Curwen Press Publications

This collection comprises Curwen Press’s entire library of printed works, including books and ephemera from 1916 to 1956. Curwen Press played a key role in the printing renaissance of early twentieth-century Great Britain by focusing on the aesthetic production of both books and ephemera. The press is often said to be the British equivalent of the Grabhorn Press in San Francisco. Harold Curwen (1891–1949) and Oliver Simon (1895–1956), the principals of the press, pushed for beauty and legibility in printing standards. Commercial presses privileged content over aesthetics at the time, resulting in bland and functional productions. However, using Curwen’s and Simon’s new standards, the press’s aim was to close the gulf between fine book printing and commercial printing. The press was further distinguished by its innovative use of illustrations. Artists including Claud Lovat Fraser (1890–1921), Eric Gill (1882–1940), and Edward Johnston (1872–1944) used elegant sketches, bright colours, and pochoir (a stenciling process) to illustrate publications. Bruce Peel Special Collections purchased the collection in 1983 with support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Clifford E. Lee Foundation of Edmonton, and a generous memorial donation made by Walter Jungkind, Professor Emeritus of Art and Design at the University of Alberta. The collection includes nearly 1,000 books, almost 2,500 items of printed ephemera, and over 800 periodicals. It also contains unique instructional books printed and used by the press to create publications. A digital exhibition of Curwen Press Ephemera, mounted in 2009, can be viewed through the Internet Archive here.

Collection Formats: 20th Century, Books, Ephemera -- click to see other collections with this format