Virginia and Leonard Woolf set up the Hogarth Press in 1917 and published works by key modernist writers as well as important works in translation. Their printing endeavour started with a small hand-printing press, bought for £19 and installed on the dining room table at their home Hogarth House, in Surrey, where the name of the press comes from. The small printing business was meant to be a hobby and was first acquired as a mean of distracting Virginia, that by that time had already suffered a number of break downs, and The Woolfs had decided that the Hogarth Press would...
concentrate on small and experimental publications likely to be of no interest to commercial publishers. One other reason was that Virginia was very sensitive about criticism and owning their own press would give them the freedom to publish whatever they liked. For some collectors of Virginia Woolf's works the fact that she published her own books is one of the many things that made her special. She and the press were in the same house and the business of the press were part of her everyday life, were surrounded by her life and art and the effect this must have had on her writings should not be underestimated. The press was a success and being surrounded with a circle of very influential friends in its first five years they had published works by Katherine Mansfield, T S Eliot, E M Forster, Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Sigmund Freud. In 1919 with the publication of Kew Gardens - a short story by Virginia Woolf - and its subsequent positive review in the Times Literary Supplement, the couple was inundate by orders and decided that they would use a commercial printer while they would still continue to handprint smaller works. In 1921 they bought a larger printing press becoming themselves a large commercial printing business. John Lehmann first joined the Press in 1931 but only stayed for a year returning six years later in 1938 to become a partner after buying Virginia's share in the business. Under his influence the Hogarth Press published works by an emerging new generation of poets and writers such as Stephen Spender, W H Auden, Julian Bell, Cecil Day Lewis and the novelist Christopher Isherwood. Leonard and John Lehmann ran the Press for 8 years but continuous disagreements about the future made Leonard buy Lehmann's shares in 1946 which he them sold to Chatto and Windus. The association of the Woolfs with the Hogarth Press ended in 1946, by which time they had published 527 titles.