Thursday, March 27th, 2014...9:30 am

You’ve Got Mail: “A Fine Achievement”

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Last month Houghton Library acquired two evocative letters from major figures in the English private press movement of the early twentieth century. Houghton has an outstanding collection of the books from all of the Presses and these letters document the close personal relationship between the major figures involved.

In the first letter, dated 16 December 1915, C. H. St. John Hornby (1867-1946) writes to T. J.  Cobden Sanderson (1840-1922). St. John Hornby, was the founder of the Ashendene Press and he expresses his sadness on the impending closure of the Doves Press which was founded by Cobden Sanderson and which closed finally exactly one year after the date of this letter.  The last publication of the Doves Press was a catalogue raisonné completed on 16 December 1916. Hornby writes that “at least you will be able to look back on a fine achievement in respect both of form and matter of the books you have printed. It would be impossible to find from both points of view a more delightful series.”

Both the Doves Press and the Ashendene Press were modeled on the Kelmscott Press established by William Morris and which ceased operations in 1898 shortly after his death. In the second letter, dated 21 September 1916, Cobden Sanderson writes to Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962), former secretary to William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, clearly in response to a request for some trial sheets and ephemera. “I shall be very happy to send some ‘memorial’ sheets when the press closes. You have been too appreciative to be denied.” Cockerell appreciated the research, and it must be admitted the commercial, value of such materials.

Cobden-Sanderson, T.J. (Thomas James), 1840-1922. Autograph letter signed to Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, 1916 September 21. Autograph File

On the closing of the Doves Press Cobden Sanderson dumped all of the Press’s fonts and matrices into the Thames River in order to frustrate Emery Walker, his partner at the Press, and who had hoped to continue it without Cobden Sanderson.

Thanks to William P. Stoneman, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts, for contributing this post.

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