Private Press Books at St John’s College

The Seizin Press

A considerable number of private press books found their way to St John’s College as part of Robert Graves’s library, which arrived in the College in 2008. This also includes publications by The Seizin Press, which Graves founded together with the American poet Laura Riding in London in 1927. The press moved with them to Mallorca in 1930. The Seizin press has been described variously as a “private press” or “small press”. Although Graves and Riding mainly publish contemporary writers, the Seizin Press volumes are nevertheless a surprisingly mixed bag.


Robert Graves, Poems 1929 (London: The Seizin Press, 1929) Shelfmark: ML-3L-28

A series of poetry publications by the Seizin Press come with unusual bindings designed by the artist and writer Len Lye (1901-1980), who temporarily joined Graves and Riding in Mallorca. The covers were produced by covering boards with decorated paper.

The volumes selected here contain poems of Robert Graves, Len Lye himself, and Laura Riding, respectively. Each volume was produced in 200 copies and described as hand-printed by “ourselves” on handmade paper. All copies are signed by the respective authors. By this time, the press had been moved to Mallorca.

The Spanish Civil War had halted the printing in Mallorca in 1936. Graves and Riding returned to England, where they continued to publish by collaborating with Constable & Co. in London. In this period, the Seizin Press published also books that are less commonly associated with private presses. Two examples must suffice here.

Firstly, the publication of a non-fiction account of Germany entitled Almost Forgotten Germany. The author was Georg Schwarz, an art dealer and once the only Jewish estate holder in East Prussia. He had fled Nazi Germany and happened to be a neighbour of Graves’s in Mallorca. Graves and Riding translated his memoirs from German into English and published them in 1936. The book focuses mainly in Schwarz’s early memories of the late 19th century. To my knowledge, the memoirs have never been published in German.

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Georg Schwarz, Almost Forgotten Germany, transl. Robert Graves and Laura Riding (Deyá: The Seizin Press; London: Constable & Co., [1936]) Shelfmark: ML-3R-02

Secondly, the journal Epilogue: A Critical Summary, which focused on literary criticism but also touched on contemporary events. Many articles were written by Riding and Graves themselves. Only four volumes were published between 1935 and 1938. The three volumes now at St John’s were probably proof copies, as they contain numerous annotations and corrections by Graves and Riding.

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Epilogue: A Critical Summary v.1(1935:Autumn)-v.3(1937:Spring) Shelfmark: ML-5R-18-20

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