The story of the Ashendene Press is almost an adventure story for the world of collectors, due to its highly rare and limited nature. Originally started in 1895 by CH St. John Hornby, the private press printed just a few limited runs for friends and family until 1915 and the outbreak of the First World War. It resumed its serve once again after the war, in 1920, this time offering its output by postal subscription only. Eventually the Ashendene closed its doors in 1935, although St. John Hornby lived until 1967.
What makes the Ashendene private press so distinctive is its use of Subiato and Ptolmy type, as well as the original woodcut illustrations. Desiring an antiquarian feel to its product, the Subiato type was especially designed and cast for the Ashendene Press by the Emery firm of metal type founders, basing their type design on a Roman type dating back to the 12th century! It proceeded to use this archaic script alongside primary color woodcut illustrations on such works as Milton, Francis Bacon and other antiquarian authors, whilst the lesser well known poets would receive instead no woodcuts, and only printed text-only pages.
Books from the Ashendene Press would be a superb fine press to start a collection due to their rarity, and would doubtless entail a large amount of historical and genealogical research, as most of the editions would only have been ‘sold’ or passed onto personal friends of the St. John Hornby group. Very careful attention should be paid to both the volumes and the pamphlets, however the pamphlets of poetry and short verse would probably benefit from being kept in a slip case or in a controlled environment.
Although not intensely valuable in and of themselves, the Ashendene Press volumes tell a remarkable tale of the early modern craft movement, as well as a completely unique tale of type design and setting, forming an important stepping stone in the history of typography from the pre-modern to early modern times.
,. Ye Minutes of Ye CLXXVIIth Meeting of Ye Sette of Odd Vollumes. Ashendene (1896). Extracted From Ye Diary of Samuel Pepys Esq., M.A., F.R.S. Transcribed by Bro. John Todhunter Playwright to Ye Sette
Berners, Dame Juliana. Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle. Ashendene (1903). Binding by Katharine Adams
,. Bible in English. Ashendene (1904). A Book of Songs and Poems from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha
Dante,. Lo Purgatorio di Dante Alighieri Fiorentino. Ashendene (1904). Calligraphy by Graily Hewitt
Malory, Sir Thomas. The Noble and Joyous Book Entytled Le Morte d'Arthur. Ashendene (1913). Two full-page wood blocks
Florentino, Ugolino Verino. Vita di Santa Chiara Vergine. Ashendene (1921). From the manuscript of 1496, with a facsimile of 4 pages of the original manuscript.
St. Francis of Assisi,. I Fioretti Del Glorioso Poverello di Christo S Francesco Di Assisi. Ashendene (1922). 53 woodcuts by Charles M. Gere
Apuleius,. The XI Bookes of the Golden Asse. Ashendene (1924). Interlaced with Sundry Pleasant and Delectable Tales with an Excellent Narration of the Wedding of Cupid and Psyches set out in the Fourth, Fifth, and the Sixth Bookes. Translated out of Latine into English, by William Aldington.
,. Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Ashendene (1930). Designed by Graily Hewitt
Longus,. Les Amours Pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe. Ashendene (1933). 29 woodcuts by Gwendolen Raverat