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Woolf in the World: A Pen and a Press of Her Own

OrlandoAfter much deliberation about the wording, Virginia Woolf dedicated Orlando to “V. Sackville-West.” Woolf’s fanciful biography of a woman writer traced through four centuries of English literary history is based on the life of Woolf’s lover, Vita Sackville-West. Orlando begins in the Renaissance and ends in 1928 with an airplane rushing out of the clouds. Vita’s book on Knole and the Sackvilles (1922) provided Virginia with background information. Three photographs of Vita illustrate the text.

Virginia Woolf. Orlando: A Biography. London: Hogarth Press, 1928.
Inscribed on the free endpaper by the author to “Lytton from Virginia, 10th Oct 1928.”

Woolf began writing Orlando in 1927 and by March 1928 a first draft was complete. By the time the page proofs had been revised for the American edition, Woolf had corrected eighty typographical errors and made over six hundred substantial changes in the text, some of which are seen here in Woolf’s violet-colored ink.

Orlando (page proofs) Orlando (page proofs)
Virginia Woolf. Orlando: corrected page proofs, 9 June-22 July 1928.
Inscribed by the author to Crosby Gaige.

Orlando (cover by Salter)Orlando first appeared in the United States on 2 October 1928 in a limited edition of 861 copies published by Crosby Gaige, which also included fifteen deluxe copies on green paper. Examples of both limited editions are on display. The Hogarth Press edition appeared on 11 October 1928, the day on which Orlando ends. Lytton Strachey’s copy is seen above with a dust jacket. Harcourt Brace published its edition on 18 October 1928, from stereotype plates made from the type set for Gaige’s limited edition. Orlando quickly became a best seller, and many editions followed, including a Penguin paperback in 1946, with a cover design by George Salter.

Virginia Woolf. Orlando: A Biography. New York: Penguin, [1946]. Cover design by George Salter. Presented by Elizabeth P. Richardson ’43.

Orlando (special edition) Orlando (green paper edition)
Virginia Woolf. Orlando: A Biography.
New York: Crosby Gaige, 1928.
Number 755 of 800 copies
signed by the author.
Virginia Woolf Orlando: A Biography.
New York: Crosby Gaige, 1928.
One of the deluxe copies printed
on green paper.

While Virginia was working on Orlando, she wrote to Vita on 9 October 1927: “suppose Orlando turns out to be Vita; and its all about you and the lusts of your flesh and the lure of your mind... suppose there’s the kind of shimmer of reality which sometimes attaches to my people, as the lustre on an oyster shell.”

Woolf letter to Crosby Gaige
Virginia Woolf. Letter to Crosby Gaige, 29 October 1928.

Presented by Frances Hooper ’14.
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

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