February 15

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (24 September 1717–2 March 1797), more commonly known as Horace Walpole, was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and politician.

A newspaper clipping had been inserted in a copy of the original journal maintained by Horace Walpole in which he recorded his experiences with the “Press at Strawberry Hill.” It described an event taking place on this day in 1731.

“A Printing Press, and Cases for Composing, were on Monday put up at St. James’s House, for their Majesties to see the Manner of the Noble Art of Printing. His Royal Highness the Duke wrought at one of the Printing Cases, to compose for the Press a little Book of his own Writing, call’d, The Laws of Dodge Hare, one of his Recreations, which is to be printed off for his Royal Highness’s Amusement. And the two youngest Princesses composed their own Names, &c. under the Direction of Mr. Samuel Palmer, a Printer of the City.”

The newspaper then proceeded to editorialize upon this event.

“We are extremely pleased to hear the Press hath met with so gracious a Reception at Court; and it must be the greatest Mortification to Those, whose Guilt makes Them Enemies to this useful Invention to see it encouraged by their Majesties, in such a Manner, and even to behold some of the Royal Family initiating Themselves in the noble Arts of Writing and Printing.—We could wish that our Nobility and Gentry would follow this Royal Example, and set up a Printing Press in their Houses; which, we apprehend, would be a much more polite, as well as a more instructive Amusement for Themselves and their Heirs, than the modern fashionable Diversions of Billiard-Tables and Fox-hunting.”

The plea fell upon deaf ears, since the history of the private press movement records no awakening of interest in the craft among the wealthy residents of country homes or of even a deepening sense of respect on the part of royal personages. However, the product of the more distinguished private presses, a century and a half later, became most desirable to the affluent collectors, with the result that such presses as Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene lacked no opportunity to excite buyers. Of course the rarer these items have become, the more desirable they are to those collectors who consider a library to be a “modern fashionable Diversion.”

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