Emery Walker's House Exhibition Programme
Guided tours at Emery Walker's House conclude in our small exhibition space. Currently on display is our inaugural exhibition, titled Printer, Typographer, Innovator: Emery Walker & The Private Press Movement. The exhibit closes in May 2022.
If you aren't able to visit, you can still learn about the exhibit below!
*please note that Emery Walker's House is currently closed for the winter season, we will reopen in March
Objects in case are kindly on loan from St Bride Foundation, London and The William Morris Society
This exhibition explores Walker’s career as a typographer and charts his importance: his key involvement in the founding and operation of William Morris’s Kelmscott Press (1891– 1898), his volatile partnership with Thomas James Cobden–Sanderson at the Doves Press (1900–1917), and his lasting influence on private presses in the mid 20th century.
Walker was involved in typography and printing at an exciting time when new developments in technology were being introduced. During the 19th century, as access to education expanded there was a rise in literacy, resulting in an increased demand for books. The printing industry adapted to meet this demand, introducing improvements to printing technology that had not significantly changed since its introduction in the 15th century. Walker was fascinated by these developments and made an effort to be at the forefront of new technologies.
In 1888 Emery Walker gave a lecture to the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society that is now considered a defining moment in the history of typography. The lecture was about typeface design and featured a series of lantern slides that showed type from early printed books. William Morris had long wanted to print his own works and had experimented with the task in the 1860s. Walker’s lecture inspired Morris to design his own typefaces, a key element that had been absent from his early attempts at book design.
Kelmscott Press, The Well at the World's End, 1896
On loan from The William Morris Society
Walker politely declined a partnership in the Kelmscott Press, but still became a partner in all but name as Morris regularly sought his advice and technical expertise. Walker’s advice on all aspects of the Kelmscott Press cannot be overstated, from introducing Morris to companies that could supply the highest quality handmade paper and the purest inks to taking enlarged photographs of fonts in medieval manuscripts which allowed Morris to create his three iconic Kelmscott Press fonts, Walker was critical to the success of Morris’s Press.
In 1900, Walker collaborated with his near neighbour, the bookbinder Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, to found the Doves Press at 1 Hammersmith Terrace. The typeface used by the Press, Doves type, was created under Walker’s direction and was inspired by the letterforms of Nicholas Jenson, a 15th century Venetian printer. Walker also provided his technical expertise in the running of the Press, helping it to become one of the most respected presses of its day. The elegant and simple design of the books are occasionally ornamented with red initials by another Hammersmith neighbour, the typeface designer Edward Johnston.
The partnership between Walker and Cobden-Sanderson ended in 1909 over a disagreement about the rights to the Doves type. This led to the now infamous episode of the ‘bequeathing’ of the Doves type to the Thames between 1916 and 1917. Forty books were produced by the Doves Press, mostly bound in vellum, until it ceased operating in 1916.
Eleven Letters of Doves Type
Kindly donated by Jason Sandy
The private press movement refers to small presses owned by individuals rather than large companies, established after a general feeling of discontent with the declining standards of book production in the Victorian era. Private presses had short print runs and celebrated the book as a work of art, using high quality materials such as hand-made paper and superior ink. The owners of private presses also usually created their own typefaces.
It was Walker’s 1888 influential lecture on ‘Letterpress printing and Illustration’ given at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society that led to a flowering of other private presses, both at home and abroad. As well as Kelmscott and Doves, several other private presses are represented in this exhibition; Ashendene, Dun Emer and Shakespeare Head, all were either assisted or directly inspired by Walker. Walker’s significant involvement in the British private press movement led to a worldwide following which can be seen in the high standards of book design and typography in the twentieth century and his legacy continues to inspire to this day.
The Odyssey, by Homer, 1932
Generously on loan by Charles Nugent
The Emery Walker Trust thanks its many financial supporters and donors, who have given generously to support the creation of this exhibition space
Henry Oldfield Trust
John S. Cohen Foundation
Garfield Weston Foundation