Strawberry Hill House, Waldegrave Road, London, England
Strawberry Hill House is full of surprises. Not least of all in its appearance. It was bought in 1747 by the historian, antiquarian, politician and novelist Horace Walpole. And then, over a period of some years, Horace had the building completely restructured so as to resemble the medieval gothic palaces and cathedrals he’d visited and loved while travelling through Europe. But another of the house’s great surprises lies in its very own cottage publishing industry. For it was from here that Horace Walpole ran his Strawberry Hill Press from 1757. The first book printed by Walpole’s very own publishing division was a collection of poetry by his friend, the writer and Cambridge classicist, Thomas Gray. Then came several other works of prose and poetry, some penned by Horace himself (although not his famous and spooky novel, The Castle of Otranto, which was published in London on Christmas Eve 1764). Thirty-four works were published in total. Horace would use the press as a way of testing his own work. If the Strawberry Hill editions sold well, he’d pass them on to the bigger publishing houses in London. But the most important work published by the Press was probably Walpole’s Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill near Twickenham, with an inventory of the furniture, pictures, curiosities etc. in 1784. Horace had opened his marvelous house to the public. Visitors would pay a small amount to view the house and its grounds, and would be given a copy of the Description to help them get the most out of the experience. It was likely one of the world’s first guidebooks. Printing was overseen by Thomas Kirgate, who went on to become Horace’s private secretary and good friend.