The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press (1928)

{Ed. Note: This article is courtesy of Books and Vines contributor Neil.}

The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come is an enormously influential Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in 1678. It is considered one of the most significant and important works of English literature. Though regrettably it is seldom read now, for many years it was second only to The Bible in sales and readership. It has been translated into more than 200 languages and has never been out-of-print since it was written over 300 years ago.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) started writing the book when he was in prison for preaching without a license. It was written in two parts; the first part completed by 1677 and the second in 1684. The first part is about a character named Christian living in the “City of Destruction” (“this world”) who, influenced by his reading of The Bible, is weighed down by sin and fears Tophet (Hell), so sets out on a journey to find the Celestial City (Heaven). The second part is the story is the pilgrimage of his family, generally following the same path, though taking longer on the journey.

As mentioned, The Pilgrim’s Progress has had significant influence within the Western Canon; there are references and quotes from it in many works of literature throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of the familiar characters in the book include: Christian, The Evangelist, Mr. Worldy Wiseman, Beelzebub, Hypocrisy, Apollyon, Moses, Hopeful and Giant Despair. Some of the familiar places include: The Slough of Despond, Mount Sinai, The Valley of Humiliation, The Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, The Land of Beulah, The River of God and The Celestial City.

As one would expect with a book of this importance, there have been many illustrated editions of The Pilgrim’s Progress since its first appearance. Twentieth century illustrated editions include that of George Cruikshank‘s in 1903, Byam Shaw‘s in 1918 and the Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition with illustrations by William Blake in 1941. Besides the aforementioned LEC, the book has been published by a number of private-presses including Essex House Press and Nonesuch Press/Curwen Press.

Probably the most ambitious illustrated edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress ever printed was produced by The Shakespeare Head Press under the direction of Bernard Newdigate and published by The Cresset Press in 1928 to mark the tercentenary of Bunyan’s birth. It is that edition that we take a look at below. With marvelous wood-engravings by two great illustrators of the twentieth century, Blair Hughes-Stanton and Gertrude Hermes, printed on gorgeous Batchelor’s Kelmscott hand-made paper, and classically bound in black-stained vellum by the renowned Sangorski & Sutcliffe, this edition is simply gorgeous!

About the Edition

  • Published by The Cresset Press in 1928
  • Printed at The Shakespeare Head Press
  • Printed in Cloister type on Batchelor’s Kelmscott hand-made paper
  • Wood-engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton and Gertrude Hermes (who were husband & wife at the time)
  • Bound in black-stained vellum by Sangorski & Sutcliffe
  • Two volumes : 360mm x 248mm
  • 195 copies – this is number 81

Pictures of the Edition

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The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Books & Spines
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Bound By Sangorski & Sutcliffe
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Title Page
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Frontispiece and Title Page
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Printed At
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, List of Engravings 1
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, List of Engravings #2
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Sample Text #1
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Sample Text #2
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press, Colophon

2 thoughts on “The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, The Cresset Press & The Shakespeare Head Press (1928)

  1. This may well be the most beautiful edition of John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrims’s Progess’ printed since Wm. Morris kicked off the modern private press movement with his founding of the Kelmscott Press.

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