In 1917 Leonard and Virginia Woolf published a thirty-one page booklet entitled Two Stories, printed on a handpress in their dining room at Hogarth House in Richmond, Surrey. It was to be the first of the Hogarth Press publications, at first sold informally amongst their friends and later by subscription. Between 1917 and 1932 the Woolfs handprinted thirty-four books, including T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. During this period the Press functioned as part hobby and part cottage industry, based still at Hogarth House. From 1918 to 1923 part-time assistants were hired, and then in 1923 the Press's first full-time employee, Marjorie Thomson Joad.
In 1920 two books were chosen for publication which were too long to be printed by hand. Maksim Gorky's Reminiscences of Leo Nicolayevitch Tolstoi and Logan Pearsall Smith's Stories from the Old Testament Retold therefore became the first works to be published by the Hogarth Press on a more commercial footing, using the services of the Pelican Press. Other early titles included further translations of contemporary Russian writing by Gorky, Bunin and Dostoyevski. In March 1924 the Woolfs and their press moved to 52 Tavistock Square, London. As their publishing business expanded they relied more on commercial printers, including Clark of Edinburgh and the Garden City Press in Letchworth, although they continued to handprint books as a hobby.
The Hogarth Press began to publish the papers of the International Psycho-Analytical Institute in Vienna in 1924, which included the work of Sigmund Freud. Other Hogarth series came into being. The Hogarth Essays consisted of nineteen titles in the first series (1924-1926) and sixteen in the second (1926-1928), chiefly literature and literary criticism. The Hogarth Living Poets collections of original poems ran to twenty-four volumes in the first series (1928-1932) and five in the second (1933-1937), under the sponsorship and general editorship of Dorothy Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington. Contemporary political and social views were published in forty Day to Day pamphlets between 1930-1939. Twelve Hogarth Letters (1931-1933) were short essays on various social and literary topics. The New Hogarth Library Series (1940-1947) consisted of sixteen volumes devoted to individual poets, including Rainer Maria Rilke, C. Day Lewis, Herman Melville and Federico Garca Lorca. Hogarth published books on art, travel, foreign affairs, religion, music and health, as well as literature and politics. At its peak in 1932 the Hogarth list contained thirty-two titles.
John Lehmann had worked for the Hogarth Press as an apprentice manager from 1931 to 1932. In 1938 Virginia Woolf decided to sell her share and Lehmann returned as part-owner and general manager. The press moved to 37 Mecklenburgh Square in 1939 but was bombed out in September 1940 and took refuge with its printers, the Garden City Press, in Letchworth. The war also brought the inevitable paper rationing, and priority was given to the Uniform Edition of Virginia Woolf's works, published after her suicide in 1941, and to the work of Freud. After the war Lehmann and Leonard Woolf disagreed about publishing policy. Woolf bought Lehmann out and subsequently sold Lehmann's share to Chatto & Windus. The Hogarth Press became a limited company within Chatto & Windus, with Leonard Woolf serving as a director on the Hogarth board until his death in 1969. The Hogarth Press was acquired with Chatto & Windus by Random House UK in 1987.