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Virginia Woolf’s Mark On The Wall… paper

Reading Time: 2 minutes
A Recreation of the cover of the book 'Two Stories' by Leornard & Virginia Woolf

When Virginia Woolf published her short story ‘The Mark On The Wall’ she bound this first homespun edition in a cover made from simple wallpaper.

‘The Mark On The Wall’ was one of two short stories in ‘Two Stories’, a modest book that launched the famous Hogarth Press. Virginia and husband Leonard published the edition from their Richmond home in 1917. Leonard Woolf’s contribution was ‘Three Jews’, and together they typeset, hand printed, stitched and bound 150 copies of this little gem.

We are very glad you like the book. It is tremendous fun doing it, and we are now in treaty for a much larger press, and mean to take it up seriously and produce novels with it. . . . It has been quite a success.” Virginia Woolf to Violet Dickinson, July 1917

A homemade edition

In a fascinating video introduction to the first edition that he has shared on YouTube, Pom Harrington (of Peter Harrington Rare Books) tells us how Virginia and Leonard bought wallpaper from a local shop to make the covers for their first home-printed book. You can view his enjoyable video here (you’ll find you soon pass by the little mix up at the start).

Virginia & Leonard Woolf's Richmond home
Virginia & Leonard Woolf’s Richmond home (CC BY-SA Wikimedia Commons User: Spudgun67)

The Woolfs had been toying with the idea of self publishing for some time. They approached the St. Bride School of Printing in London about the possibility of joining a course. The school was unable to help them, it was for apprentices only. Undeterred they decided to buy a small hand press and teach themselves, guided by only a brief instruction booklet. The press was set up in their dining room and slowly the ‘Publication No 1’ began to take shape. It was difficult work; they only had enough type to set two pages at a time. To make it even more challenging they included four woodcut illustrations by their friend and artist Dora Carrington. ‘Two Stories’ was a success, and so the Hogarth Press was born.

Pocket Doodle Read - The Mark on the Wall by Virginia Woolf‘The Mark On The Wall’ by Virginia Woolf is now available as a Pocket Doodle Read edition, the daily read & doodle that fits in your pocket. Each edition contains 5 daily episodes from an inspiring short story for a quick once-a-day read – then, pen ready, open it out to reveal a fun and inspiring themed doodling sheet where you can explore your own creative reaction. Read more