The Ashendene Press
‘I have worked for my own pleasure and amusement without having to keep too strict and eye upon the cost.’
The Ashendene Press was founded by C H St. John Hornby.
C H St John Hornby was a partner in W H Smith & Sons, but he set up his own press to print books for his family and friends. The Ashendene Press was founded in 1895 and continued until 1935, with a break during the First World War from 1915 to 1920.
St John Hornby was a friend of Emery Walker’s, and Walker and Sydney Cockerell designed two types for the Ashendene Press, Subiaco and Ptolemy. Subiaco is considered the finer type, and is based on a half-Roman type developed by two German monks, Arnold Pannartz and Konrad Sweinheim at Subiaco in Italy in the 1460s.
Ashendene books are often in very small print runs, and were sold through a subscription service. Not many of the books were for sale, and all the Ashendene books in Emery Walker’s library were gifts from St. John Hornby. They are often illustrated and have coloured initials, and the press employed Edward Johnston, Graily Hewitt, and Eric Gill to do the initials. Unlike Kelmscott and Doves Press books, many of the Ashendene books have elaborately tooled leather bindings. St. John Hornby usually employed Katherine Adams and Sydney Cockerell’s brother Douglas, who ran the W H Smith bindery.
C H St John Hornby 'The Printer at Work', illustration from A Descriptive Bibliography of the Books Printed at the Ashendene Press MDCCCXCV - MCMXXXV, printed in 1924.
Boke off The Revelation off Sanct Jhon the Devine Done into Englysshe by William Tyndale, published by the Ashendene Press, 1901
La Divina Commedia: Lo Inferno by Dante Alighieri, publ'shed by the Ashendene Press, 1902. This is the first book of Dante's three part 'Divine Comedy', which describes Dante's journey through hell, purgatory and paradise. It was the first book published by Hornby to use the Subiaco type designed by Emery Walker and Sydney Cockerell. Illustrations by Robert Catterson-Smith. The binding is by Walker's friend Katharine Adams.
Treatyse Of Fysshynge With An Angle by Dame Juliana Berners, published by the Ashendene Press, 1903. Printed after 'The Boke Of St Albans', 1486. One of the first books on fishing by a woman. Attributed to Dame Juliana Berners who wrote books on hunting, hawking and heraldry and was thought to have been prioress of Sopwell nunnery near St Albans.
A Book Of Songs And Poems From The Old Testament And The Apocrypha, published by the Ashendene Press, 1904. Printed in black and red 'Subiaco' type on vellum with hand painted initials by Graily Hewitt in gold and blue. Hewitt was one of the foremost calligraphers of the early 20th century, teaching alongside Edward Johnston at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (now Central St Martins) in London.
Poems Written in The Year MCMXIII by Robert Bridges Poet Laureate, 1914. One of the last books printed by the press before it shut down during the First World War.
Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity by John Milton, published by the Ashendene Press, 1928. The Ashendene Press was a very private press, with many books produced not for sale but rather as gifts. This small book was produced by St John and Cicely Hornby, to be given as a Christmas present to friends and family in 1928. This one was given to Emery Walker. The illustration is by Noel Rooke.
Les Amours Pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe by Longus, published by the Ashendene Press, 1933. This novel is by the 2nd century AD writer Longus, translated by Amyot in 1559 into French. This version is illustrated by the wood engraver Gwen Raverat, one of the founders of the Society for Wood Engravers.
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