May 3

In a letter to the Editor of The Times of London, dated this day in 1917, Gerard T. Meynell, publisher of The Imprint, and a director of the Westminster Press, fine printers, wrote:

“Sir—It would be interesting to know what Mr. Emery Walker thinks should be done with the Doves Press punches and matrices. The attitude of mind of the owners of private presses is interesting and peculiar. Morris himself was if anything a democrat, even when he gave up his active work with the Socialists, but he spent a considerable part of his life in turning out things that nobody but the rich could ever attain to, and the principle is carried on today by the whole Arts and Crafts movement. The small editions of the works of the Kelmscott Press were bought almost entirely by collectors and speculators, and I wonder how many of its books, or any other private press books, have ever been opened.”

Having thus set up the target, Meynell then tossed his brick: “Let us remember that there is nothing very original about those who run private presses; they nearly always, as I have said, steal the designs for their type, and they nearly always steal the matter they print.”

Emery Walker replied at length in a letter appearing on May 17th. He stated in part: “Is there nothing to be said for the craftsman who, from that impulse from within which spurs all artists without thought of profit, desires to print as beautifully as may be some masterpiece of literature? The idea, for instance, is grotesque that the text of Homer was ‘stolen’ when the monumental edition of the Odyssey was issued by the Oxford University Press in the late Mr. Robert Proctor’s type, the making of which was a labour of love, if ever there was one.

“A good deal of the work done by private presses has been of what Ruskin used to call an ‘exemplary’ nature, and it has its influence on current book production. More than that could not be expected from pioneers. . . .”

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