. Special types and papers resulted from thorough experimentation, and great care was devoted to the design of each volume. The Press produced a few masterpieces including Les éclogues de Virgile (The eclogues of Virgil), illustrated by Aristide Maillol, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet with wood-engravings by Edward Gordon Craig. The plan for a Virgil project was conceived during the time Kessler and Maillol were in Greece. Begun in 1912, it was delayed by the war and publication did not take place until 1926. The French quarto edition was printed in 250 numbered copies on handmade rag paper with forty-three original woodcuts printed in black by Maillol, and an additional double-suite of woodcuts printed in black and red bound in at the back. The title-page and initials were designed by Eric Gill. A German and an English version were simultaneously issued.

The Cranach edition of Hamlet consists of Gerhart Hauptman’s translation of the second quarto of Shakespeare’s play, surrounded by the relevant source texts of Saxo Grammaticus and François de Belleforest. One of the finest books ever produced, it was printed in an edition of 322 copies. Edward Gordon Craig designed some eighty of the woodcuts, with Eric Gill contributing one. Craig had been working on woodblock illustrations for Hamlet since 1908. Kessler would print two grand editions of Hamlet with Craig’s woodcuts, one in German in 1928, and an English version in 1930. The beauty of the layout, illustrations, typography, and paper are in the finest tradition of the book revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Kessler, however, wanted to achieve more than just a fine press edition of Hamlet. He secured the support of scholar John Dover Wilson, chief editor of the New Shakespeare, a series of editions of the complete plays published by Cambridge University Press, to edit the work. The Cranach Hamlet is a tribute to the beauty of early printed books. The typeface, designed by master calligrapher Edward Johnston, was based on the Gothic type used by Fust and Schaeffer in their famous 1457 Psalter. The layout of text and illustration surrounded by commentary in a masterly manner mirrors that of early printed books.

The Vale Revival

The River Thames has played a somewhat unfortunate role in the history of English typography. In a bitter dispute between the once partner-printers Thomas Sanderson-Cobden and Emery Walker, the former had dumbed the type along with its punches and matrices of their Doves Press into the river in order to stop Walker from using them. The founder of the Vale Press would also toss his type designs into the Thames.

After the death of William Morris, fine press printers looked beyond the medieval era, seeking the clarity of the Venetian Renaissance masters. They designed sparser text pages dependent upon good typography thus encouraging a new generation of type design. Historical type-faces were studied and revived, new punches were cut, and new types were cast. Some designers, working between the worlds of the private and the commercial press, were able to bring better quality to the mass market. Others were more exclusive, happy to work for a niche market for which they did not have to sacrifice any of their principles. Charles de Sousy Ricketts was a versatile wood engraver, author and printer. Born in Geneva to a French mother and an English father, he spent much of his younger years in France and Italy. In 1882, he began his studies in art at the City and Guilds Technical Art School in Lambeth, London. There he met painter and lithographer Charles Shannon, his lifelong partner. Together they founded The Dial: An Occasional Magazine, introducing French Symbolism into Britain. After receiving a complimentary copy of this ‘periodical devoted to art’ Oscar Wilde paid a visit to the editors and told them that the journal ‘is quite delightful, but don’t bring out a second number, all perfect things should be unique’. In fact four more issues were published between 1892 and 1897. Wilde’s interest in his work led to Ricketts’s first commissions as a book designer. In 1891 he designed six books including The Picture of Dorian Gray and The House of Pomegranates. Throughout the early eighteen-nineties Ricketts continued to develop his skill as a designer of bindings.

Ricketts is remembered for his work as book designer and typographer with the Vale Press, named after his house The Vale (previously occupied by Whistler) in Chelsea, and his work in the theatre as a set and costume designer. He started publishing work by both classical and contemporary authors. Unlike the Kelmscott Press, Vale Press was more like a publishing house. Ricketts hired printers and typesetters to create his books, but they had to work under his own high standards. The printing was carried out by Ballantyne Press under the supervision of Charles McCall. The publication of Daphnis and Chloe (1893) and Hero and Leander (1894) represented a significant typographical advance in Ricketts’s work. He succeeded in creating a harmonious partnership between text and illustration. Encouraged by the results, Ricketts embarked on his quest to become ‘a publisher in earnest’. His desire to be a printer, publisher, and bookbinder was finally realized when William Llewellyn Hacon, a wealthy barrister, agreed to make an initial investment. Vale Press publications were a mixture of literary classics, work by friends, and books Ricketts enjoyed reading. The first book issued from the Vale Press was Milton’s Early Poems in 1896. One of the dilemmas he had to face up to was that classic editions and aesthetic considerations are difficult to reconcile. It was Ricketts’s stated aim that Vale publications were to give a faithful reprint of first editions. Editorial intervention would be minimal, and only blatant errors were to be corrected. In other words, Vale reprints of the classics lacked any substantive critical apparatus. As a consequence, none of the editions the house produced have proved to be of textual significance.

