Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Handmade Books and Stationary

Note cards by Anna Fewster

I have always loved the story of how Leonard and Virginia Woolf became book publishers.  Leonard was concerned about Virginia's mental health and thought if she learned how to print and publish books she would find some relief from the pressure of writing.  And so was born the Hogarth Press in the year 1917.    They began printing on their dining room table and some of the most treasured books to collect by the Hogarth Press ane the ones that say "Printed and Published" by the Hogarth Press, as these were the ones that were hand printed by the Woolfs and their employees.

Book by Clive Bell, with illustrations by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, published by Hogarth Press in 1923

At the Hogarth Press, the Woolfs published the early work of T.S Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, John Maynard Keynes, and many others.  They introduced the English-speaking world to the great Russian novelists and Sigmund Freud by publishing English translations of these works.


A few months ago I read about Anna Fewster, letterpress printer and book artist who lives and works in England.  I was immediately drawn to her beautiful Bloomsbury inspired stationary and exquisite hand printed books and wanted to learn more about this talented woman and her work.

I was excited to find out that her interest in printing developed while doing research for her doctorate on early 20th century book design.  She spent four years studying the books designed, illustrated, printed, and bound by the Bloomsbury group at the Hogarth Press and the Omega Workshops.  In the middle of doing her research she decided to buy herself a press and teach herself how to print.

She describes the printing process that she uses:

"Using an Adana Eight-Five platen press, metal type, cotton papers, hand-cut linoleum and wood blocks and linseed oil inks, I use traditional processes and craft techniques to create work that expresses and reflects my love of design and detail, and inspires an appreciation of the characteristic texture and quality of letterpress...Much of what I do is bespoke; from stationery, invitations and announcements, to limited edition books, record covers, CD sleeves, and illustrated broadsides.  But I do also have a constantly changing selection of ready-made stationery and printed matter for sale..."


In this period of time when I think that many people are craving a return to handmade, artisanal products, Anna Fewster's creations are particularly welcome and refreshing.  Here are some of her lovely printed products.


Wedding Invitations

Charleston Christmas Card

Bloomsbury Silhouettes

"Picnic at High and Over," book printed and designed by Anna Fewster

"Halo of Dust," book printed and designed by Anna Fewster

I am so inspired by the beauty and quality of these cards and books.   Anna Fewster is creating original and exciting printed materials in the sprit of the Bloomsbury artists, printers, and publishers.

Photos from Anna Fewster's website


  1. My husband is a printer, but he uses the newfangled digital presses. I'm afraid they don't have the romance of the old letter presses. They're a lot more convenient though - I think I remember reading of Leonard Woolf turning the air blue after dropping a box of type it had taken him hours to set up!
    I have just found your blog and am really enjoying it.

  2. Awesome Sunday! These objects appear magical, as if they contain some small piece of the maker's soul, and by physical contact, something gets transmitted across time and space to the present moment.

  3. i love this and adore that stationary.

  4. Rocking blog this week!

  5. You KNOW this post is right up my alley. Interesting, historical, hand crafted and BEAUTIFUL!!

  6. On the Venice Home and Garden walk last Saturday, one of the homes had a studio in the back, where the woman who owns the home has quite a collection of vintage letter presses. She does all sorts of beautiful printing with them, and gave us each a chance to use one of the machines.
    It was so much fun, and looks so beautiful, cozy, and elegant.
    Thinking of what I want her to make for me now!

  7. Inspiring post. I liked your comment about Leonard encouraging Virginia to print and design for her mental health. The handmade notecards are beautiful.