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PAGE 3

Autobiographical
by [?]

In London, from about Sixteen Hundred Fifty to Sixteen Hundred Ninety, Samuel and Thomas Roycroft printed and made very beautiful books. In choosing the name “Roycroft” for our Shop we had these men in mind, but beyond this the word has a special significance, meaning King’s Craft–King’s craftsmen being a term used in the Guilds of the olden times for men who had achieved a high degree of skill–men who made things for the King. So a Roycrofter is a person who makes beautiful things, and makes them as well as he can. “The Roycrofters” is the legal name of our institution. It is a corporation, and the shares are distributed among the workers. No shares are held by any one but Roycrofters, and it is agreed that any worker who quits the Shop shall sell his shares back to the concern. This co-operative plan, it has been found, begets a high degree of personal diligence, a loyalty to the institution, a sentiment of fraternity and a feeling of permanency among the workers that is very beneficial to all concerned. Each worker, even the most humble, calls it “Our Shop,” and feels that he is an integral and necessary part of the Whole. Possibly there are a few who consider themselves more than necessary. Ali Baba, for instance, it is said, has referred to himself, at times, as the Whole Thing. And this is all right, too–I would never chide an excess of zeal: the pride of a worker in his worth and work is a thing to foster.

It’s the man who “doesn’t give a damn” who is really troublesome. The artistic big-head is not half so bad as apathy.

* * * * *

In the month of December, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four, I printed the first “Little Journeys” in booklet form, at the local printing-office, having become discouraged in trying to find a publisher. But before offering the publication to the public, I decided to lay the matter again before G.P. Putnam’s Sons, although they had declined the matter in manuscript form. Mr. George H. Putnam rather liked the matter, and was induced to issue the periodical as a venture for one year. The scheme seemed to meet with success, the novel form of the publication being in its favor. The subscription reached nearly a thousand in six months; the newspapers were kind, and the success of the plan suggested printing a pamphlet modeled on similar lines, telling what we thought about things in general, and publishers and magazine-editors in particular.

There was no intention at first of issuing more than one number of this pamphlet, but to get it through the mails at magazine rates we made up a little subscription list and asked that it be entered at the post office at East Aurora as second-class matter. The postmaster adjusted his brass-rimmed spectacles, read the pamphlet, and decided that it surely was second class matter.

We called it “The Philistine” because we were going after the “Chosen People” in literature. It was Leslie Stephen who said, “The term Philistine is a word used by prigs to designate people they do not like.” When you call a man a bad name, you are that thing–not he. The Smug and Snugly Ensconced Denizens of Union Square called me a Philistine, and I said, “Yes, I am one, if a Philistine is something different from you.”

My helpers, the printers, were about to go away to pastures new; they were in debt, the town was small, they could not make a living. So they offered me their outfit for a thousand dollars. I accepted the proposition.

I decided to run “The Philistine” Magazine for a year–to keep faith with the misguided and hopeful parties who had subscribed–and then quit. To fill in the time, we printed a book: we printed it like a William Morris book–printed it just as well as we could. It was cold in the old barn where we first set up “The Philistine,” so I built a little building like an old English chapel right alongside of my house. There was one basement and a room upstairs. I wanted it to be comfortable and pretty, and so we furnished our little shop cozily. We had four girls and three boys working for us then. The Shop was never locked, and the boys and girls used to come around evenings. It was really more pleasant than at home.