Woolf Virginia, Kew Gardens, 1919. - Peter Harrington Blog

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Woolf Virginia, Kew Gardens, 1919.

Presented by Sammy Jay of Peter Harrington Rare Books.

First edition, one of around 150 copies, of this key title in the Hogarth Press history.

The Press was founded by the Woolfs in their drawing room in 1917 at Hogarth House with a small hand press, which could set only two pages at a time, and was capable of printing only 150 copies. However, this tiny hand-printed edition of Kew Gardens was suddenly and unexpectedly successful, bolstered by a glowing review in the Times Literary Supplement on 29 May 1919: “Here is ‘Kew Gardens’ a work of art, made, ‘created’ as we say, finished, four-square; a thing of original and therefore strange beauty, with its own ‘atmosphere,’, its own vital force. Quotation cannot present its beauty, or as we should like to say, its being Perhaps the beginning might be suppler; but the more one gloats over ‘Kew Gardens’ the more beauty shines out of it; and the fitter to it seems this cover that is like no other cover, and carries associations; and the more one likes Mrs. Bell’s ‘Kew Gardens’ woodcuts” (Woolmer, p. xxiv). It was the first of the Press’s publications to feature the covers so admired by the reviewer, using brilliantly patterned or marbled heavy paper, all individually and carefully sourced by the Woolfs.

Woolf wrote excitedly of the effects of the review in A Writer’s Diary: “we came back from Asheham June 3 to find the hall table stacked, littered with orders for Kew Gardens”. Prior to the review, they had sold only 49 copies, and, unable to fulfil the rush of orders on their own, the Woolfs turned to a commercial printer for the first time, Richard Madley, to print a second edition of 500 copies. This was Virginia Woolf’s third publication, and the first book that her sister Vanessa illustrated. Leonard later noted that her success with Kew Gardens was “‘the first of many unforeseen happenings which led us, unintentionally and and often reluctantly, to turn the Hogarth Press into a commercial publishing house’ as well as a turning-point in her own development as a writer: ‘Kew Gardens’ was ‘as microcosm of all her then unwritten novels” (Caws and Luckhurst, p. 329).

 

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