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Annotated Reference Guide to Collectible Books

Essex House Press

Nineteenth Century Makers: Essex House Press

If your collection is interested in the history of the private press movement, and the larger British Arts and Craft movement then it would do well to also pay attention to the famous Essex House Press, arguably the forerunners of the whole movement.

Founded by C.R. Asbee in the late nineteenth century, Essex House Press was directly inspired by the Guild of Handicrafts that arose in London’s East End, drawing from early collective sentiments and the libertarian socialism of artist designer William Morris. Essex House captured the sentiment of the movement that ‘art was for the people’ and that it was ‘by the people’ as well, using everyday industries and crafts such as sewing, print and design, woodwork, architecture and even gardening to empower people to beautify their own lives.

Although a vital piece in the historical overview of this arts and crafts movement, Essex House itself suffered similarly to the rest of the movement when, by the early twentieth century it was spurned by the establishment and ran into financial difficulties. Unfortunately to this day not much commercial value has been applied to its output, although its historical import is arguably great.

Essex House volumes are relatively inexpensive, many under a hundred dollars, as a large amount of instructional guides were printed by Essex, thus flooding the market. Any collection centering on the private presses and the arts and crafts movement, however, would do well to at least include some Essex volumes featuring their original fonts and capitals type (Endeavor and Prayer Book).

Links:http://www.artsandcraftsmuseum.org.uk/Arts_and_Crafts_Movement/Emery_Walker_Library/The_Private_Press_Movement/Essex_House_Press.aspx

Hensman, Mary. Dante Map. Essex House Press (1892). two handcolored photolithograph maps

The Hymn of Bardaisan. Essex House Press (1899). 300 copies

Bunyan, John. The Pilgrims Progress from this World to That Which is to Come. Essex House Press (1899). 750 copies on handmade paper; woocut frontispiece by Reginald Savage

, William. The Poems of William Shakespeare. Essex House Press (1899). 450 copies with woodcut by Reginald Savage

Gray, Thomas. Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Essex House Press (1900). 125 copies bound in vellum

The Courtyer of Count Baldessar Castilio. Essex House Press (1900). 200 copies on handmade paper; initials by C.R. Ashby

Bourdillon, Francis William. Through the Gateway. Essex House Press (1900). 50 copies; initial letters by C.R. Ashbee

Woolman, John. A Journal of the Life and Travels of John Woolman. Essex House Press (1901). 250 copies; illustrated by Reginald Savage

Ashbee, C R. American Sheaves and English Seed Corn. Essex House Press (1901). 300 copies; woodcut initials by C.R. Ashbee

Milton, John. Comus A Mask. Essex House Press (1901). 150 copies on vellum; hand-painted initials by Florence Kingsford; hand-coloured woodcut by Reginald Savage

Spenser, Edmund. Epithalamion. Essex House Press (1901). 150 copies on vellum; hand-painted frontispiece by Reginald Savage

Penn, William. Some Fruits of Solitude. Essex House Press (1901). 250 copies; woodcut by T. Sturge Moore

Erasmus, Desiderius. The Praise of Folie. Essex House Press (1901). 250 copies on handmade paper; 7 woodcuts and borders by William Strang

The Psalter of Psalms of David. Essex House Press (1901). 250 copies on handmade paper

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Flower and the Leaf. Essex House Press (1902). 165 copies on vellum; initials hand colored by Edith Harwood

Ashbee, C R. The Masque of the Edwards of England. Essex House Press (1902). 320 copies; 9 double page plates by Edith Harwood

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Three Letters from Robert Louis Stevenson. Essex House Press (1902). 54 copies; woodcut initials and tail piece

Woodsworgh, W. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. Essex House Press (1903). 150 copes with a frontispiece by Walter Crane

Life and Work of Sir Christopher Wren. Essex House Press (1903). 250 copies; 20 drawings by E.H. New

Prayer Book of King Edward VII. Essex House Press (1903). 400 copies, including 10 on vellum; 150 illustrations and borders by C.R. Ashbee

Ashbee, C R. The Essex House Song Book. Essex House Press (1903). 200 copies on handmade paper

Gunn, Edward. The Great House, Leyton. Essex House Press (1903). 300 copies; 25 plates from drawings by Gunn

Ashbee, C. R.. A Bibliography of the Essex House Press. Essex House Press (1904). 20 copies; 9 woodcuts by various artists, including Reginald Savage, William Strang and C.R. Ashbee

Dryden, John. Alexander's Feast. Essex House Press (1904). 140 copies on vellum; two hand-colored woodcuts by Reginald Savage

Hood, Tom. Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg. Essex House Press (1904). 200 copies; 3 drawings by Reginald Savage

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Prometheus Unbound. Essex House Press (1904). 200 copies on handmade paper

Ashbee, C R. The Book of Common Prayer. Essex House Press (1904). woodcut illustrations and chapter headings

Cicero,. The Booke of Freendeship of Marcus Tullie Cicero. Essex House Press (1904). 160 copies; two wood engraved portraits

Kempis, Thomas. The Imitation of Christ. Essex House Press (1904). 100 copies

Ashbee, C R. The Last Records of a Cotswolds Community. Essex House Press (1904). 75 copies; drawing by Edmund H New

Ashbee, C R. Echoes from the City of the Sun. Essex House Press (1905). 251 copies with woodcut decorations

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. Maud. Essex House Press (1905). 125 copies on vellum; hand painted woodcut by Reginald Savage after design by Laurence Housman

Godman, Ernest. Norman Architecture in Essex. Essex House Press (1905). 300 copies; etching by J. Godman

Browning, Robert. The Flight of the Duchess. Essex House Press (1905). 125 copies; illustrated by Will Rothenstein

Housman, Laurence. Mendicant Rhymes. Essex House Press (1906). 300 copies on vellum

The Picture of Kebes the Theban. Essex House Press (1906). 50 copies

Ashbee, C R. Conradin A Philosophical Ballad. Essex House Press (1908). 250 copies; illustrated by P.A. Mairet

Ashbee, C R. Where the Great City Stands. Essex House Press (1917). 121 illustrations

Cellini, Benvenuto. The Treatises of Benvenuto Cellini on Goldsmithing and Sculpture. Essex House Press (1989). 300 copies, 9 double page illustrations