Literary Locales: The Emery Walker House
Since I’m going to be abroad and in school for the next year or so, I won’t have much time for leisure reading but I will have lots of time (hopefully!) for literary sight-seeing. Therefore, welcome to the first installment of “Literary Locales,” wherein we visit some literary (and sometimes literarily transgressive!) sites. As with most of our series, guest bloggers are most welcome and should e-mail literarytransgressionsATgmailDOTcom if you have an interesting literary locale you’d like to share.
What: The Emery Walker House
Where: 7 Hammersmith Terrace, Hammersmith, London
Literary Connection: Home of renowned English fine press book-maker and type-creator
Recommended Reading: The Book Beautiful by Thomas Cobden-Sanderson; The Doves Press by Marianne Tidcombe
Transgression: Walker’s partner in printing destroyed Walker’s beautiful Doves Type by tossing it into the Thames!
Located in the Hammersmith area of London, the Emery Walker House is, as the name would suggest, where the Arts and Crafts engraver and printer Emery Walker lived there from 1903 until his death in 1933. Walker, with fellow book-maker and Arts and Crafts movement member Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, founded the renowned Doves Press in the early nineteenth century and personally worked to create the Doves Type.
Based on type created in the 1400s by Nicholas Jenson, to this day the Doves Type is revered by many as the most beautiful type face ever created. Its allure, aside from its prettiness, lies in its unfortunate destruction at the hand of Cobden-Sanderson who, driven into a state of paranoia and certain that Walker would use it for purposes not good enough for its beauty (i.e. anything commercial), tossed all the type and matrices into the Thames over the course of a few evenings in 1916! But apart from the type, Walker himself is also well-known for being besties with William Morris and extremely active in the Arts and Crafts and fine press movements.
Interesting as Walker himself is, the House itself is remarkable in that its interior remains almost entirely original from 1903 until today due to the fact that only three people (Walker, his daughter, and her nurse) have lived in the house since then. This means that all the original William Morris and Company decor is still in place and well-preserved despite a century passing since the house was decorated.
All the wall papers, curtains, furniture, rugs, and other flooring are completely covered in the William Morris patterns you now usually see on little postcards. It was an unparalleled experience to actually see them in full scale as they were meant to be used rather than on a little printed 3×5 card. The patterns are just so rich and beautiful and stylized that it feels almost impossible to have such lushness in a home. I certainly never imagined anything like this before, even with my love of Morris. Seeing it was like somehow being able to see pure imagination as a physical, visual thing.
Pictures can’t do it justice and photography wasn’t allowed anyway, but suffice it to say that if you’re as nutty as I am for a good Arts and Crafts pattern or if you just love a good typographical scandal, this place will knock your socks off.