‘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.
One of the masterpieces of the Press is considered to be the first book printed in the Subiaco type, Dante’s Divine Comedy, printed in three volumes, Lo Inferno, Lo Purgatorio, and Lo Paradisio, 1902 – 1905. It is illustrated by Robert Catterson-Smith, who was also a metalworker and the Headmaster of the Birmingham School of Art, and decorated by Graily Hewitt. Hornby moved with the times, and by the 1930s was employing popular young illustrators like Gwen Raverat to illustrate his Daphnis and Chloe.
Why not explore some of the Ashendene Press books in the Emery Walker Library in our Virtual Library?