A Treasure of the Hogarth Press in the Archives


Poems by T.S. Eliot, 1919. Original hand-painted wallpaper wrappers.

In 1915, Virginia and Leonard Woolf decided to purchase a printing press to occupy their time, distract Virginia from illness, and allow her and her husband to publish their own work directly without risking comments from editors. They began with a handpress, then moved on to a treadle-operated press, and eventually to commercial printers. What was initially intended to be a recreational hobby ultimately blossomed into a business that would leave its mark on the history of printing. In a letter to Margaret Llewelyn Davis, Virginia writes:


“Dearest Margaret […] You must keep us all at bay, until you are prepared to fling yourself into the most absorbing of all pursuits. After 2 hours work at the press, Leonard heaved a terrific sigh and said ‘I wish to God we’d never bought the cursed thing!’ To my relief, though not surprise, he added ‘Because I shall never do anything else.’ You can’t think how exciting, soothing, ennobling and satisfying it is. And so far we’ve only the dullest and most difficult part – setting up a notice, which you will receive one day.”

After doing my own research of the Hogarth Press in between classes and work (and out of great curiosity) I decided to explore the archives to see what treasures I could find. One of my favorite finds: T.S. Eliot’s Poems (1919), the fourth hand set printed volume by Leonard and Virginia Woolf.


T.S. Eliot’s poem “Sweeny Among the Nightingale” from Poems (1919).


As J.H. Willis writes in Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: “They began to set the poems on January 22 and finished printing on March 19, 1919. Leonard Woolf had purchased 8s.6d. worth of Greek type needed for the epigraph to ‘Sweeny’ and two words in ‘Mr. Eliot’s Service.’ Eliot, when he saw the first page proofs, thought they were admirable, and Virginia believed the finished product was ‘our best work so far by a long way, owing to the quality of the ink.’” They printed 250 copies, of which 180 sold immediately, and were sold out within a year.







Right image: Title page for T.S. Eliot’s Poems (1919) printed on white paper and black ink. Note the “Printed & Published by L. & V. Woolf at The Hogarth Press, Hogarth House, Richmond, 1919” at the bottom.





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Left image: V. Sackville-West’s The Dark Island (1934). The wolf-head logo of the Hogarth Press printed in the center was designed by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister.









Press offices in 1928 as remembered and sketched by Richard Kennedy, an office boy at the time. From A Boy at Hogarth Press by R. Kennedy (1972).


Sources: Leonard and Virginia as Publishers: The Hogarth Press 1917-41 by J.H. Willis, Jr. The University Press of Virginia, 1992.


The Archive in Storytelling

The sun consumed by the moon, still not a single star in sight, city lights. Abuelito and I sit outside on a step enjoying the cool breeze of the night. Elbow to knee, hand directly under my chin, I lean in as he begins his story. Tonight he talks about his first of two entries to the U.S. as a Bracero. I watch as he no longer looks at me when he talks. Instead, he stares ahead, not quite lost in the memory, as he is there. He recalls every detail: contempt at the El Paso and Juarez border, the vehicle they were transported in, and the laborious hours in the cotton fields. Slowly, he turns to look at me. He smiles and says, “[The other Braceros] me decían Mi Reyna”, “They referred to me as My Reyna”. Just as abuelito transcends to that moment, I do to ours. This is the power of storytelling and of the many ways of knowing.

In the article, The making of memory: the politics of archives, libraries and museums in the construction of national consciousness, Brown and Davis-Brown (1998) remind us that “the storing of collective memory must be as old as human communities, although the earliest archives existed mainly in ceremonies, rites and the saying of elders” (p. 18). Indigenous knowledge has for so long recognized the significance of storytelling and the many other ways of knowing. These narratives are not only found in the oral histories of elders, but are alive in song, dance, art, clothing, food, and other traditions. In Portillos’ (2017) book, Sovereign stories and blood memories: Native American women’s autobiography, she identifies these narratives as “multilayered histories and identities” that “assert the ongoing presence and challenges” of indigenous communities (p. 24). As I browsed through the stacks at Special Collections, I took note of the many indigenous stories and how some authors identify their expression as a retelling of a story. When I came across the collection, A Pima Remembers, I knew George Webb’s remembering, like other indigenous authors, is more than memory. These multilayered histories uniquely intertwine our past and present to inform our future.


Webb, G. (n.d.). A Pima Remembers, Ca. 1958-1959. AZ 154

Portillo, A. (2017). Sovereign stories and blood memories : Native American women’s autobiography.

Brown, R., & Davis-Brown, B. (1998). The making of memory: The politics of archives, libraries and museums in the construction of national consciousness. History of the Human Sciences, 11(4), 17-32.

Lacapa, M. (1990). The flute player : An Apache folktale (1st ed.). Flagstaff, Ariz.: Northland Pub.

Fortune and Glory, Kid

I always seem to forget that I taught English to Middle Schoolers for a year, and yes, it was as just as weird as you would assume.

