Author(s): Brian Webb
The finest books produced during the quarter century prior to the outbreak of the Great War were almost invariably printed by the private presses, but post-war, with the development of new technology, the accolade of excellence passed into the hands of a small number of commercial firms, with the Curwen Press very much to the fore. Like those earlier printers, Harold Curwen was inspired by the Morrisian ideal, but he did not adhere to the tenet that 'hand made' was necessarily better than 'machine made', which led him to become one of the pioneering figures in the technical revolution that transformed the printing industry.Harold Curwen joined the family firm in 1908 and by 1916 had instigated a general replanning of the works and, aided by the wartime staff shortage, felt able to push ahead with the installation of modern machinery. He was in the forefront of the development of offset lithography, which ensured that the Curwen Press would be in the vanguard of fine colour printing throughout the next decade. Harold also pioneered, as far as England was concerned, the pochoir technique of hand-stencilling.1
Brian Webb is a designer and visiting Professor at the University of the Arts London. Peyton Skipwith is an independent art consultant.