WOOLF, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. London: R. & R. Clark, Limited for Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, 1927. 

Octavo (187 x 123mm), pp. [i]-vii, [1 (blank)], [9]-[320]. Press-device after Vanessa Bell on title. (Scattered light spotting and foxing.) Original royal blue cloth, spine lettered in gilt, cream dustwrapper printed in blue and black with design by Vanessa Bell. (Extremities lightly rubbed and bumped, small mark on lower board, dustwrapper lightly spotted, darkened on spine and with tears, laid down onto paper and with crude repairs at head of spine). A very good copy. ProvenanceStephen John Keynes OBE, FLS (1927-2017, pencil ownership signature on front free endpaper).

First edition, second impression, published the month after the first edition. Woolf began writing To the Lighthouse, her fifth novel and one of her best-known works, on 6 August 1925, but her progress was interrupted by illness after two weeks and she did not resume work on it until January 1926. This second campaign saw her write ‘with speed and fluency’ (H. Lee, Virginia Woolf (London, 1996), p. 477) and Woolf completed the first draft in September 1926, despite recurrences of ill-health and ‘a whole nervous breakdown in miniature’ (Diary, III, p. 103), before revising it between October 1926 and January 1927. The author believed it to be ‘easily the best of my books’, while Leonard Woolf, reading it at the end of January 1927, considered it a ‘masterpiece’ (op. cit., III, pp. 117 and 123). 

The proofs were revised in the spring of 1927, and their confidence in the book led the Woolfs to increase the print run from the 2,000 sets of sheets that had been printed of Mrs. Dalloway to 3,000 sets of sheets for To the Lighthouse. Their confidence was justified and when the book was published on 5 May 1927, advance sales had already reached 1,600 copies. The present second impression consisted of 1,000 copies issued in June 1927, and it was followed by a third printing of 1,500 copies in May 1928, presumably prompted in part by the award of the British ‘Femina-Vie Heureuse’ prize to Woolf in May 1928 for To the Lighthouse. Somewhat improbably, the presentation was made by Hugh Walpole, as Woolf recorded in her Diary: ‘[t]he prize was an affair of dull stupid horror: a function; not alarming; stupefying. Hugh Walpole saying how much he disliked my books; rather, how much he feared for his own’ (III, p. 183). 

This copy is from the library of the bibliophile Stephen Keynes, the son of the distinguished surgeon, bibliographer, and bibliophile Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982) and the nephew and godson of John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes (1883-1946). Both Geoffrey and Maynard Keynes were friends of the Woolfs, and both lived at 38 Brunswick Square, the large Bloomsbury town house which was leased by Maynard Keynes and became the home of Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, Adrian Stephen, Leonard Woolf, and other members of the Bloomsbury Group at various times between 1912 and 1915.

Kirkpatrick and Clarke, Woolf, A10a (note); Woolmer, The Hogarth Press, 154 (note); cf. Connolly, The Modern Movement, 54 (1st ed.).