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What its honestly like teaching hormonal preteens

Working in a library I thought my teaching days were over, but I suppose you never really stop teaching. As a library on an academic campus Special Collections holds classes throughout the year to a range of disciplines using resources from the archive. The goal of these classes is not only to supplement what they are learning with the physical remnants of history, but to teach them about archives and how they can be utilized for both academic and personal uses. In preparation for next semester’s classes I have been working on creating instructional kits that we can pull and utilize for different classes so that we are always ready with lesson plans and objectives.

The most interesting thing I noticed while going through the case studies is that they all have one common theme- students no longer know how to use primary sources. A majority of the students who filled out a survey after the class were still confused about the archive and how to use it, buy why? And how do we change it?

From a teaching perspective I have a lot of theories, but most importantly I think we need to change when we teach these students about archives and primary sources as opposed to how. While Archivists and Librarians now are focused on finding college classrooms to bring in I think we should also be looking beyond our own campuses and start creating educational relationships with local Middle and High Schools. Let me throw some teacher facts at you.

  1. Students love field trips
  2. They actually listen to guest speakers better then they do their teachers
  3. They will go to libraries if you make it part of an assignment (and threaten their grade a little)
  4. Computer days are their favorite, get them in a lab and teach them how to explore databases that don’t include Google, then let them go crazy
  5. Kids these days can find anything on the internet thanks to social media, they can absolutely be taught to use these skills in the same way for research
  6. They would much prefer teaching themselves through physical history then sitting through another PowerPoint

So where do we start? Teach Middle School students about primary vs. secondary sources with a strong focus on primary. Show them how to use different databases and have them practice constantly to find new sources through different outlets. Take them on field trips to museums and treat the pieces as primary sources, teach them to talk about and describe things based on their historical context. As they go into High School keep widening the scope. Bring them to archival repositories and have them handle the material, keep practicing these skills with more hands on and unguided work.

What are the perks? Students are more inclined to do their own research and make their own judgments instead of relying solely on secondary sources. They can analyze and describe history from firsthand accounts and are more comfortable using an archive for any kind of research they will do moving forward. Finally, when they get to college and are back in an archives instruction class you can spend more time analyzing and discussing the material instead of teaching them how to find it.Image result for indiana jones x marks the spot

Of course, kids will always be kids, but encouraging them to be active in their own education and giving them these skills is incomparable. Encourage them to get out there, you never know what they might find.


The Archives Ghost(s)

In honor of Halloween, I wanted to direct attention to a unique member of the Special Collections team: The Archives Ghost(s). When you’re working downstairs in the ‘basement’ of an archive, there are often strange things that happen. Many will tell you that your mind plays tricks on you. You think you hear a sound, but it can easily be explained away as a water pipe or creaky door. You see the lights flash in the motion-sensor aisles and think glitches happen.  But for many of us, we wonder if there is an Archives Ghost that lurks throughout the collections.


Clearly, this is not our particular Archives Ghost because no one has been able to catch the apparition on camera. Yet we’d like to think of the Archives Ghost as a friendly individual that helps us maintain the collections, and hope that we do a worthy job of protecting the treasures that the Archives Ghost oversees.

Some have reported hearing a voice in the annex area, but when you round the corner, there is no one there. Many have reported that while working the motion sensor lights in aisles will turn on, which creates a distinct clicking sound. Yet no one will be in the aisle when you get up to go investigate. Others are even certain that folders will have been moved from one side of a table to another with no explanation. And of course, there have been times when it seems to be oddly cold downstairs.

There are, of course, many that would explain these instances away. Voices belong to people that move. Technology can do strange things by itself. While cleaning someone may have moved folders. And we work in a temperature controlled archive so of course when the a/c comes on, it gets cold for a moment. These are all reasonable explanations. However, if you work in an archive and feel like there may be otherworldly helpers watching over the collections, you’re not alone. Perhaps we all have an Archives Ghost(s) making sure we’re doing our best to preserve their materials!


A Showcase for Mary Shelley


Portrait of Mary Shelley by artist Richard Rothwell, 1840

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary W. Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818). Throughout this bicentennial year Shelley and her creation have been a popular topic, with the release of The New Annotated Frankenstein with an introduction by award-winning director Guillermo del Toro, and the exhibition Its Alive! Frankenstein at 200 on display at the Morgan Library and Museum, to name just a few examples. Personally, Shelley’s novel has been a favorite of mine for its Russian-doll-like structure of stories within a story, from the monster telling his creator his story, to Dr. Frankenstein telling his story to the arctic seafarer Robert Walton, who ultimately writes it all down to send to his sister. And of course, there is the story of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley herself: her elopement with her soon-to-be-husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, the scandal that derived from it, the tragedy of the deaths of her three young children, and the tragedy of Percy’s death in a boating accident in 1822. Throughout her trials and sufferings Mary turned to words for solace. For my October showcase I wanted to dive deep into the archives for materials related to Mary W. Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and their creations. Here were some of my discoveries:



Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translation and Fragments (1840) by Percy Bysshe Shelley and edited by Mary W. Shelley.







