An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center
Kim Taylor was born to English parents in Jubbulpore, India on February 27, 1919, and spent his childhood in India in the final decades of the British Raj. After having been sent away to boarding school in England, Taylor (who once admitted he had "learned to read and write [at school] but not very much else that matters") left formal education behind. He had, he said, "not dropped out but leapt out of school at sixteen." By 1938, Taylor was back in India, employed with the advertising firm of D. J. Keymer and Co. as a copywriter and account executive.
In 1940, Taylor moved to Australia where he taught at Tudor House School in New South Wales until 1942. At the end of the war he returned to India, where in Calcutta he worked as an editor on the arts and crafts periodical Art in Industry. Although a life-long lover of books, this was his initiation into the production of words and images by means of metal type. He remained in India three years with Art in Industry, also managing to find time to involve himself in the production of cultural programming for All India Radio.
By the early 1950s, Taylor returned to England where he taught in various secondary schools. In 1953, he met printer Guido Morris, proprietor of the Latin Press, then at St. Ives, Cornwall. Soon after their meeting Morris lost his equipment to a creditor and in short order Taylor found himself "in the company of a small Albion press, some Bembo type and hand-made paper ..." Taylor named his venture The Ark Press and began to learn the printer's craft by printing letterheads and greeting cards.
His first significant project, in 1954, was the St. Matthew Passion, with the text in linoleum cuts by John Cossar and illustrations by Ru van Rossem. Twenty-five copies of the work, issued loose leaf in portfolio, were produced and quickly sold. Taylor's first completed book was D. H. Lawrence's essay Life, illustrated by van Rossem's wood engravings.
After finishing Life in 1954, Taylor removed to Totnes, Devon to teach at the Dartington Hall School, the future of the Ark Press in abeyance. In mid-1955, Kim Taylor received a letter from Warren Roberts, a professor at the University of Texas and Lawrence's bibliographer. Roberts, who had seen Life, wanted Taylor to design and print Lawrence's "cycle of love poems" entitled Look! We Have Come Through!, the manuscript of which the university purchased. Taylor was immediately interested in Roberts's proposal and agreed to design and produce an edition with financial assistance from the University of Texas.
While Roberts and Taylor worked to bring the Lawrence project to a successful conclusion Taylor left Dartington Hall at the beginning of 1957, having accepted an editorial position with the art and design periodical Graphis in Zurich. After many delays Look! was published in the fall of 1958 in editions for the university's Rare Book Collection and also under the Ark Press imprint. Acceptance of Look! was immediate, and a second edition was issued in 1959.
The very favorable impression that Kim Taylor made in Austin led to an invitation to visit the University of Texas campus in early 1960. Harry Ransom, then university vice president and director of the newly-renamed Humanities Research Center, offered Taylor the post of consultant to the university publications program. He accepted the offer and arrived in Austin with his wife Eya and their two children in the fall of 1960.
It could be fairly said that Kim Taylor hit the ground running in his quest to carry out Ransom's aims for a strong publications program for the Humanities Research Center. Two of his earliest substantial publishing projects at the university--The Craft & Context of Translation by William Arrowsmith and Roger Shattuck and Poor Heretic: Poems by Kenneth Hopkins--were named to the American Institute of Graphic Arts's Fifty Books of the Year exhibition for 1962. Poor Heretic was the precursor of the research center's admired Tower Series of poetry monographs, joined later by the Tower Bibliographical Series.
Along with the ongoing scholarly series and monographs for which Kim Taylor was responsible, he also designed and executed a wide range of other print material, ephemeral and otherwise for the center and for the university's Art Department. Taylor also served as assistant editor of the Texas Quarterly, the generalist periodical founded and originally edited by Harry Ransom, and taught courses in the book arts and Oriental arts and ideas in the Art Department.
In summing up Taylor's work at the University of Texas, Al Lowman wrote in Printing Arts in Texas (1975) "apparently he never had a day off or, for that matter, an off day... In design he plotted his own individualistic course. His work is readily recognizable, strongly personal and strongly stated. Nothing like it had been seen previously in Texas, nor has its like been seen since ..."
During the summer of 1969, Kim Taylor and his family returned to England, taking up residence in an Elizabethan cottage in rural Somerset. A sort of summation of the years spent in Texas was achieved with the 1971 publication of The First Hundred Publications of the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin. Edited by Edwin T. Bowden, this descriptive bibliography was designed by Kim Taylor and printed by Wordens of Cornwall, Taylor's printer for the Ark Press titles. He was responsible for the design of forty-one of the publications included in the survey.
While Taylor was in Texas, the Ark Press had been able to issue two volumes of poems by Harold Morland, one with graphics by Mort Baranoff, and one with the woodcuts of Robert Wyss. The press had also published two works by Kim Taylor, The Labour of Love: One Aspect of the Autobiography of Michael Adam (1962) and Man is a Little World: the First Will & Testament of Michael Adam (1969). Michael Adam was a pseudonym Taylor had first used in Look! to identify the creator of the scratchboard illustrations found in that work.
