Recently, Special Collections and University Archives acquired several beautiful examples of early 20th century fine printing. Among them is Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, printed in by The Ashendene Press in 1923.
The Ashendene Press is one of the finest examples of the private press movement in England, which valued well-designed books produced with high quality materials by skilled workmen. Private press craftsmen and artists scoffed at the poorly made, commercially-driven books and the mechanized book production of industrialized England. These beautifully crafted books are a testament to the artistry of individuals like Emery Walker, William Morris, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, Charles Rickets, and others who sought to reclaim traditional book art in a time when profit and mass production trumped integrity and design.
Get up close and notice that the edges of the paper are rough – fine printers like Ashendene Press continued the tradition of using thick, handmade paper that would stand the test of time. Because of their quality craftsmanship, private press books are often in better shape and easier to handle than paperback editions printed decades later.
Founded by C H St John Hornby, the Ashendene Press ran from 1895-1935. Ashendene books were printed in small quantities and sold through a subscription service. The Faerie Queene was available in a limited run of 180 copies on paper (12 on vellum). It was printed in black, red and blue ink, using their trademark Subiaco type. The cover is quarter brown cowhide over ivory vellum and the spine is lettered in gilt.
Visit Hornbake Library to view the Ashendene Press edition of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, on display outside the Maryland Room. Also on display are the original printing blocks for the dedication to Elizabeth I and various book headings, as well as a the advertisement for subscribers announcing the upcoming for the book.
Special Collections and University Archives is home to many examples of early and modern book design. Notable collections include:
- William Morris Collection
- W. A. Dwiggins Collection
- Stanbrook Abby Press Collection
- Maurice Annenberg Papers
- The Rose and Joseph Pagnani Collection of Girls’ Series Books
- Carolyn Davis Collection of Louisa May Alcott