In 1899 Ricketts summarized the ideas and ideals behind his work in a Defense of the Revival of Printing. The forty-six books produced in the eight years of the Vale Press’s existence (from 1896 to 1904) constitute some of the most notable examples of the printing revival of the 1890s. Each incorporated type-fonts, frontispieces, border decorations, illuminated letters, and in some cases wood-engraved illustrations and bindings, designed and overseen by Ricketts personally. Even the papers bore his watermarks. The Vale Press volumes were bound in one of three styles: sober blue paper boards, patterned paper boards, and white buckram. The patterned papers for the Vale Press books were printed by Lucien Pissarro. Leading writers such as Wilde, John Gray, Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats and Thomas Sturge-Moore were eager for Ricketts to decorate their books or design stagings for their plays. Samuel Bing, Camille Pissarro and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec numbered among his admirers on the Continent. The working relationship with Oscar Wilde remained a close one. Ricketts and Wilde were in many ways kindred spirits. The designs for Wilde’s The Sphinx mark one of the high points of late-Victorian publishing. Another splendid example of Ricketts’s skills was the 1901 publication of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the famous translation of Edward Fitzgerald, of which 310 copies were printed on handmade paper. Ricketts represented the spirit of the nineties. In his life and work, he embodied an aesthetic devotion to art and beauty coupled to an abundance of creative energy.

Ricketts used three typefaces of his own design which were cut by Edward Prince. His Vale typeface was used in most of the books, although a smaller face known as the Avon font was designed by him to print Shakespeare’s plays. His final typeface, the Kings’s font, was a mixture of experimental letterforms of which even his admirers were critical. The most ambitious undertaking of the Vale Press was the publication of a complete Shakespeare  in thirty-nine octavo volumes produced in 310 sets with marginal decorations by Charles Ricketts to the first leaf and then to a selection of others in each work . The Vale Press stopped operating in 1903. The last book published was Danae: A Poem by Thomas Sturge Moore in 230 copies on handmade paper with three illustration by Ricketts. That in itself was unusual. While many of the Vale Press books contained decorative title page borders and initial letters by Ricketts, very few of them had illustrations. In 1904, Ricketts privately published a final bibliography of the Press’s activities in which all three typefaces are represented after which he tossed all his type and the matrices used for casting the type into the Thames. After that, Ricketts turned his talent to painting, sculpture, theatre design, and art criticism. His art historical advice was eagerly sought by collectors and museums (in 1914 he declined the Directorship of England’s National Gallery). Together with Shannon, he formed one of the more important private art collections of the early twentieth century, much of which was later absorbed into the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge.

Doves and Drama

The Dove at no. 19 Upper Mall is one of the oldest public houses in the Hammersmith. Initially a coffeehouse, it became a tavern in 1796. Overlooking the Thames (a prized spot from which to view the Boat Race every April), the house boasts a long list of famous drinkers, including the likes of Charles II and Nell Gwyn (allegedly), William Morris (who lived next door until moving to Kelmscott House), Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, and numerous actors such as Richard Burton, David McCallum and Robert Vaughn. Novelist and politician Alan Patrick Herbert, author of The Water Gipsies (1930) in which the pub appears under the name of the Pigeon, was also a regular. Scottish poet and playwright James Thomson is said to have penned ‘Rule Britannia’ there while visiting the pub. Ever since, English patriotism focused on the figure of Britannia. In eighteenth century medals and prints she was invoked as patron to the sovereign and the British people. Throughout succeeding reigns, Britannia’s allegiance to the throne continued on commemorative medals showing her attending royal coronations, marriages, births, and deaths. Thomas Arne’s rousing setting of Thomson’s poem (1740) is still belted out at the Last Night of the Proms or by an inebriated barmy army of England cricket supporters.

