Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2013 Issue

British and American Private Press Works from Sophie Schneideman Rare Books

Schneidemanhanson3

Private press books.

Sophie Schneideman Rare Books has issued a third volume in the ongoing series of The Hanson Collection of British and American Private Press Books. This one contains the subheading Including Works from the Cresset, Essex Houses, Golden Cockerel, Gregynog, Nonesuch, Shakespeare Head, Allen & Grabhorn Presses. This one differs somewhat from the earlier catalogues in that it can add “and American” to the title. The previous two catalogues were dedicated to the Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene Presses. We now include many others, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Clarence B. Hanson, Jr., was a newspaperman, and therefore a logical person to be interested in fine press works. He was the publisher of the largest newspaper in Alabama, the Birmingham News, for over 35 years. Most people might not think of Alabama as a place to find a spectacular collection of fine press works, but Mr. Hanson did a fine job of breaking those stereotypes. He was deeply involved in the arts in his community. Mr. Hanson died in 1983, so naturally you will not find works from the more recent of private presses in his collection. That collection ranged from the late 19th century works of the Kelmscott Press, to the 1970s. Here are a few of the works from the varied British and American presses he collected.

Item 10 is The Ladies' Pocket Book of Etiquette by A.F. This book, by A.F. Hester, was originally published in 1838, but this is the Golden Cockerel Press edition published in 1928. Golden Cockerel operated from 1920-1961, but the late 20s and early 30s were probably its highpoint. This was the period it was owned and operated by Robert Gibbings. Gibbings was particularly focused on illustrations, and this one includes four copper engravings by Hester Sainsbury. The book itself covers such important subjects, Schneideman tells us, as “introductions, salutations, dress, fashion, visitors and visiting, gossiping, tattling, dancing, marriage, servants, etc.” Priced at £140 (British pounds, or roughly $212 in U.S. dollars).

Here is a later work from the Golden Cockerel Press, during the time it was operated by Christopher Sandford. Item 13 is Harriet & Mary Being the Relations Between Percy Bysshe Shelley, Harriet Shelley, Mary Shelley and Thomas Jefferson Hogg as Shown in Letters Between Them Now Published for the First Time, published in 1944. These must be some interesting letters. It was a mess. Percy was married to Harriet, his first wife, but his his close friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, had shown a little too much interest in her. Percy should have left well enough alone. He would soon tire of Harriet and become infatuated with Mary Godwin, daughter of the brilliant early feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft. Along with Percy's letters to Hogg are some from Mary to Hogg after Percy left his wife for her. The book was edited by Walter Sidney Scott, who had married into the Hogg family. £160 (US $242).

Item 43 provides a look back at the Gregynog Press during its first incarnation: The Gregynog Press. A Paper read to the Double Crown Club on 7 April 1954. Gregynog was formed by sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies in 1922. They were not likely candidates for forming one of the 20th century's preeminent fines presses, it was just that press work had once been done at their estate, Gregynog Hall, and they wished to renew traditions. Fortunately, they had a good advisor in in Dr. Thomas Jones, who helped steer the sisters and the business in the right direction. The original Gregynog operated from 1922-1940. After Gwendoline died in 1954, the equipment was donated to the National Library of Wales, and it eventually made its way to the University of Wales, where the press began its second life under the name Gwasg Gregynog. This talk delivered, by Mr. Jones in 1954, was published by the Oxford University Press, and also contains a full bibliography of the books published by the original Gregynog. £90 (US $136).

We now move across the ocean to America, and to the press that is probably the closest to being America's Kelmscott, the Grabhorn Press. Formed by brothers Edward and Robert Grabhorn in 1920 in San Francisco, it operated until Edward died in 1965, when it was renamed Grabhorn-Hoyem as Robert went into partnership with the much younger Andrew Hoyem. It would become Arion Press (which still survives) after Robert died in 1973. Item 75 is likely one of their most important books, both from a production and content standpoint: The Santa Fe Trail to California 1849-1852. It was taken from a manuscript by H. M. T. Powell that the Grabhorn Press possessed. Powell left Illinois with a group from the area in 1849 to seek their fortune in California. They traveled the trail through Sante Fe and on to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Schneideman notes the account “is full of drama – illness, many tribes of American Indians, the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, buffalo, elk, forts, Mexicans, stampedes – in fact anything one might wish for.” £1,400 (US $2,124).

Here is a necessary book for the Grabhorn collector: Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press (two volumes – 1915-1940 and 1940-1956) and Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press 1957-1966 & Grabhorn-Hoyem 1966-1973. That covers it all. It contains numerous color reproductions, original leaves, and other illustrations. The first two volumes were produced by the Grabhorn Press in 1940 and 1957, the third by Andrew Hoyem for John Howell Books in 1977. Item 81. £2,750.

Sophie Schneideman Rare Books may be reached at 020 8354 7365 or sophie@ssrbooks.com. Their website is www.ssrbooks.com.

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