ESSEX HOUSE PRESS. GOLDSMITH, Oliver. ~ The Deserted Village.
No. 101 of 150 copies printed on vellum. Hand-coloured woodcut frontispiece by Charles Robert Ashbee and hand-coloured woodcut tail-piece, hand-written calligraphic initial letters in red, blue and green throughout by the noted British calligrapher Florence Kingsford. Printed in Caslon type. 8vo., original full vellum with press dianthus design “Soul is Form” stamped in blind on upper cover, spine lettered in gilt. An extremely good, fresh copy.
One of the series of 14 books produced by C.R. Ashbee celebrating the Great Poems of the Language whose motto ‘Soul is Form’ is taken from Spenser’s ‘Hymn in Honour of Beauty’. Ashbee had started the Essex House Press in 1898 after the Guild of Handicraft took over the stock, equipment and services of the some of the staff of Morris’s Kelmscott Press. He set the presses up in Essex House in Mile End - the door of which is depicted in the woodcut on the colophon. As the founts and cuts didn’t come with the presses, he produced two new types: Endeavour and the King’s Prayer type. He used them with same type of ink, ppaer and vellum as used for the Kelmscott books.
The press was very lucky in its access to the best craftswomen. Florence Kingsford was one of the greatest calligraphers of her time, best known for her astonishing work on the Ashendene Song of Songs. She married Sydney Cockerell but did continue to make some extraordinary manuscripts until 1916 when she had to give up her calligraphic work due to illness.
The great binder Annie Power worked in the Guild Bindery and we can see her influence in the design of the binding.