Two Stories is the first publication produced by the Hogarth Press, the publishing house established by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917. The title page states ‘Publication No. 1’ in the top-left corner.

Entirely written and printed by the Woolfs, it contains the short stories ‘Three Jews’ by Leonard and ‘The Mark on the Wall’ by Virginia.

Establishing the Hogarth Press

In March 1917, the Woolfs walked along Farringdon Street, London, and purchased a printing machine, materials and an instruction booklet from Excelsior Printing Supply Company. The purchase was impulsive, but they had been discussing the idea of setting up a printing press since autumn 1916. Although the Woolfs were enthusiastic and absorbed by the work, their first publication shows some signs of amateurism such as irregular spacing and blotted ink. As Hermione Lee highlights, however, the Woolfs quickly developed into professional printers.[1]

It took two and a half months to print 150 copies of Two Stories, which was released for sale in July 1917. Because the printing process was all-consuming, Virginia did not compose ‘The Mark on the Wall’ until the printing of Leonard’s story was complete. The 32 pages were sewn together and bound with paper covers by hand. Being bound on an ad-hoc basis, different covers exist: the British Library’s copy is bound in a blue weave-textured material.

Dora Carrington’s illustrations

Dora Carrington, a British artist trained at the Slade School of Art, designed the four woodcut illustrations that accompany Two Stories. Small yet detailed, Virginia told Carrington that she liked best the two woodcut prints for ‘The Mark on the Wall’. Pleased by their first artistic collaboration, Woolf wrote that the press ‘is specially good at printing pictures, and we see that we must make a practice of always having pictures’.[2]

Carrington subsequently worked on other early cover designs and illustrations for the Hogarth Press.

[1] See Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (London: Vintage, 1997), pp. 362–67.

[2] Nigel Nicolson, The Letters of Virginia Woolf (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976), Vol 2, pp. 162–63. Letter dates 13 July 1917.