The Davos Press
The Davos Press was a hand-operated printing press belonging to Lloyd Stevenson, Robert Louis Stevenson’s stepson. Lloyd was gifted the “toy-press” in California, where he used it before bringing it with him to Davos in Switzerland in 1880.
The Stevenson family stayed in Davos from November until April both in 1881 and 1882 under advice from Robert Louis Stevenson’s doctor. Stevenson suffered bad health throughout his life, and it was believed that the climate of the Alps would help him.
Listen to 'Stevenson and the Davos Press' (2 mins)
In Davos, Stevenson spent a great deal of time with the twelve year old Lloyd, writing verses and carving the illustrations that would accompany them for the Davos Press. Lloyd remembered these times fondly, writing:
“The abiding spirit of the child in Stevenson was seldom shown in more lively fashion than those days of exile at Davos, where he brought a boys eagerness, a man’s intellect, a novelist’s imagination into the varied business of my holiday hours; the printing press, the toy theatre, the tin soldiers all engaged his attention.”
Lloyd used the press to print and sell invitation cards, programs and other materials as a means of supplementing the family income. He also wrote and printed the story “Black Canyon, or Wild Adventures in the Far West”.
Lloyd also used the Davos Press in 1882 to print Stevenson’s Moral Emblems and Moral Tales. Stevenson’s The Graver and the Pen had to be printed in Kingussie when the Press broke down after it was brought back to Edinburgh.
Stevenson seemed to revel in writing the poetry and in particular, in creating the woodcuts for these texts. In a letter to his mother he wrote: “Wood-engraving has suddenly drave between me and the sun. I dote on wood-engraving. I’m a made man for life. I’ve an amusement at last”. He cut two dozen engravings, although his wife Fanny cut the engraving of the elephant for Moral Emblems.
His poem entitled “Proem”, which appeared in The Graver and the Pen, offers an insight into Stevenson’s creative process in using the Davos Press. The poem is as follows: