Emery Walker and the Private Press Movement

First exhibition at Emery Walker's House opens this August

The Odyssey, translated by T. E. Lawrence
The Odyssey, translated by T. E. Lawrence

Emery Walker’s House is to open its first exhibition on 12 August, displaying examples of private press books illustrating Walker’s revolutionary book printing techniques and legacy in his former home in Hammersmith.

The new exhibition space in the small drawing room of what is claimed to be the most authentic Arts & Crafts home in Britain charts Walker’s career as a typographer and printer at a time when huge advances were being introduced in the production of books to keep up with demand from an increasingly literate Victorian society.

Walker was one of the first printers to create plates from photographs, rather than using the laborious hand carved processes which dated back to the 15th century. He founded his own company in Fleet Street in 1886, specialising in cutting-edge techniques for reproducing works of art and photographs as book illustrations. He also gave a ground-breaking lecture on typography, and invaluable advice on book production to key members of the Arts & Crafts movement, both here and abroad, putting him at the heart of 20th century’s developments in typography and printing.

Highlights include double page spreads from the Kelmscott Chaucer and Doves Bible – the two masterpieces of those presses. Another high point is The Odyssey, translated by T. E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’), a close friend of the Walker family, now regarded as one of the most beautiful private press books of the 20th century. This was Walker’s final achievement, printed just a year before his death.

Other exhibits, some of which have never before been on public display, give an insight on the various stages of book production and its development.

Visitors will see proof pages, and an uncut Kelmscott Press printing block, demonstrating the fruitful collaboration between Walker and his great friend William Morris. A recent donation from a local mudlark of the missing Doves Press type, now resurrected from its watery grave in the Thames, will be displayed for the first time.

The new exhibition space at 7 Hammersmith Terrace has been years in the planning as the House’s Curator Helen Elletson explains, “Since the Emery Walker Trust was set up over 20 years ago, we’ve always aspired to create an exhibitions programme. This long-held ambition has now been realised.”

“This intimate, historic room now has three beautifully-lit museum showcases to enable the planning of an exciting range of exhibitions to display our wonderful and varied reserve collection, which ranges from arts and crafts ceramics and glassware to Eastern jewellery and textiles and means we can introduce external loans to visitors for the first time.”

Emery Walker and the Private Press Movement is included in the 1 hour guided tours of the entire house and riverside garden from 12 August 2021 until the end of May 2022. Visitor numbers are extremely limited, due to the fragile, historic interiors, so pre-booking is essential via Emerywalker.org.uk.

The Emery Walker Trust is a registered charity which aims to preserve and open the House for as many people to enjoy as possible. The Trust also aims to improve knowledge of the Arts & Crafts movement and the life and work of Sir Emery Walker.

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July 30, 2021