Reactivation of the Ark Press was a priority, and in the first several years Kim Taylor was back in England and a number of works of substantive and artistic merit were issued by the press. Among these was a collection of poems by D. H. Lawrence selected by Michael Adam and with woodcuts by Barbara Whitehead, issued in 1970 under the title The Body of God. This was followed in 1971 by the republication of Lawrence's Look! with Felix Hoffmann's woodcuts in lieu of the scratchboard work of the 1959 edition.
In 1973 appeared The Cry of a Gull, the journals Alyse Gregory kept between 1923 and 1948 observing her marriage with Llewelyn Powys and her subsequent widowhood. Linocuts were by Alan Richards. Near concurrently a collection of Powys's letters to Gamel Woolsey, with drawings by Peter Reddick, was published.
Despite Kim Taylor's best efforts and the reputation of the Ark Press, economic viability was not achieved, and in 1975 the affairs of the press were wound up. Inflation resulting from the 1973 oil crisis was not kind to little presses, and--as Michael Adam later observed--"The selling of books was not among Kim Taylor's gifts. He underpriced his books; gave them away. The Ark sank ... with little to show for it but a smile."
In the years since the Ark Press came to an end, Kim Taylor has written a good deal but only a portion of those writings have found their way into print. Even so, Michael Adam's Wandering in Eden: Three Ways to the East Within Us was published by Knopf in 1976, as was his Womankind: a Celebration by Harper in 1979.
My Wild Lone, with woodcuts by Robert Wyss, was published in 1987 under the imprint of Quay Books of Penzance, along with a number of small volumes of poetry by Harold Morland and others. My Wild Lone was printed at St. Ives, but the others, while designed by Taylor, were produced by "a local photocopy shop."
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation engaged Kim Taylor in 1988 to design a series of works in Portuguese literature and culture to be published jointly by the foundation and the Carcanet Press. The project resulted in more than twenty titles featuring Taylor's design work and calligraphy and appeared between 1990 and 1997.
In 1996, Michael Adam wrote "at seventy-seven, with all book designing, teaching and writing seemingly done, Kim Taylor now turns to painting--often showing that marriage of words and images he has always wished to celebrate." His first painting exhibition was at the Book Gallery in St. Ives in 1996. There have since been other exhibitions of his work in St. Ives and elsewhere in his beloved Cornwall.
The papers of Kim Taylor span the years 1943 to 1997 and comprise primarily the publication files of several works issued by his Ark Press during the period 1954 to 1975. Also present are materials relating to projects mooted but not completed. Some correspondence relating to these various projects as well as a small amount of biographical material is included. The papers are in an order created by the Ransom Center, and are arranged in two series: Series I. Works, 1943-1975 (15 boxes) and Series II. Personal Papers, 1953-1997 (1 box).
The Works series is presented in two subseries: A. Projects Completed and B. Unrealized Projects. The first of these represents the major portion of the Kim Taylor papers inasmuch as it contains the publication files of a substantial fraction of the Ark Press output in its twenty years of activity.
The amount and type of material present for the various works found here varies from scattered correspondence (A Matter of Death and Life) or drafts of artwork (The Craft & Context of Translation) to marked typescripts, original artwork and printers' blocks, galleys and page proofs (So Wild a Thing). Other works by Michael Adam, Alyse Gregory, and D. H. Lawrence also have substantial publication files present.
The Unrealized Projects subseries runs to less than a half box, but indicates Taylor's interest in publishing authors as varied as William Blake, Francis of Assisi, Raja Rao, and Dylan Thomas. D. H. Lawrence's The Man Who Died is represented by a dummy and an incomplete set of galleys.
Series II. Personal Papers, 1953-1997 consists of professional correspondence between Kim Taylor and authors, collaborators, editors, and printers in the second half of the twentieth century, primarily in the years between 1957 and 1975, along with a small group of biographical material in the form of clippings, photocopies, and documents.
The correspondence received by Taylor from Edward Dahlberg runs to nearly sixty individual letters and is the largest in the series. The interchange grew out of the interest the Texas Quarterly took in Dahlberg's autobiographical Because I was Flesh and the subsequent publication of a section of that work in a 1963 issue of the quarterly. Taylor was clearly interested in Dahlberg's writing, and the men established a close rapport early in the correspondence, preceding the appearance of Cipango's Hinder Door as Tower Series no. 6 (1966). The last letter from Dahlberg in the collection was sent to Taylor in 1970, after Kim Taylor's return to England.
The development of the Ark Press during the years immediately before Kim Taylor moved from Zurich to Austin is the theme of the letters from Kenneth Worden, proprietor of the Worden Press of Marazion, Cornwall. Worden was supportive of Taylor's aim of producing attractive and worthwhile books, and the practical aspect of that support is evident throughout this correspondence. Other correspondence to and from the Worden Press is found elsewhere in these papers.
Louis Zukofsky's correspondence with Taylor dates from the years 1961 to 1964 and is concerned with the publication by the Ark Press for the Humanities Research Center of Zukofsky's critical work Bottom: On Shakespeare. This file also includes carbons of Kim Taylor's side of the exchange, as well as other correspondence related to the publication and distribution of Bottom.
Open for research
Purchases and gifts, 1963-2012 (R1552, R2020, R7005, R7059)
Bob Taylor, 2012