Stevenson family affairs

The famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson was plagued by chronic lung problems and spent the winters of 1880-1 and 1881-2 with his family in Davos-Platz in Switzerland on medical advice. Stevenson, his stepson (Samuel) Lloyd Osbourne (1868-1947) and Lloyd’s mother Fanny, since 1880 Stevenson’s wife, passed some of their time in the Alps with printing ventures. We have been very fortunate in acquiring a collection of five small items printed by Lloyd on a little printing press which he took with him to Davos-Platz. Surviving copies of items printed on Lloyd Osbourne’s press are very rare.

Stevenson 1 small Stevenson 2 small

At some point in 1880, before his 12th birthday in April, Lloyd was given a little portable printing press. In the winter of 1881-1882, he carried out small pieces of jobbing printing such as lottery tickets, admission tickets and concert programmes, and three issues of a newspaper ‘The Davos News’. The following winter, Stevenson himself become involved in the activities of Lloyd’s printing ‘firm’: he supplied not only text to print, but he also carved woodblocks with a penknife to make woodcuts to illustrate the pamphlets.

The items we have acquired are: two collections of poems by Stevenson (RB.s.2894 and RB.s.2895), both titled ‘Moral emblems’ with woodcut illustrations by Stevenson; two single leaf advertisements for the above works (RB.s.2897(1) and RB.s.2897(2)), and ‘To M. I. Stevenson’ (RB.s.2896), a 4-page pamphlet which has a woodcut and a single line quotation attributed to Stevenson’s father, Thomas.

Find out more about Stevenson in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessible through NLS Licensed Digital Collections).