DE RERUM NATURA LIBRI SEX.
(Chelsea: In aedibus St J. Hornby [Ashendene Press], 1913). 290 x 200 mm. (11 1/2 x 8"). 4 p.l. (including 3 blanks), 256 pp. ONE OF 65 PAPER COPIES offered for sale, of 85 printed (and five copies on vellum for sale).
Original vellum-backed blue paper boards, gilt lettering on spine, edges untrimmed. Six hand-painted initials by Graily Hewitt (the first in gold, the others in blue), hand-painted flourishes at the beginning of each book. Printed in red and black in Subiaco type. Hornby 27; Franklin, p. 239. Faint soiling to vellum spine and blue boards, a few light spots of foxing to endpapers, otherwise a very fine copy, quite clean, fresh, and bright internally, in a binding with few signs of wear.
This is a very appealing but sometimes underappreciated Ashendene gem, a book Hornby modestly says "depends for any beauty it may possess on the proportion of its page." And among the regular Ashendene books printed for sale to the public, it is among the scarcer titles on account of its very limited press run. Written in the first century B.C., the text here is considered one of the best expositions on the philosophy of Epicurus. Popular in the Roman Empire, it fell into obscurity, before being rediscovered by Italian humanist Poggio Bracciolini in the 15th century. It became one of the most influential humanist texts of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, inspiring writers and thinkers from Montaigne to Thomas Jefferson, a self-professed Epicurean who owned multiple editions. Colin Franklin calls this Ashendene edition a "masterpiece" and points out the influence it exerted as a model for German private press printing, especially the Bremer Presse. In addition to its typographic beauty, the book is sought after because of its rarity, particularly in the attractive condition seen here. Founded by Charles Harry St John Hornby (1867-1946), the Ashendene Press issued 40 books, plus additional ephemeral pieces, from 1895-1935. Less elaborate in appearance and design than William Morris' Kelmscott volumes, but more ornamental than the products of Cobden-Sanderson's Doves Press, the Ashendene books have long been considered the most satisfying of English private press books. (ST16977)