Off the Shelf: Virginia Woolf
Like many people, I love Virginia Woolf's novels. Of course I've read Mrs. Dalloway countless times, but I also enjoyed her more traditional Night and Day, a book her contemporary Katherine Mansfield criticized as reading like "Miss Austen up-to-date" (...and what's wrong with that?!).
But - confession time - I've never read A Room of One's Own from start to finish. I've never even gotten to the middle.
If you've set yourself the task of reading or collecting Virginia Woolf's complete works, here's an early copy of that text, written by Woolf from lectures she gave at Newnham and Girton colleges.
I, for one, am pulling "A Room of One's Own" off the shelf again, and not just because this copy is a first edition. Hogarth Press, which published this copy, was her own publishing house. Woolf had her hand in all parts of the book trade, from publishing, to printing, and even bookbinding.
She began taking bookbinding lessons when she was 19-years-old, under the instruction of family friend Syliva Stebbing. Many of Woolf’s bindings and repairs now reside at Washington State University in their collection of Leonard and Virginia’s personal library. Most of these repairs demonstrate her affinity for function over appearance, though she was also concerned with the presentation of books.
Though it seems this binding is nothing out of the ordinary, Woolf’s path into bookbinding illustrates the relationship between female binders and their students. There were many women bookbinders before Woolf whose work not only paved the way for her in the book industry, but altered the way that books are still decorated and bound.
So, if you have a little money - and a room of your own to keep it in - this is the perfect copy to start a collection with.
Published by The Hogarth Press. First edition, second impression, printed October 1929.
“[Judith Shakespeare] lives in you and in me [...] she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh."