The Curwen Press Album

SKU: 10333

Height – 0cm
Width – cm


The Curwen Press; Stuart McMinn

The following items have provided the most information on the blocks in this collection‚ both the original woodblocks and the
stereos/electros. The following first two books provide a remarkable record of the stock blocks, and many of the artists who worked at the Curwen Press. They are possibly two of the most important remaining documents related to the overall work of the Curwen Press.

  • Book of Pulls [Stock Block

This is a large hardback book [30 cms(H) X 25 cms(W)] with green binding containing thick brown paper pages as might be used to mount photos. Prints of all stock blocks used by the Curwen Press have been mounted in this album. It was kept by Father’ Bert Tubbs in the Chapel’- the Composing Room of the Curwen Press at Plaistow. The book was a working document, and used on a regular basis so most pages are loose, however, it remains in serviceable order. All the prints are proofs, either from the original block or a stereotype, with one watercolour, which appears to be a draft idea for a Curwen Press notepaper. Several have been hand coloured.

In this book, which is about three-quarters used, there are one thousand and ninety-five (1095) illustrations, all of which are numbered, and correspond to the listing in the Index of Stock Blocks, and have initials next to the print such as CLF’, to identify the artist.

This book has been described as follows by James Shurmer [a designer with the Curwen Press, and responsible for the last of the Unicorns, under the final Director of the company, Basil Harley]:

Bert Tubb, the Father of the Chapel in the Composing Room, was
the teller of tales of the old days‚ and‚ most importantly‚ he
was the keeper of the Stock Block’ book. This large volume had
the appearance of a bound scrapbook, but it was in fact unique. It
was the single most important working item at the Press and added to
during half a century of Curwen’s history. It was filled with
proofs of nearly every block proof ever produced by the Press, some
of these proofs are rare wood engravings, probably one of the small
number ever produced. As can be readily imagined, this book was
keenly guarded by Bert, who kept it jealously under lock and key.

Bert gave me special dispensation to study the Stock Block book,
and what I found was a revelation. There were engravings by most of
the artists employed by the Press during its lifetime, including many
familiar names‚  Edward Bawden; Paul Nash; Eric Gill; Claude Lovat
Fraser; – as well as many others new to me such as Woodroffe,
Flemsburg, and Cosomati.

In total there are one thousand and ninety-five (1095) proofs of blocks, including more than five hundred (500) designs by Claud Lovat Fraser, many of which have a colour wash. In addition there are blocks by Ravilious, Percy Smith, Paul Woodroffe, MacDonald Gill, Clarke Hutton, D.M. Batty, and many others. The illustrations show example pages from the book.

Vivien Gribble, Robert Gibbings, Dorothy Mullock, Herbert Rooke

Fig. 2 Claud
Lovat Fraser, Percy Smith and others. (LL; ‘main image’)

Fig. 3 Claud
Lovat Fraser [apparently no record’]

Fig.4 Paul
Nash, Lovat Fraser Flemsburg and others.

Fig. 5
Bawden, Claudia Guerico, Ravilious


  • Index
    of Stock Blocks

This item in the collection is a stapled photocopy [eleven A4 sheets in landscape format]] of a lined notebook containing a listing of all stock blocks up to No. 1006, the last page(s) containing data up to block 1095, has been lost. The original document may be held in a public collection of Curwen Press documents.

The pages are divided as shown in the illustration, with each stock block description written by hand showing Number, Artist by initials, and
Title of the illustration.

Example page from Index of Stock Blocks’

  • Reference to Stock Blocks
    out in Jobs

This is a lined notebook of legal size [approximately A4] with, on the front cover written in red; Reference to Stock Blocks out on jobs. This book please. 1938′. The book contains sixteen pages of entries, under four columns‚ No.; Date out; Customer’s Name [later changed to Job’;] Date In [later changed to Returned’]. In addition, the notebook contains several slips of paper with stock block numbers noted, and notes such as Tate Gallery; 2-12-76; 1007, 1008, 984′.

7 Example page from Stock Blocks out in Jobs’

The first entry is for 18‚ 2- 38, and the last entry for 29-5-79, and thus covers a period of forty years and three months. There are a total of four hundred and eleven [411] jobs listed, often with more than one block being used.

The use of Stock Blocks prior to February 1938 is not listed and presumably this data is contained in other notebooks. Most of the blocks in the collection are from the period prior to 1938, and thus their use would not be included in this notebook, unless the Stock Block was also used at a later date.


Liss Llewellyn are continually seeking to improve the quality of the information on their website. We actively undertake to post new and more accurate information on our stable of artists. We openly acknowledge the use of information from other sites including Wikipedia, and and other public domains. We are grateful for the use of this information and we openly invite any comments on how to improve the accuracy of what we have posted.


Claude Lovat Fraser
Claude Lovat
1890 - 1921

Painter, illustrator and designer born in London. Fraser originally studied law but in 1911 abandoned this and entered Westminster School of Art studying under Walter Sickert. After one year he left the school, abandoning oils, thereafter working mostly with watercolour and pen and ink and held his first solo exhibition in 1913 in his own studio. He enlisted in the army in 1915 and served in France and Flanders. Gassed and shell-shocked, he returned home and eventually entered the War Office to work on visual propaganda. After the war, Fraser continued to make designs for the Poetry Bookshop, provided illustrations for approximately twenty books, executed private commissions for bookplates, stationery and greeting cards, and designed commercial advertisements through the Curwen Press and his work was reproduced in Design in Modern Industry and the obscure Apple Magazine.

Fraser’s designs for Nigel Playfair’s production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, staged on opening night of the Shakespeare Festival at Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1919 and at the Lyric Theater, Hammersmith, in April 1920, were derisively called ‘Futurist’ by some critics because of their spare, evocative design. Despite the critical furor raised by the unconventional set and costumes, this was later acknowledged as a groundbreaking departure from the unimaginatively literal Shakespearean production typical of the time. Taken suddenly ill with a duodenal complaint, he died soon after an operation. A memorial exhibition was held in December 1921 at the Leicester Galleries in London. Subsequent exhibitions of Fraser’s work have included exhibitions at Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in 1968 which toured to Hull University and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the d’Offay Couper Gallery, London in 1971, Manchester Polytechnic Library, Manchester, 1984 North East London Polytechnic Library, London, 1985 and University of Ulster, Northern Ireland in 1989.

With thanks to