No. 7 Hammersmith Terrace is a tall Georgian house on the Thames. This, the only authentic Arts and Crafts interior in Britain (it is run by a small charitable trust), was the property of the printer Emery Walker, friend and mentor to William Morris. London-born Walker was a coachbuilder’s son. He left school at thirteen to support the family after his father lost his eye-sight. Having tried his hand at various jobs, he started work for a printer who was developing photo-engraving techniques for reproducing works of art. In printing Walker found his calling. Soon he set up his own company. He moved to Hammersmith Terrace in the late 1870s where he established himself as a leading figure in both cultural and political circles. He was closely involved with key bodies that propagated the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, including the Art Workers’ Guild, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. William Morris lived and worked in close vicinity. Shared socialist beliefs drew the two men together in the early 1880s. The love for printing cemented their friendship. A lecture given by Walker in 1888 at which he projected slides of photographs he had taken of fifteenth-century typefaces gave Morris the idea for the last great project of his life, the Kelmscott Press. Walker acted as an unofficial advisor to the Press.

Thomas Cobden-Sanderson was a person living on a high intellectual plane. As a young man he had read Carlyle, Goethe, Spinoza, Wordsworth, and Alexander von Humboldt. These authors became his lifelong intellectual companions. Anne Cobden was the fourth daughter of politician Richard Cobden. She attended the Women’s Suffrage Conference held in London in April 1871 and soon afterwards joined the London Society for Women’s Suffrage. She mixed with most the outstanding suffragettes of her day and was involved in social work in London’s deprived East End (a ‘must’ to any progressive thinker at the time). In August 1882, she married Thomas Sanderson and they adopted Cobden-Sanderson as the family name. As friends of William Morris, they were closely involved with the Arts and Crafts ideology. During a dinner party William Morris’s wife Jane Burden persuaded Thomas to take up book-binding. In 1884 he gave up his job as a barrister to become a binder. In 1900, Anne and Thomas established the Doves Press at Upper Mall. They asked Emery Walker to join them as a partner. The private press was named after the nearby pub.

Their ambition was to print great literature in monumental form, to make a book beautiful with type alone. The ‘Doves Type’, commissioned by Cobden-Anderson and designed by Walker, was based on Venetian types used by Nicolas Jenson from the 1470s. The typeface was cut by Edward Prince, one of the few remaining master punch-cutters of his age, who had cut many of the private press faces including all three of the Kelmscott Press. Their books however were the complete opposite of those printed at Kelmscott. Morris’s ornate style was rejected for clean, elegant pages that emphasized fine typography. Some fifty titles were printed at Doves between 1900 and 1916. Goethe, Wordsworth, Milton, and Shakespeare were among the chosen authors. They are all similar in layout and employ the Doves type. They were bound at the Doves Bindery. Critics generally consider the Doves Bible to be the masterpiece of the Press. It was published in five volumes between 1903 and 1905. Each volume of the Bible contains a large number of hand-lettered initials representing a skilful merger of calligraphy and typography. The initial letters were drawn by Edward Johnston, teacher of Eric Gill, and an artist who is often referred to as the ‘father of modern calligraphy’. The Press produced the Bible one volume at a time for subscribers who paid in advance. As soon as Walker and Cobden-Sanderson issued volume five in June 1905 they announced that the Doves Bible was out of print.
The partnership between Cobden-Anderson and Walker was dissolved when the latter left in 1909. It all ended in a protracted and bitter dispute. It had been agreed that all rights to the type were to pass to Emery Walker upon the death of Thomas. Yet, when the press finally closed in 1916, an angry Cobden-Sanderson took the type along with its punches and matrices to Hammersmith Bridge and chucked them into the Thames. The Doves Typeface was lost forever.

Gibbings and Gill: A Perfect Partnership

In 1907 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov completed his epic opera in three acts The Golden Cockerel which was premiered two years later in Moscow after the composer’s death. Vladimir Belsky’s libretto was derived from Alexander Pushkin’s poem ‘The Tale of the Golden Cockerel’ (1834). The opera inspired Michel Fokine to stage a danced interpretation entitled Le Coq d’or for Serge Diaghilev’s ‘Ballets Russes’ (established in 1909) in Paris and London in 1914. The dancers were accompanied by a chorus and solo singers. This performance in turn would lend its name to a private press that began operating in late 1920. The Golden Cockerel Press went through three distinct phases with different owners. It began life under Harold Midgley Taylor as a co-operative workshop; then for nine years, under Robert Gibbings, it matured into an esteemed stylish press; and subsequently, under Christopher Sandford, the printing shop was closed down and the Press became in effect a publisher.

