The Book Beautiful
12 September 2016 – 11 April 2017
Revealing the story behind the development of Hilary Pepler’s St Dominic’s Press.
When Hilary Pepler moved to Hammersmith he struck up friendships with proponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement including Eric Gill, Edward Johnston, Emery Walker, and William Morris’ daughter, May.
May's father had established the Kelmscott Press in 1891 as a means by which to publish his own material free of constraints or censorship (William Morris had strong socialist ideals) and this spirit of reform resonated strongly with Pepler. In his biographical essay he would describe the borough as the locus for the private press movement.
In 1916 after relocating to Ditchling, Pepler acquired a 100-year-old iron hand-operated Stanhope Press and started his own publishing house (the Ditchling Press, re-named St Dominic’s Press in 1918). As well as instructional texts on experimental artistic practices, the company printed wood engravings and other works by Gill, Johnston, David Jones and Gwen Raverat. Publishing these pieces independently gave the group unparalleled creative freedom.
The most prominent book to be published by the Kelmscott Press, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, is on display; designed by Morris and leading Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones the book is considered a masterpiece of the Arts and Crafts movement.