Terpsichore and Other Poems, Golden Cockerel Press
Terpsichore and Other Poems is one of the first books produced by the Golden Cockerel Press. It is their second book; published in 1921 during the year when four young ambitious friends started a small publishing co-operative; a private press that would eventually become famous for its unique range of fine books.
This is a small modest book of poetry by Theodore Wade-Gery (1888-1972). He was a war poet having served in the infantry in France and Flanders in 1914-1918. He was also a classical scholar at Oxford and the cousin of Harold Midgley (Hal) Taylor, one of the founders of this new private press.
In the 1920s there was a growing interest in the English arts and crafts movement and book arts. The Golden Cockerel Press was set up by Hal Taylor, his wife Gay Taylor and their friends Bee Blackburn and Pran Pyper. These four friends began their new venture in the village of Waltham St Lawrence near Oxford, England, with the aim of publishing books with artistic and literary integrity. They had almost no experience of printing or publishing. Prior to setting up their press Hal Taylor had spent time in 1920 learning the printing process at the St Dominic’s Press in Ditchling in Sussex from Hilary Pepler (1878-1951) one of the early pioneers of of fine printing.
The story of the first couple of years of the Golden Cockerel Press is one of uneasy struggle. The founders were not skilled typesetters, printers or bookbinders. Their workplace and living accommodation was cold and uncomfortable. The story of how they worked with inadequate equipment, poor heating, lighting and basic facilities is wonderfully told in the 2002 book A History of the Golden Cockerel Press by Roderick Cave and Sarah Mason.
These four inspired people did a wonderful job in producing their first books, but Bee Blackburn and Pran Pyper eventually chose to leave, and the co-operative dissolved. Hal and Guy Taylor struggled on, and with the help of other friends such as the writer A. E. Coppard they kept the press afloat. They and their friends had founded an enterprise that over the next forty years would innovate and inspire the progress of fine typography, illustration and book production. The Golden Cockerel Press would collaborate with writers, artists, typeface designers, typographers, skilled printers, paper makers and bookbinders to establish a memorable era in the production of fine printed books.
The Golden Cockerel Press operated from 1921 until 1960 and is recognised as one of the most important of the English private presses. In 1931 it produced what is now considered one of the greatest artist’s books of the twentieth century The Four Gospels by Eric Gill and Robert Gibbins.
This little book, Terpsichore and Other Poems, is an historical survivor from that early arts and crafts start-up that is now part of publishing history. It is a small book, not illustrated but is nicely typeset and bound, with a paper label on the spine. It is one of only 350 copies finished on March 13th 1921.
It is interesting to think that this tiny book was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. How different book production was in those days.
This is a hardback book in very good condition. The label on the spine is a little scuffed. This rare one hundred year old book feels as if it has hardly been opened. The inside pages are clean and bright.