Dining Room Publishers

One hundred years ago this week, on April 24, 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf took the first step to becoming publishers when a hand press they ordered was delivered to Hogarth House in London. The step was a faltering one: there was a broken part that needed replacing. When fixed, they set the thing up on the dining room table and went to work. Eventually they taught themselves how to print with the press and how to make books, so that they became publishers of themselves and their friends. Their first book as Hogarth Press was a pamphlet, Two Stories, with one by each of them. The next year they published Katherine Mansfield’s story, “Prelude.” In 1924 they produced the first British edition of T. S. Eliot’s Th220px-ToTheLighthousee Waste Land. Books often featured covers by Virginia’s sister, Vanessa Bell, or by other artists attached to the Bloomsbury Group like Dora Carrington. The first edition of Virginia’s To the Lighthouse contained four woodcut illustrations by Vanessa. And their catalog is a Who’s-Who of their modernist moment, with works by E. M. Forster, Virginia’s lover, Vita Sackville-West, Henry Green, and numerous others. They even published The Collected Papers of Sigmund Freud. A good many books in the modernist period were published privately by the artists or by small presses, because materials and equipment for publishing became financially within reach for the first time. But few operations had the cultural reach of Hogarth Press.