Item from an Ashendene Press lot of announcements, letters and ephemera, £1800 at TW Gaze.

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The Ashendene Press was founded in 1894 by the splendidly named Charles Howard St John Hornby in Hertfordshire, moved to Chelsea five years later and apart from a wartime break it continued until 1935.

Like other pioneering private presses of this era, such as Kelmscott and Doves, its productions are very collectable: harking back to a ‘golden age’ of the private press with small print runs ensuring rarity.


Item from an Ashendene Press lot of announcements, letters and ephemera, £1800 at TW Gaze.

This appeal was evident when a single lot of Ashendene interest came up at Norfolk saleroom TW Gaze (18% buyer’s premium).

It was part of around 80 lots kicking off the auction on February 27 all related to private presses and amassed by a private collector who did have some trade connections.

The Ashendene Press issued about 40 books during its lifetime in very small print runs and not many were for sale - some sent through a subscription service.

St John Hornby was a partner in WH Smith but set this small private press up largely to print items for his family and friends.

The two typefaces Ashendene Press mainly used were specially cast by Emery Walker of Doves Press and Sir Sydney Cockerell of Kelmscott Press.

The lot at TW Gaze was a treasure trove for an Ashendene collector or private press enthusiast: essentially announcements, catalogues and price lists for its works (some dating from after the press had stopped operating), but also with letters and ephemera such as Chrsitmas cards and Hymns and Prayers for Use at the Marriage of Michael Hornby and Nicolette Ward at St Margaret’s Church Westminster.

As a typical example, a signed letter by St John Hornby was written in black ink on headed paper and dated February 13, 1939. He explains in a reply that the press closed three years ago, and that he is enclosing the present list for the recipient’s interest - with the books themselves being ‘all “out of print”’. The letter was loosely inserted in A Chronological List, With Prices, of the Forty Books Printed at the Ashendene Press, MDCCCXCV-MCMXXXV, 1935.

Some of the announcements had the benefit of annotations by St John Hornby.

Estimated at £300-400, this lot went to a private collector at £1800.

Lucky 13


Set of 13 signed Kazuo Ishiguro works, £3000 at TW Gaze.

A collection of Kazuo Ishiguro works, all first editions, first impressions, sold for £3000 (guide £2000-2500) to a private collector online.

Not only were they all signed by the author but the group of 13 included some very early and scarce works, such as Introduction 7 Stories by New Writers, London, Faber & Faber, 1981. The three stories by Ishiguro featured within marked his first appearance in hardback.

A Pale View of Hills, London, Faber, 1982, was another work that combined the author’s signature with scarcity and good condition.

Ishiguro studied at UEA in Norwich from 1979-80 and it seems likely the vendor who obtained these signatures probably had some connection with him.

Historical snapshot


Image from a c.1901-05 photo album mainly of China and Hong Kong, £3400 at TW Gaze.

Another high-flyer at this Diss sale was an early 20th century photograph album c.1901-05, containing 365+ mounted images, mainly of China and Hong Kong, a few of Macau. Guided at £300-500, this was originally bought by the vendor from a now deceased book dealer in Felixstowe.

It is the sort of album that would have been worth very little in the 1960s-70s and ignored, but now in such demand that a private collector bidding online was happy to go to £3400.

Even 20 years ago it probably would not have made a fraction of this but these days such albums are much more appreciated.

Though not the earliest example of such an album, and not featuring images by a recognised, famous photographer, it had the benefit of offering unique snapshots of life in the region.

As TW Gaze book specialist Robert Hinshelwood said: “It seems like the person who took the photographs went everywhere and was really interested in the place and people.”

The album was named to a HJA McCaffery who was in the forces.

Pig sticking and pirates


Pages from a set of three photograph/scrap albums, £8200 at Andrew Smith & Son.

On March 19 a set of three photograph/scrap albums from the same period was on offer at Andrew Smith & Son (23% buyer’s premium)in Alresford, Hampshire.

They were compiled by Major General John Randle Minshull- Ford and Lt Col The Hon Bertie, mainly relating to services in China, Korea and India, c.1899-1902 but with some later elements including photographic views of Royal Welsh Fusiliers activities.

Subjects depicted ranged from the Forbidden City, ministers and officials, railways, Peking races, portraits, The Great Wall, Chinese actors, Viceroy and Lady Curzon, and The Delhi Durbar, to pig sticking and execution of pirates/ death by starvation at Kowloon.

Estimated at £200-300, it actually hammered down at £8200.