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Rebecca Machin

Correspondence

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For as long as I can remember my grandmother has been writing a book... about her grandmother, Dollie Radford, who wrote books. I have sat mesmerised by tales of my great great grandparents meeting in the reading room of the British Museum and their movement on the fringes of the Bloomsbury group. I would delight in the names that wove their way into conversation and through her stories she instilled in me an appreciation of not only the written word, but the way it is presented. To me it seems that theirs was an 'age of the artist' and the books on my grandmother's shelves are among the treasures of that era. The craftsmanship – cloth binding, gilt lettering and engraved illustrations – add weight to the writing before you have read a single word. Names such as The Bodley Head, John Lane, T.Fisher Unwin and David Nutt appear regularly as publishers. I am curious to know who the modern day equivalent of these art house publishers are and where one would go to find privately published books? Rebecca Machin

ED. Your great great grandmother, Dollie Radford was a poet and part of the vibrant political life of fin-de-sièècle London. Her circle included some of the most celebrated names in turn-of-the-century literature: William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, W. B. Yeats and D. H. Lawrence. Private presses flourished at this time, an occurence often traced to the founding of William Morris' Kelmscott Press in 1891. Elkin Mathews was another key figure while his company name The Bodley Head still exists as an imprint of Random House. After a decline in the 1930s and 40s private presses experienced a resurgence in the 50s and today they are described as one of the “best kept secrets of art and craft.” The Fine Press Book Association is ten years old and has a worldwide membership. The Fleece Press, Incline Press and The Alembic Press are a few examples of companies who continue to produce books that are themselves works of art and skill. www.fpba.com

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