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The Curwen Press

RA Collection: People and Organisations

The Curwen Press was founded by the Reverend John Curwen (1816–1880) in Plaistow in east London in 1863 to print music. It was incorporated as J. Curwen & Sons in 1897. Harold Curwen (1885-1949) took over the business in 1914 and began to specialise in well-designed work. After 1920, Oliver Simon (1895-1956) extended Curwen's reputation for good typography and design to book-work. The Press employed many important artists and designers, including Edward Ardizzone RA, Barnett Freedman, Edward Bawden RA, Claud Lovat Fraser, Paul Nash RA, Eric Ravilious RA and Albert Rutherston.

In 1933 the Curwen Press Ltd separated from J. Curwen & Sons (which continued as a music publisher until 1969). The original directors were Harold Curwen, and Oliver and his brother Herbert Simon (1898-1974). The business suffered extensive war damage. In 1964 it merged with M. R. Harley & Co. and in 1965 Basil Harley became managing director. Under him, Curwen developed its business in high-quality colour lithography, notably for natural-history illustration. Letterpress work gradually declined in importance. Curwen Prints Ltd, a workshop for the production of artists' prints, became a separate business in 1968. Curwen Press closed in 1984. The Curwen Studio survives as an independent studio. [Curwen Press website].

Works associated with The Curwen Press in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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