London: Emily Faithfull & Co, Victoria Press for the Employment of Women, 1861. First edition. Half calf over marbled boards with red morocco label and gilt to spine. Light scuffs to spine and small bump to edge of front board. All edges marbled with marbled endpapers. Small marks to title page, largely concentrated on the margins. In all a tight, square, and clean copy of this important collected work of poetry and prose by contemporary luminaries, produced by a press specifically designed to increase women's employment and support women in the arts.
In 1859, Emily Faithfull joined forces with activists Jessie Boucherett, Bessie Rayner Parkes, and Barbara Bodichon to found the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women; and within a year, she had established the Victoria Press in London with the purpose of employing women in the trade and giving tangible purpose to our idea." Faithfull and her cohort "pressed for legal reform in women's status (including suffrage), explored new areas for women's employment, and campaigned for improved educational opportunities for girls and women. Emily Faithfull was at the heart of this multi-faceted campaign and identified with all three dimensions, although she is best known for her work in women's employment" (Hunt). Indeed, the Victoria Press became her greatest legacy -- a press run by and employing women "at a time when this was a skilled trade almost wholly confined to men" (Hunt).
The present volume was one of the Press's earliest publications, and it was a strategic attempt to attract Queen Victoria's attention and support with its beauty, content, and social mission. A collaboration with poet and philanthropist Adelaide Proctor, Victoria Regia drew together work from literary luminaries -- both men and women -- "as a choice specimen of the skill attained by [The Press's] compositors." The Preface gives a rich first-person account of the Society and the Press's foundation and mission. And the contents selected and edited by Procter, "Queen Victoria's favourite poet" (Side), put the works of Thackeray, Tennyson, and Trollope side by side with those of Bessie Parkes, Harriet Martineau, Julia Kavanagh, and Mary Howitt. Gathered together with no gendered order, rank, or privilege, the prose and poetry of the volume was an exceptional celebration of Englishness that won favor with the queen. The Victoria Press for the Employment of Women was soon after "appointed by royal warrant 'Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty'" (Hunt).
Feminist Companion 245, 352, 724. ODNB. Near Fine (Item #2968)