Claire Battershill is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Information and the Department of English at the University of Toronto. She is the author of a collection of short stories, Circus (McClelland & Stewart, 2014), and a monograph on Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, Modernist Lives: Biography and Autobiography at the Hogarth Press (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). She codirects the Modernist Archives Publishing Project.
Virginia Woolf records in her diary, September 22, 1925, clarion testimony to the transformational power of the Hogarth Press on her writing life. The avowed feminism of that final sentence has the force of proleptic aphorism; one woman’s victory over a male-dominated publishing industry might well become the rallying cry for later women printers and press owners. But the future-making turn of the last sentence also eclipses the quiet force of the first: Woolf’s lament that she has sacrificed, willingly, her handwriting to the Hogarth Press.
Nancy Cunard began printing alone in 1927—in a heat wave no less, as she notes in her posthumously published memoir, These Were the Hours (1969)—and struggled her way through the difficult early stages of learning how to make serviceable prints on an Albion press. She quickly realized, however, that she would need help if the Hours Press were ever to become a successful small publishing house. In 1928, she therefore initiated her well-known collaboration with her lover, the jazz musician Henry Crowder, turning the printing room into a space where, as Jeremy Braddock has recently argued, “Cunard’s advocacy of radical race politics” was often perceived by others as working “in concert with the open publicizing of her own romantic relationships with black men.”