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The Curwen Press Collection 1919-1956



"Libraries can be very gloomy and even forbidding places" the British bibliophile Holbrook Jackson stated in his introduction to the Catalogue Raisonn´┐Ż of Books Printed at the Curwen Press, 1920-1923. "In the immediate past collections of standard works possessed a desolating sameness. This terror is negatived [sic] by books of the Curwen class; and it is no idle prophecy to say the day will come when books of this type will be collected for the beauty of their typography, and as they are generally issued in limited editions the competition for them will be keen."


In 1983 the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library advanced well ahead of the competition for beautiful books when it purchased the Curwen Press's own file collection of books and ephemera with generous grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Clifford E. Lee Foundation of Edmonton. This unique collection consists of nearly 1,000 books, together with proofs, variants, and special editions, as well as some 2,500 pieces of printed ephemera and more than 800 periodicals. The size, condition, and scope of the collection document the innovative successes of the Curwen Press during the forty years of its heyday from 1916 to 1956, brought about through the efforts of the firm's two principals, Harold Spedding Curwen and Oliver Simon.