The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press (1932)

The Gregynog Press has a long and storied history as one of the pre-eminent private presses of the twentieth century. Founded in 1922 by Margaret and Gwendoline Davies, Gregynog quickly became one of the most influential private presses in the pre-World War II era, producing some of the era’s most beautiful and lasting works, including The Revelation of Saint John the Divine which you will see in this article. Impressively, and rarely, Gregynog Press created everything under one roof – design, typography, illustration, printing and binding. After publishing forty two books, the press closed its doors, due to the war, in 1940. It was re-established in 1988 as Gwasg Gregynog, and soon started publishing a new set of finely done limited editions (many of which can be found on Books and Vines, see the Gregynog section here).  

Gregynog’s 1932 publication of The Revelation of Saint John the Divine is certainly one of their high points (as is The History of Saint Louis shown here, The Fables of Esope, and The Lamentations of Jeremiah ). Beautifully bound in full hermitage calf in a rust brown color with the title and decoration blind-stamped in black on the front and spine, the book just exudes excellence. However, it is the content inside that really makes this edition standout. Designed by Blair Hughes-Stanton, with a plethora of his wood-engravings along with black and white hand set type on Japanese vellum, the book offers page after page of fine press beauty. As you will see below, it truly is amongst the greatest of all fine press works of the last hundred years.

Blair Hughes-Stanton (1902-1981), alongside the likes of Eric GillGertrude Hermes and Agnes Miller Parker, was a major figure in the English wood engraving revival in the first half of the twentieth century.  He was the son of an artist and painted himself, but will be remembered for his wood engraving, particularly those used to illustrate books. Hughes-Stanton learned wood engraving alongside Gertrude Hermes and Henry Moore at Leon Underwood‘s school in London. He was commissioned to provide engravings for T.E. Lawrence‘s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom in 1926.  Following this he made engravings for three books from the Cresset Press: The Pilgrim’s Progress (1928), The Apocrypha (1929) and D.H. Lawrence’s Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1930). Hughes-Stanton married Gertrude Hermes (who had also provided engravings for The Pilgrim’s Progress in 1928) in 1925 and they became the resident artists at The Gregynog Press alongside the other husband and wife team of William McCance and Agnes Miller Parker in 1930.  During his stay at Gregynog he designed bindings and books and made some of his best engravings for Comus by John Milton, Four Poems also by John Milton, The Lamentations of Jeremiah, and The Revelation of Saint John the Divine which is highlighted in this article.

The Davies sisters, who owned the Gregynog Press, had some reservations about Hughes-Stanton, feeling that his art was ‘too erotic’, and they were upset when he started an affair with the poet Ida Graves in 1930 and who he brought to Gregynog and eventually married following his divorce from Gertrude Hermes. Blair Hughes-Stanton set up his own Gemini Press with Ida Graves following his departure from Gregynog in November 1933.  He produced a book (Epithalamion) with Ida’s poems and his own engravings printed by himself.  He also contributed engravings for books published by the Golden Cockerel Press, the Golden Hours Press, The Folio Society and, in later life, the Allen Press of Lewis and Dorothey Allen.

{Ed. Note: Much of the information on Blair Hughes-Stanton above is taken from earlier articles by Books and Vines contributor Neil}.

About the Edition

  • Printed by William MacCance at The Gregynog Press
  • Edition has been taken from the text of Dr. Scrivener’s Paragraph Bible, by consent of Cambridge University Press
  • Verse in Chapter XVIII has been put into stanzas as in The Doves Bible
  • Wood-engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton, who also designed the title page and arranged the format
  • Hand-set in Bembo and Perpetua type by John Hugh Jones on Japanese vellum
  • Printed in black and red
  • Pressman was  Herbert John Hodgson
  • Bound in rust brown leather (full hermitage calf), with the title and decoration blind-stamped in black on front and spine, Top edge sprikled
  • 13.25 X 8 ins, 60 pp
  • Limited to 250 copies

Pictures of the Edition

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The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Spine and Cover
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Spine and Cover
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Cover
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Cover
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine #1
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine #1
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine #2
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine #2
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine #3
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Spine #3
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Title Page
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Title Page
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Title Page
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Title Page
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #5 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #5 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #8 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #10 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Text #2
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Sample Text #2
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Sample Text #2
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Macro of Sample Text #2
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Colophon
The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press, Colophon

4 thoughts on “The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Gregynog Press (1932)

  1. This is one of the high points of the Gregynog Press bibliography and, along with his illustrations for the Gemini Press ‘Epithalamion’, the high point of Blair Hughes Stanton’s career as a wood engraver and book illustrator. Chris’ observation that this is “among the greatest of all private press works of the past hundred years” is not hyperbole —- this is indeed as close to a perfect modern private press book (1890 to present) as I can imagine.

    What truly sets this book apart is that this is a perfect marriage of artist and book in which the artist seems destined to illustrate a particular work, bringing unusual insight and power to the text. A few other notable examples of this symbiotic relationship are: The Golden Cockerel Press ‘The Four Gospels’ and Eric Gill, the Lakeside Press ‘Moby Dick’ and Rockwell Kent, the Pennyroyal Press ‘Frankenstein’ and Barry Moser and the Janus Press ‘The Circus of Dr Lao’ and Claire Van Vliet.

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