THE POEMS OF JOHN KEATS
Florence Press, 1915
Designed, I assume, by Bernard Newdigate and printed at the Arden Press for the Florence Press.
Published in an edition of 1,500 standard copies and 250 limited edition copies.
A few years back, when looking into local presses, I learned of the Arden Press in Letchworth Garden City, the next-door town to my own of Hitchin. This commercial press was, in its day, well regarded for the quality of its printing, and had input from Emery Walker (Doves Press), C. H. St. John Hornby (Ashendene Press) and was run by Bernard Newdigate, who went on to manage the Shakespeare Head Press.
When the large commercial publisher Chatto & Windus decided to start their own fine press imprint, the Florence Press, they chose the Arden Press as printer for the first eleven publications. These volumes, published from 1908 to 1915, where all printed in the handsome Florence Press typeface, which was commissioned for their exclusive use. All were typically printed in relatively limited numbers on quality mould-made papers, with part of the run done as a limited, numbered edition on fine handmade paper with luxury binding options, such as full limp vellum.
My favourite Florence Press publication is the first edition of their two-volume The Poems of John Keats. This was printed in an edition of 1,750 sets, of which 250 were numbered and printed on unbleached Arnold handmade paper, with bindings of parchment over boards, or limp vellum with green silk ties. The remainder were unnumbered and printed on a rag laid paper (mould-made, I believe); bound in either quarter cloth with paper covered boards, or buckram. In 1920, 1924 and 1928, further unnumbered editions were reprinted from plates by R & R Clark in Edinburgh.
I’ve owned one of the 1,500 unnumbered first edition sets for a while, which in itself is a most handsome publication, but I’d always hankered after the limited edition. Well, I hanker no more as, despite the limited sets being rather difficult to get hold of, I now own set number 110 in the lovely limp vellum binding, lettered in gilt on the cover and spine, with gilt to the top paper edge. Very handsome indeed!
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