Taylor was a man in his late twenties who suffered from tuberculosis (of which he died in 1925). He had become fascinated by the project of printing and publishing books with a small group of idealistic workers and writers. Taylor bought an army surplus hut and assembled it in the Berkshire village of Waltham St Lawrence as a combined workshop and living quarters. He secured help from authors such as A. E. Coppard, Havelock Ellis, Richard Hughes and Peter Quennell, and a contract to print a monthly magazine, Voices, for the publishers Chapman and Hall. From the beginning almost everything went wrong. His hut was damp; money was short; inexperienced printers produced poor work; his authors were too busy establishing their own names; and the contract for the magazine was cancelled after the first number was delivered late. In November 1923 the Press was offered for sale. The business was taken over by Cork-born wood carver, engraver and author Robert Gibbings. The latter had been involved with the Golden Cockerel previously. Taylor had commissioned the Irish artist to illustrate Pierre de Bourdeille’s collection of tales Vies des dames galantes (The Lives of Gallant Ladies), one of those erotic works which was to become a Golden Cockerel trademark. Gibbings involved many of the outstanding British wood engravers who, in 1920, had joined forces in the Society of Wood Engravers. Eric Gill was the most notable of those engravers. He applied his talents in many areas: letter carving, wood block engraving, calligraphy, printing, type design and sculpture. Embracing the arts and crafts communal life and the rejection of industrialization, he added his own mixture of eccentric clothing, sexual obsessions, and devout Catholicism. Gill illustrated many titles of which The Four Gospels (1931) was amongst his best. He also designed a special type for the Press.

Caslon was the type customarily used by private presses at the time and Gibbings continued to use Caslon for the first few years of his involvement with the Press. He was however an ambitious man. His wish was the creation of a special Cockerel roman. William Morris had set a precedent with his Kelmscott Press. He had designed his own Golden Type (based on the Venetian roman of Nicholas Jenson) and Troy Type (inspired by the semi-blackletter rotunda used by the German Zainer brothers), as an integral part of his historical approach to book design. Private presses were protective towards their types. They were seen as a sign of individuality, a statement of independence in a trade that had become enslaved to industrialism. This was certainly William Morris’s view. Eric Gill shared these notions – in theory at least. In practice he was more of a pragmatist. His work for the Monotype Corporation (home to influential typefaces such as Times New Roman, Arial and Gill Sans, many of those created under the direction of Stanley Morrison) was very much that of a modern designer who combined the separate skills and demands of craft and industry. He lacked Morris’s desire for exclusivity.

The publication of The Four Gospels was both highlight and endgame for the Press. The Great Depression put all ambitions on hold. In 1933 the Press was once again for sale. The new buyer was a director of the Chiswick Press, Christopher Sandford (who, like Gibbings, was born in Cork), who closed down the workshop at Waltham St Lawrence and moved the type to the London office where Monotype setting was used at the expense of the Cockerel type. Sandford finally relinquished control in 1959, selling the Cockerel to the American publisher Thomas Yoseloff who, at the time, was director of the University of Pennsylvania Press. The latter completed four more publications, but towards the end of 1961 he wound up all operations, as the market for fine books had shrunk and the production of Golden Cockerel titles become too costly. Today, the patterns and matrices are held at the Cambridge University Press archive of private press material, which is placed in the University Library.

One of the most sought-after of the Golden Cockerel books is the four-volume Canterbury Tales, produced by Eric Gill and issued in 1931. A collector’s dream, it is one of the most beautiful books produced in the twentieth century, a pinnacle of private press publishing. Lavishly illustrated (into the title illustration Gill incorporated a cockerel, symbol of the press), the book took two and a half years to produce. Four hundred and eighty-five copies were printed on paper, and a further fifteen on vellum. Gill’s rich illustrations for The Canterbury Tales include tail pieces and initial letters for each of the tales, and borders which he designed as pairs throughout the book. Blue and red initial letters serve as a contemporary response to the medieval scribes he admired so much, thus marrying the illuminated manuscript tradition with a modernist aesthetic. Working closely together, Gill and Gibbings created a perfect marriage of type and illustration. All their editions went through a meticulous process of preparation. The type was set with space left for the artist’s borders and illustrations. Gill then drew his designs on the proof sheet itself before transferring them to the engraving block. He often revised his illustrations in the process. His stated ideal was that the engraving shall be part of the typography. In The Canterbury Tales he fully realized that ambition.