Three volume set of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man c.1826. Note below the “By the Author of Frankenstein” and a previous owner’s remedy of including the female author’s name.





Below: History of Six Weeks’ Tour through a part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland by Percy Byshee Shelley c1817. This was my first time coming across a book with uncut pages and I was surprised to see this was throughout the entire volume.








The Choice: A Novel Poem on Shelley’s Death by Mary Shelley c.1876. Privately printed and one of few copies on hand made paper with a portrait of Percy, which according to the finding aid is quite scarce.






The second volume of an 1833 edition of Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary W. Shelley.








A 1918 members-only printing of Letters of Mary W. Shelley (Mostly Unpublished) by the Boston Bibliophile Society.




And at last, the final result, which includes Shelley’s letters, the 1833 edition of Frankenstein, and illustration plate by the artist Barry Moser that was included in a special edition printing of the 1818 text:


Needless to say it was a difficult decision of what would make it into the showcase and what story I wanted to create with it. I finally decided to highlight Shelley’s revised 1831 text and how she returned to the story after enduring the loss of Percy and her three children. So not only did she initially pen the tale in 1818 for solace, but she went back and revised it to reflect her anguish during the time-span in between. What started as a prompt by Lord Byron to write a “ghost story”, and thus inspired by a dream, Mary W. Shelley’s story would go on to gift imaginative recreations over the next two centuries.




Souls with Wings

This morning is different. The beautiful monarch butterflies that accompany me on my drive in are few. Though the fear of hitting these alluring creatures has faded, I can’t help but miss the rising sun radiating from their fluttering wings. I am aware that a migration for survival is necessary. I smile at the thought of a border-less journey and know Mexico welcomes their triumphant return. In our culture, they are the souls of loved ones passed, and they arrive just in time for their lives to be honored with Dia de Los Muertos celebrations.   

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Photograph by Xochitl Santillan Reyna

I continue to process the papers of Curtis G. Benjamin. I take note of how the little organization that existed has faded. The folders within the boxes are no more, and I encounter different business documents across multiple subjects combined with personal papers. I am further taken by surprise when I locate a blank insurance form folded in half, receipts and a pencil within. I can’t help but think, “This is out of character for you, C.G.B.”  Clearly, this is unfinished business. Throughout the collection I have encountered photographs and letters from family and loved ones and find myself thinking of them as I attempt to piece together his dispersed narrative. I am nearing an end, and I anticipate C.G.B. nears a new beginning. My thoughts appeared to be confirmed when I stumbled across an invocation titled, A prayer for the aging. I’m not certain if C.G.B. authored this piece, but I sense he too anticipated a new beginning. Perhaps one as a monarch butterfly.                                                         

    Monarch Butterfly Clipart #1                                                                                               Monarch Butterfly Clipart #1

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Accession No. 87-129; Papers of Curtis G. Benjamin


Butterfly clipart: worldartsme.com/monarch-butterfly-clipart.html#gal_post_5963_monarch-butterfly-clipart-1.jpg


Boxes in Boxes in Boxes

As the weeks have progressed here at Special Collections, so have I. I am still processing the John Weston Papers. I am at the point where I am arranging and foldering all of the materials in his collection, which can be surprisingly frustrating. For example, while arranging his manuscripts in alphabetical order I found another “A” titled manuscript that I had to shift all of my folders for. Luckily, I have also started on other projects to keep me sane.

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Me trying to figure out if I can fit one more folder into the box.

I have been working with our Collections Management Archivist to create a new system for our acquisitions. Basically we want a new system to help make processing our new collections easier and quicker to ensure access is readily available. This week, in implementing this new process I discovered a “matryoshka” collection, or boxes inside of boxes inside of boxes, the insanity!


“big box, small box, flat box, shoe box” — Dr. Seuss, probably

Surveying should be a fairly quick process, maybe 5-10 minutes a box, mostly depending on the state the collection came in. When materials are in envelopes or smaller boxes, it makes this process harder.  Once you get past that though, surveying shouldn’t be too stressful, you are more or less just opening boxes and looking at stuff. When surveying you want to ask yourself, what kind of shape are the boxes/materials in? Are there any immediate preservation concerns? Mold? Insects? AV or born digital materials? Is there an order? And of course you’ll want to take a quick note of what kind of materials are in the box. For students this can be confusing, how detailed should one be? This step is really just getting a feel for what you have and what you might be able to do with it, so don’t go too crazy and take note of every item in there, just get to know your collection.

I will have finished processing my Weston collection before my next post. Until then enjoy this GIF of me dealing with the more complicated boxes that I’ve saved until the end, wish me luck. Image result for indiana jones gifs