Virginia Woolf Made Zines, Too!

by Katharine Ernst

Who knew our favorite feminist author was so into DIY culture? Woolf collab’d with her newphews, Julian and Quentin Bell, to create a self-published family newspaper. What started as charming words and illustrations developed into The Charleston Bulletin, a series of publications about happenings and events in the household. They mainly consisted of stories and sketches that use wit and a critical eye to talk about the goings-on within the family. The Charleston Bulletin remained in the Bell family archives until recently, in which they were fully transcribed and published as The Charleston Bulletin Supplements.


The drawings are treated with a light, playful hand. It is more or less as if the aunt-nephew trio is taking off in their own little world filled with familial humor and caricatures of each other. They lovingly poke fun at their family, for instance, by differentiating the men by their noses and mustaches, or lack thereof. You can get a full taste of these depictions by considering the sketches and writings on Trisy, the household cook.

“When in a good and merry mood, Trisy would seize a dozen eggs and a bucket of flour, coerce a cow to milk itself and then mixing the ingredients toss them 20 times high up over the skyline, and catch them as they fell in dozens and dozens and dozens of pancakes.”


The juxtaposition of words and image here really work to craft a space for magic in everyday life. This emphasizes Woolf’s ideas on the beauty in the existence of words, but also how words exist because they belong to other words as well as to context.


The most curious and intriguing drawing in the collaboration is where four men are rendered as birds in a nest up in the trees. It eerily creates a space where its existence is impossible but possible. Impossible in reality, but possible through each form’s relationship to each other and how these dependent relationships create meaning, much like how words’ relationships with each other are what create meaning.

The Charleston Bulletin Supplements are great too look at in conjunction with Woolf’s only existing voice recording of her essay “Craftsmanship.” Who would have thought that a humble and witty family newspaper would bring up such deep metaphysical questions about life and art? Thanks, Ms. Woolf!


Source via Brain Pickings

Photographs via Brain Pickings and the Estates of Virginia Woolf and Quentin Bell

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.