Virginia Woolf delivered a lecture at Newnham College in October 1928 on the subject of Women and Fiction. This talk, along with another lecture to Girton students, would form the basis of A Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf’s cousin, Katharine Stephen, was the first librarian, and later Principal, of Newnham College. Our Rare Books room is named in her honour.
Newnham College Library holds an impressive collection of first edition works and related items by Woolf. This collection was given to the College in 1981 at the bequest of Louise Hoyt Porter. Described as an ‘ardent admirer of VW’s books’, Miss Porter wanted her treasured collection to be housed in an English women’s college.
The collection includes publications that illuminate the wider context of the Bloomsbury Group and importance of the Hogarth Press, founded by Woolf and her husband Leonard in 1917. There are early examples of Hogarth Press printing such as Kew Gardens, one of 150 copies printed in 1919. It has hand colour-washed wallpaper wrappers from Roger Fry’s Omega workshops and a closer look reveals that the initials ‘L’ and ‘V’ have been clearly pasted over the original ‘Leonard’ and ‘Virginia’ of the colophon.
Particularly beautiful are the dust jackets of many of the works, including those for Granite and Rainbow (Hogarth Press, 1958) Between the Acts (Hogarth Press, 1941) and A Writer’s Diary (Hogarth Press, 1953), all designed by Virginia’s sister, Vanessa Bell. Further items of interest include a pamphlet produced in 1928 to promote the Bloomsbury Group to the American market.