On Saturday the Weston Library celebrated the centenary of the Hogarth Press with a pair of lectures (Dame Hermione Lee!) and a marathon printing workshop in the Old Bod. I had no idea that the Schola Musicae is now used as a print shop by the library – a whole treasure trove of ancient printing presses, type cases and metal types, old pencils and coffee tins with mysterious markings, piles of lush, expensive paper, and samples of previous work.
On display was a press similar to the one purchased by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917 when they decided to learn how to print books as a hobby. The oddly addictive, gently repetitive process of laying type comforted Virginia Woolf when the creative process of writing became too much for her. From this hobby grew a small but flourishing business, ultimately publishing over 500 titles between its founding and 1946. At first they ran small prints from the various houses they lived in, but later outsourced the actual printing while making the creative decisions themselves. The Hogarth Press published, among other things, the first edition of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, and Vita Sackville-West’s best-selling The Edwardians (which had a huge print run of 9000 copies).
The first ever publication of Hogarth Press was a little book called “Two stories”, one by Virginia and Leonard each, the block illustrations by Vanessa Bell (who went on to illustrate all of Virginia’s books published by Hogarth). This year the present imprint of Hogarth is celebrating the centenary by publishing a new edition of this book, with poor Leonard’s story replaced by one by Mark Haddon, who also made the lino cut portrait of Woolf for it (in the spirit of full disclosure, he was at the Bod as well, lying type next to me). Some of the original illustrations have made their way into this new edition as well.
The Two Stories will be published on June 22 by Hogarth Press. The Bodleian print workshop was also blogged by the Bodleian themselves.