The Golden Cockerel Press was an English private press operating between 1920 and 1961. The press was famous for beautiful handmade limited editions of classic works produced to the very highest of standards. The type was hand-set and the books were printed on handmade paper, and sometimes on vellum. A major feature of Golden Cockerel books was the original illustrations, usually wood engravings, contributed by, among others, Eric Gill, Robert Gibbings, John Buckland Wright, Blair Hughes-Stanton, Agnes Miller Parker, David Jones, Mark Severin and Eric Ravilious.
The Golden Cockerel Press was set up as a cooperative with four partners, Hal Taylor, Bee Blackburn, Pran Pyper, and Ethelwynne (Gay) Stewart McDowell. Their first prospectus proclaimed: This press is a co-operative society for the printing and publishing of books. It is co-operative in the strictest sense. Its members are their own craftsmen, and will produce their books themselves in their own communal workshops without recourse to paid and irresponsible labour. Their first publications were The Voices, a literary review, and Adam & Eve & Pinch Me, short stories by a new author, A. E. Coppard, which was a critical success and sold well. By summer 1921 Blackburn and Pyper had left and the co-operative became a more conventional private press when Frank Young, Albert Cooper and Harry Gibbs were employed. In 1923, the press published The Wedding Songs of Spenser with color wood engravings by Ethelbert White, the first illustrated book from the press.
In early in 1924, the press was put up for sale. Robert Gibbings was working on wood engravings for The Lives of Gallant Ladies at the time the press was put up for sale, and, in order to secure publication of this work, he sought a loan from a friend, Hubert Pike, a director of Bentley Motors, to buy the press. The first book for which Gibbings was entirely responsible was Moral Maxims by Rochefoucault (1924). He published some 71 titles at the press and printed a number of books for others. The size of a run was normally between 250 and 750, and the books were mostly bound in leather by bookbinders Sangorski & Sutcliffe. The major titles were the four volume Canterbury Tales (1929-1931) and the Four Gospels (1931), both illustrated by Gill.
The Golden Cockerel typeface, designed especially for the press by Gill. Its first use was in A.E. Coppard's The Hundredth Story in 1931. The illustrations in some Golden Cockerel titles, although tame by modern standards, were considered risqué for the time and necessitated the press taking precautionary measures against possible prosecutions for obscenity or provocation, such as disguising the names of translators and illustrators.
In 1933, the press was taken over by Christopher Sandford, Owen Rutter, and Francis J. Newbery. The Golden Cockerel Press ceased to be a private press at this point, and became a publishing house. The first book published under the new regime was The House with the Apricot (1933) by H.E. Bates. It featured wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker and had been planned by Gibbings. The first major book of the new regime was The Glory of Life (1934) by Llewellyn Powys, a large quarto with wood engravings by Gibbings.
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Acquisition Note: Source: Purchased from Hamill & Barker. Accession number 1375
Preferred Citation:Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections
Scope and Contents: Includes correspondence between Dorothea Braby and Christopher Sandford, providing an excellent picture of the relationship that can exist between illustrator and publisher. Sandford directed the Golden Cockerel Press from 1933-1961, and continued the work of Robert Gibbings, Eric Gill and others in enlarging the Press's scope to include more experimental work. At the time of this correspondence, Braby had done at least one other book with Golden Cockerel, Mr. Chambers and Persephone in 1937. Also includes material relating to the production of The Lottery Ticket by V.G. Calderon, done into English by Richard Phibbs with engravings by Braby. Proof material, correspondence, notes concerning publication, 1943-1946.