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 (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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