An Exceptionally Fine Copy of One of the Grandest of English Private Press Books


(Chelsea: Ashendene Press, 1930). 407 x 277 mm. (16 x 11"). 4 p.l., 363, [1] pp.Translated by Benjamin Jowett. ONE OF 260 COPIES on paper, 240 for sale (and 20 on vellum).

Original white pigskin by W. H. Smith & Son (stamp-signed in gilt on rear turn-in), raised bands, gilt titling, edges untrimmed. Protected in a fleece-lined ivory buckram dust jacket and a green morocco-lipped slipcase. With first initial of each chapter and opening line of each book designed by Graily Hewitt, printer's device in the colophon. Printed in red and black. Hornby 37; Franklin, p. 242. ◆A hint of soiling to edges of the white pigskin, a couple of (naturally occurring) blemishes, but AN OUTSTANDING COPY, virtually unchanged since the day it left the press and then the bindery.

This is an uncommonly fine copy of a grand edition of the definitive classical account of the war between Athens and Sparta. A meticulous researcher who visited battlefields and interviewed participants from both sides in the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides (ca. 460 - ca. 395 B.C.), the greatest of all Greek historians, was himself an Athenian general who fought in the conflict's first phases. Influenced by the medical writers of his day, he diagnoses with clinical detachment the ills of a corrupt society under the pressures of war and epidemic. He was also a great dramatist, and the tragic defeat in the harbor of Syracuse that signals the fall of Athens is written with a skill that equals the greatest Greek tragedians. A work of this magnitude deserves a stately edition, and that is what St. John Hornby has produced here. Sidney Cockerell praised the Ashendene "Thucydides" as "one of the greatest of the many accomplishments of the [Ashendene] Press--a very fine page, the measure not too wide for so large a type and the side notes most beautiful and effective." The book is printed in Ptolemy type (a "perceptive choice" for the large page, according to Franklin) with shoulder notes in Blado italic; it marks the first time Hornby used a typeface for the side notes that was different from the text. Our translation is by Benjamin Jowett (1817-93), Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford and the Master of Balliol College, whose influence in shaping the course of university education was far reaching. His translations of Plato, Aristotle, and Thucydides are still in print. Hornby had this work bound at the well-regarded workshop operated by the bookselling firm where he was a partner. Unlike fellow private press founders William Morris and T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, Hornby was not independently wealthy; the Ashendene Press was his weekend relaxation from his demanding job at W. H. Smith & Son--a job at which he excelled. According to DNB, "His clear and perceptive mind, his energetic, decisive, and determined character, and shrewd business sense, made him the most influential figure in W. H. Smith in the twentieth century." Being a much-treasured private press product, the Ashendene Thucydides not infrequently appears in very agreeable condition, but the present copy is the best we have encountered during more than four decades in the book trade.

Price: $11,000.00