A new display of iconic private press book art in London

Emery Walker’s house

Emery Walker’s house opened its first exhibition on 12th August, displaying examples of some of the most beautiful private press books ever published, and 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 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.

(Photo by Peter Dazeley)

Walker was one of the first printers to create plates from photographs, rather than using laborious hand-carved processes. 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 twentieth-century 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, a close friend of the Walker family: a book now regarded as one of the most beautiful private press books of the twentieth 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 a fascinating insight on the various stages of book production and its development.

A recent donation by a local ‘mudlark’ of some 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 twenty years ago, we have 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 & 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 one-hour guided tours of the entire house and riverside garden from 12th 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.

Reprinted from Printing HIstory News, n° 71, August 2021 with the kind permission of the Printing Historical Society and the Friends of St Bride Library,