The Bloomsbury Group

Selections from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library
November 30, 2008
Cover of Kew Gardens (3rd ed., 1927).   
Cover of Kew Gardens (3rd ed., 1927).

Cover of Kew Gardens (3rd ed., 1927).

 

As part of a campus-wide celebration of the Bloomsbury group this academic year (see story, page 38), the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library is presenting its own exhibit, " 'How full of life those days seemed': New Approaches to Art, Literature, Sexuality, and Society in Bloomsbury."

The exhibit of books, manuscripts, and other materials, which opens December 15 in the Perkins Library Gallery, will focus on the influence of the Bloomsbury group on arts and culture. Among the items on display will be the 1927 edition of Kew Gardens, by Virginia Woolf.

Kew Gardens was originally published in 1919 by the Hogarth Press, which Woolf and her husband, Leonard Woolf, founded in 1917. Leonard thought publishing would be an ideal hobby to relieve the pressures of writing that weighed upon his wife. In the early years of the press, the Woolfs themselves printed, bound, and distributed the press' pamphlets and books, often using wallpaper and other colorful papers as wrappers.

By 1927, Hogarth Press was a successful business, and Virginia Woolf was a well-respected author. Kew Gardens was reissued in a new hardcover edition, with "decorations" by Vanessa Bell, Virginia's sister and a well-known painter and designer.

Each page of the story features a border in a floral motif similar to the cover design. The story centers on a flower bed in London's Kew Gardens, combining detailed observations of the plants and animals in the gardens with explorations of the thoughts and conversations of the people strolling by.

Artistic collaboration was one of the trademarks of the Bloomsbury group, which also included such artists, writers, and thinkers as Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, and Duncan Grant. In Kew Gardens, Bell's illustrations and Woolf's text work together to create a breezy, sophisticated work of art. The exhibit will run through March 6.