Herbert Percy Horne was borne in the Bedford Park section of London on February 18, 1864, the son of Henry or Horace Horne, an architect and art collector, and Miss Porter of Russell Square, the daughter of a surveyor. He was educated at St. Paul's in London, completing his formal schooling at a time when the aesthetic movement was in full flower.
Following brief training as a surveyor, Horne was apprenticed in 1883 to designer/architect A.H. Mackmurdo, one of the creators of English art nouveau. Within two years, at the age of only 20, he had become Mackmurdo's architectural partner.
Horne's association with Mackmurdo coincided with the development of the Century Guild, an organization of craftsmen founded in 1882 by Mackmurdo and Selwyn Image. Horne designed textiles and wallpapers for the group and was actively involved in the creation of its art magazine The Century Guild Hobby Horse. He contributed illustrations and a poem entitled The Fraise to the first trial issue of the magazine put out in 1884; and, when The Hobby Horse resumed publication in 1886, Horne had become the magazine's joint editor, a position he held until 1892.
Amico Suo, Herbert P. Horne
WHEN on my country walks I go,
I never am alone:
Though whom’t were pleasure then to know
Are gone, and you are gone;
From every side discourses flow. 5
There are rich counsels in the trees,
And converse in the air;
All magic thoughts in those and these
And what is sweet and rare;
And everything that living is. 10
But most I love the meaner sort,
For they have voices too;
Yet speak with tongues, that never hurt,
As ours are apt to do:
The weeds, the grass, the common wort. 15
During this same period, Horne was active in London literary circles as a member of the Rhymers' Club with W.B. Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Edgar Jepson, Arthur Symons, and others.
Though still in his twenties, Horne already enjoyed a considerable reputation in London. Bernard Berenson, who met him there in 1888 and later renewed the acquaintance in Italy, proclaimed him the successor to William Morris, the great man of the next generation, an architect, painter, poet, fine critic and editor of The Hobby Horse.
By 1890, Horne's deteriorating relationship with Mackmurdo had resulted in the dissolution of their architectural partnership. For the next several years, Horne continued his London literary and artistic activities - designing title pages for Elkin Mathews and other publishers, and producing a volume of verse Diversi Colores (1891) and the very successful The Binding of Books: An Essay in the History of Gold-tooled Bindings (1894) - but, in 1895, apparently increasingly dissatisfied with London life, Horne began to spend more and more time abroad in Italy. By 1900, he had settled permanently in Florence.
Over the next seven years, Horne devoted his energies increasingly to art history and criticism, particularly the research and writing of his massive study of Botticelli. This critically acclaimed work with photo-sculptist reproductions by Emery Walker was finally published in 1908.
While in Florence, Horne, too, continued his interest in book and type design. He collaborated with bookbinder Sarah Prideux, designing her 1903 publication of The Elements of Architecture by Sir Henry Wotton; and designing three typefaces, all Romans based on 15th century Italian models. The earliest, the Montallegro, was cut for Boston printer Daniel Berkeley Updike of the Merrymount Press. It was first used for The Life of Michelangniolo Buonarroti (1904), and later for Merrymount's Humanists' Library series. The Florence face, designed for Chatto and Windus' Florence Press, and the Riccardi Press type, used for books published by Philip Lee Warner for the Medici Society, were both cut on 1909.
In 1911, after more than a decade in Italy, Horne at last purchased a Florentine palazzo to house his collection of primitives, Renaissance furniture and applied art, and Old Master drawings.
Herbert Percy Horne died on April 4, 1916. The palazzo and collections which he left to the city of Florence are now the Museo Horne.