September 30

The Rev. Charles Henry Olive Daniel, Provost of Worchester College, Oxford, was born on the last day of September in 1836. One of the beloved teachers of his period and a scholar of note, he yet was able to devote much of his leisure to the operation of a press which he had begun as early as his ninth year and which he continued until his election as Provost of the College in 1903.

In the annals of the private press movement the Daniel Press occupies a unique position, predating as it does the first full flowering which occurred at the close of the 19th century when such presses as Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene made their lasting contributions to the printing art. Daniel’s first impression was made on a toy press, which was used for several years for the ephemeral production of the press, although a small Albion was obtained about 1850. A larger Albion was used from 1882.

In addition to exciting the interest of literary men in the format of the book, Daniel’s great typographical accomplishment was the revival of the splendid old fonts which had been brought to Oxford in the 17th century by Bishop Fell, and which had been lying idle for a hundred and fifty years. An essay on Dr. Daniel appearing in Rothenstein’s Oxford Characters stated: “His signature is the warrant to the lettered world of a fair impression of good literary work, worth printing, worth buying, worth reading, and worth keeping.”

Falconer Madan, Bodley’s librarian and biographer of Henry Daniel, attempts in his Memorial published in 1921 to place the Daniel Press properly in perspective with relation to other private presses. He lists six different groups in which private presses may be classified. First is secret propagandism—perhaps best expressed by the underground press of protest, religious or political. In the second group are those which exist for the personal pleasure of their owners, and in the third group are the presses which are used to preserve special literature, such as in the case of the writer who cannot find a publisher, a sort of amateur “vanity” press, although this more modern idea was then outside of Madan’s experience. A fourth raison d’etre is to serve aesthetic or artistic purposes—in other words to improve the quality of the printer’s art.

Into the fifth group are placed those operated for commercial profit, a worthy venture indeed, and one which escapes most of the private printers, who have the greatest difficulty in even coming close to meeting their cost of materials, not to mention long hours of labor. If a private press is an outstanding aesthetic success its output will of course be valuable, although as in the case of paintings, this may happen long after the operator has been removed from the scene.

Falconer believed that the motivation of the Rev. Daniel brought his press into a sixth category—that of giving pleasure to literary friends. Daniel never sought to be a great printer, but attempted to do the best work of which he was capable.

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