June 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Sophie Schneideman Rare Books

Catalogue Review: Sophie Schneideman Rare Books

Screen shot 2012-06-01 at 10.27.25 AM.pngThe latest catalogue from London dealer Sophie Schneideman is dedicated to the Ashendene Press. So we're are talking about beautiful books -- fine paper, typography & bindings.

The books offered here were once a part of the collection of Clarence B. Hanson, a newspaperman from Birmingham, Alabama. Hanson, a Grolier Club member, was a major collector of private press books in the 1960s and 70s, acquiring Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene Presses. The former two were featured in another recent Schneideman catalogue, but here we concentrate on the latter. It includes every book and minor piece created by the Press except the tiny Dolls House Horace.

For bindings, my favorite is the one done by Stikeman & Co. for Ashendene's first illustrated volume, The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (£4,500). The blue morocco is set off by spaced gilt letters that seem to float like stars in a sky. The design is repeated on the back cover with gilt flowers.

For typography and page design, Ashendene's Song of Songs is breathtaking (£45,000). Hand-pained by Florence Kingsford, this lushly illuminated volume is one of only forty copies, all on vellum.

The "masterpiece" of the Ashendene Press, Tutte le Opere di Dante Alighieri, is here in the original morocco-backed laminated oak boards, plaited leather and silver clasps, and plain paneled spine lettered in gilt (£45,000). It is, says the catalogue, the "rarest of the three magnum opi of the English Private Press movement." A very handsome book.

In the 'minor pieces,' a beautiful Christmas greeting, publication announcements, specimen pages, and a wedding booklet printed by Hornby for his son's wedding.

Be dazzled for yourself. Download the catalogue here.