Brain Pickings

Beautiful 1921 Woodcuts by Virginia Woolf’s Sister


Black-and-white beauty from a rare vintage edition.

It has been argued that music had a profound influence on Virginia Woolf’s work, her growing feminism, and her understanding of social class, sexuality, and pacifism.

The original edition of Woolf’s collection Monday or Tuesday (UK; public library), published by Hogarth Press in 1921 in a limited run of 1,000 copies, featured stunning full-page black-and-white woodcut illustrations for Woolf’s short story “A String Quartet” by her artistically gifted sister, the acclaimed Bloomsbury painter Vanessa Bell.

The short story collection owes its title to a passage in a chapter titled “Modern Fiction” from Woolf’s classic 1919 treatise The Common Reader, where the beloved author contemplates the heart of storytelling:

Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions — trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday.

Though lacking Bell’s beautiful woodcuts, a standard, text-only version of Monday or Tuesday is available as a free Kindle download.

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