On the last day of June I went to the National Museum Wales in Cardiff to hear a talk about the Gregynog Press, a private press set up in 1922 by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. I love the beauty and craftsmenship of private presses, and obviously having only recently stayed at Gregynog it seemed an opportune time to hear about the press. It was a fascinating talk given in the library of the Museum (i.e. behind scenes!) that is housed at the top of the building. Examples of the press were laid out for us to handle – although only if we wore gloves as grease from fingertips can damage the leather bindings. Also displayed were photographs of key individuals and Gregynog Hall, ephemera relating to the press, and books about Gregynog and the sisters.
Gwendoline and Margaret came from the wealthy Davies family – whose money was made in coal. They were lovers of art and music and bought Gregynog Hall with the idea of setting up a centre of creativity. They are renowned for their impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art which was bequeathed to the National Museum in 1951.
A highlight for me was seeing all the private press examples bearing the number 1 – these items are produced in very limited print runs, and numbered accordingly. As a cataloguer I have worked with a variety of Private Press books in the past, with a variety of numberings, but never seen a ‘1’. These examples all belonged to Gwendoline, and hence were No 1. and so we wondered whether Margaret’s copies therefore would have been the No. 2s?
I came away from the talk with a renewed love of Private Press books and the, so far unfulfilled, desire to run one myself; and then I nipped to the shop to buy the recently published history of the Davies sisters: Fishlock, Trevor (2014) A gift of sunlight: the fortune and quest of the Davies sisters of Llandinam. Llandysul: Gwasg Gomer.