For some time the library has been working in partnership with staff in the School of English to develop a Virginia Woolf and Hogarth Press research collection. This development was approached from two sides: 1) decipher what books we had in our general collections (both in the Main Library and the Rare Book Collection) which haven’t been catalogued properly, and 2) begin allocating funds for the purchasing of exemplary editions.
Works were carried out in the previous year by members of the Main Library collections team to identify what books were in the circulating collection and to pull these books aside for assessment. Once a list of these books was compiled, I then began checking through our general ‘reserve’ collections to see what else we might have that hadn’t been catalogued properly, which turned out to be a significant amount. In the meantime, we also began actively purchasing clean editions of works we did not have, which fortuitously coincided with very clean copies of first editions of both Two Stories (1917) and Kew Gardens (1919) coming on the market (via Peter Harrington) last year (see Ian Blyth’s Highlight post from last year for more on these acquisitions). Also, this year, while at the Edinburgh Book Fair, I noticed a good copy of the first edition of Monday or Tuesday (1921) for sale by Maggs Bros., which fit our collection perfectly (see left).
This week I finished processing the backlog of these new purchases and transfers from the main library, and the picture emerging from this collection is a very useful resource for Woolf and Bloomsbury scholars. All of these items have now been fully catalogued and provide access to information previously not available. For example, a research can now see all the items we have that were printed or published by The Hogarth Press, which of those items were published under the auspices of Virginia Woolf, and which items were printed by which presses (e.g. R. & R. Clark, Neill and Company, etc.). I have also included in all of these records standard citations to the two relevant bibliographies: B.J. Kirkpatrick’s A bibliography of Virginia Woolf and J. Howard Woolmer’s A checklist of The Hogarth Press. These access points begin to allow researchers to explore these works in a wider context than has previously been available: by looking at the reference notes in Woolmer you can understand where in the publishing history certain books fall, and by looking at the references in Kirkpatrick you can understand where in Woolf’s publishing history certain books fall.
Also included in this collection were the first American editions of some of Woolf’s works, published by Harcourt Brace & Company, some with their original dust-jackets designed by Vanessa Bell (see right). Having first editions from both the English and American runs of Woolf’s works allows scholars to compare how the author’s text was presented, reproduced and marketed. It also allows for close textual analysis which normally would take be facilitated using digital surrogates or even travelling between libraries.
This developing collection, then, provides a unique resource for Woolf scholars locally as well as further afield. Many of the books ‘rescued’ from the Main Library’s circulating collection are not in the best state (in most cases the publisher’s dust-jacket has been discarded and barcodes affixed to the front cover), but they still provide a rich bibliographic resource. This collection is also not a static collection, we will be keeping our eyes out for any other clean first editions coming on the market or, indeed, for donation. If you have any suggestions for further additions to this collection, please do not hesitate to get in touch!