Towards the end of the nineteenth century, burgeoning revolutionaries in book production, including William Morris, Sir Emery Walker, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, and C. H. St. John Hornby, perceived a degradation and lack of painstaking care and integrity in printing (Oxenbridge Press, n.d.). The sour taste of commercialistic practices led early visionary William Morris to implement bygone principles of veracity in the selection of materials and the application of quality techniques to produce beautiful books. William Morris set stone for a revitalization of book printing as one of the first prominent figures to emerge in the private press movement at the turn of the twentieth century. The private press allowed for detail and design to flourish, with an emphasis on typography, illumination, and binding practices, and several private presses responsible for producing distinguished historical typographies (Roylance, 1991).
William Morris’s Kelmscott Press of 1891 proved revolutionary; it served as a catalyst for the development of the prestigious related private presses of the Doves Press and the Ashendene Press (William Doyle Galleries, 2020). Morris and the Kelmscott Press prized the art of book printing, from procuring the finest materials, to creating intricate, decorative illuminations, to binding volumes precisely by hand (Roylance, 1991). The Kelmscott Press utilized the uniquely created Golden, Troy, and Chaucer typefaces in their publications. The Golden typeface was a Roman iteration, while Troy and Chaucer had roots in Gothic form (Peddie, 1915). Morris worked closely in partnership with Sir Emery Walker, a masterful typographer, in his creation of Golden. As the private press movement evolved, and Morris passed away, Walker joined forces with Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson to form the Doves Press. Cobden-Sanderson and Walker paired complementarily – Walker produced typefaces and other stylistic elements, and Cobden-Sanderson spearheaded the task of binding volumes. The Doves typeface appears with great notoriety in the printing of the Doves Bible, and whose form spawned from the Roman leanings of Nicolas Jenson, a shared influence to the Kelmscott Golden (Potter, 1938).
The Ashendene Press surfaced on the eve of the twentieth century, developed in 1894 by C. H. St. John Hornby who was a close follower and admirer of Morris (Roylance, 1991). Walker, once again a seemingly omnipresent and influential force in the purview of the private press, developed for Hornby a typeface so characteristic and inherent to the image of Ashendene that forever defined their publications. The Subiaco typeface stemmed from the Roman influences of Sweynheym and Pannartz, and is considered the shining element of the Ashendene Press’ folio printing of Dante. The Dante also claims elaborate illustrations collaboratively created by renowned artist C. M. Gere and woodcutter W. H. Hooper (Potter, 1938). Other remarkable folios produced by the Ashendene Press include Boccacio, Malory, Thucydides, and Spenser (William Doyle Galleries, 2020).
C. H. St. John Hornby operated the Ashendene Press for forty years, spanning from 1894 to 1935, with its home in Chelsea, England. Hornby and the Ashendene Press produced approximately sixty volumes during its tenure prior to the disbandment of the press after World War I (Roylance, 1991).
University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) holds several volumes published by the Ashendene Press, and has recently acquired two more titles. The two recent acquisitions are The Faire Queene by Edmund Spenser and Spenser’s Minor Poems by Edmund Spenser. Other holdings include Dante and Thucydides publications, among others, and may be accessed in the Library catalog under Ashendene Press.
Oxenbridge Press. (n.d.). A brief history of the Private Press Movement. Oxenbridge Press. https://oxenbridgepress.co.uk/a-brief-history-of-the-private-press-movement/
Peddie, R. A. (1915). The history and practice of the art of printing. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 63(3242), 142-147. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41341892
Potter, G. L. (1938). An appreciation of Sir Emery Walker. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 8(3), 400-414. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4302484
Roylance, D. (1991). The art of the English book from William Morris to Eric Gill. The Princeton University Library Chronicle, 52(3), 367-383. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26404310
William Doyle Galleries. (2020). Art of the printed book. Doyle. https://doyle.com/specialists/edward-ripley-duggan/stories/art-printed-book
-Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist