Emery Walker: Arts, Crafts and a World in Motion
He was called the ‘Universal Samaritan’, his help and advice likened to a vital amenity like water, but free of charge. Emery Walker (1851–1933) was a key figure in the world of design, typography and printing, in the teaching and dissemination of those crafts, and in the cultural landscape of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain. But the effects of his contributions also spread to the United States and mainland Europe, and the ripple of their influence helped determine the design ethos of the twentieth century and beyond.
But Walker himself has largely remained in the shadows, low-key even in the most notorious dispute in typographic history over the rights to the Doves Press type – the pronouncements and self-justifications of
his former partner Thomas Cobden-Sanderson dominated the affair. His creative and inspirational career is highlighted in separate features: the Kelmscott Press, the Doves Press, the Ashendene and Cranach Presses, and his collaborations with Bruce Rogers: the short-lived Mall Press, and the aesthetic triumph of The Odyssey of Homer. His contributions to the design and use of two Greek typeface designs, Selwyn Image’s Macmillan Greek and Robert Proctor’s Otter Type, are also examined.
But interwoven with these is a selection of 143 letters spanning 60 years, most never previously published, that gives us a picture of Walker the man in both his professional and personal life. He seemed to ‘know everyone’, and short biographies of the
principal correspondents help contextualise the letters. The result is a fascinating picture of Emery Walker, his family and friends, the people he knew and the times he lived in: times of aesthetic vision, social revolution dreamed and actual, and world war, culminating in a symbolic, poignant valediction to Arts and Crafts as the shadow of another conflict loomed. The texts are accompanied by over 140 images, many of them, once again, never before published.