Spitsticks & Multiples
The early history of the Society of Wood Engravers, 1920-46
and of the English Wood Engraving Society
by Simon Lawrence, Introduced by Joanna Selborne

On St Bartholomew's Day 1920, St Dominic's Press published a simple handmade book by R. John Beedham on wood engraving, and Eric Gill wrote an introduction. 1920 marked the beginning of a period when the artist-engravers saw themselves as a distinct group of artists, working together in a new way to produce something recognisably worthwhile. The present-day vibrant SWE celebrated its Centenary in March 2020, because five months before Beedham's book appeared, seven engravers met in Philip Hagreen's studio to form a new Society, with its purpose being defined to mount exhibitions devoted to 'woodcutting and engraving by the European method'.
The two pre-war decades saw a tiny group of never more than twenty members plus a few associates, struggling to sell enough work, and struggling against the wiles of several London galleries. The prints were brilliant but the backroom story is one of insecurity.
The Society's first three minute books survive, along with a good chunk of correspondence, its press cuttings album and its annual exhibition catalogues. All will be published here for the first time, in TWO volumes, with an introduction by Joanna Selborne, and section introductions by Simon Lawrence. Accompanying these will be about 300 illustrations of work from first twenty years' exhibitions, plus work from the English Wood Engraving Society, which was an offshoot that exhibited for seven years but ran out of steam.
An enormous amount of work is being put into this book, and publication is due in September 2020. A number of special copies will include prints from the blocks by artists such as David Jones (three), Blair Hughes-Stanton (two), John O'Connor, Winifred McKenzie, Alison McKenzie, Reynolds Stone (two), Vivien Gribble, Claughton Pellew, Helen Binyon (four), John Nash, Jean Burns, Tom Chadwick and Joan Hassall along with a fine frontispiece by Clifford Webb. Further details will be available shortly, and early subscribers will have their names included in the book.


John Newbury's blocks
a miniature of vast significance
by Brian Alderson

The astonishing discovery of hundreds of eighteenth century woodblocks and the subsequent discovery that many of them were the blocks used by the
very first children's book publisher, John Newbery, to illustrate his books in the 1740s and 1750s, is recorded here by the eminent historian of children's literature, Brian Alderson.
The book will run to about 64 pages, set in 8pt Van Dijck metal type, with ten prints from the original woodblocks. 200 standard copies thus, and 50 special copies which are extra-illustrated by nine of the ten blocks used in the very first publication of
The House that Jack Built. Further details available shortly.



There will also be important books on Anthony Gross – at war, the Society of Wood Engravers 1920-45, and Edward Bawden – writing to his children. More information will come shortly. The catalogue of John Buckland Wright's 680 woodblocks is now laid aside, but a modest boxed set of his wartime engraved work will be made.
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Simon Lawrence, The Fleece Press, 95 Denby Lane, Upper Denby, Huddersfield HD8 8TZ
Telephone 01226 792200