Archive

private presses

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.

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.


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.

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 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.

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.

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.