Essex House Press

The Essex House Press was founded by C R Ashbee, who also ran the Guild of Handicraft. The Press is named after the London workshops of the Guild at Essex House on the Mile End Road in the East End. Ashbee bought the Kelmscott Press’s Albion printing presses after William Morris's death, and employed one of the Kelmscott compositors Thomas Binning. Ashbee was keen to carry on the work of Morris’s Press. The Essex House Press moved with the Guild to Chipping Campden in 1902, and produced 84 titles.

Essex House Press

Essex House Press

Ashbee created two types, Endeavour and Prayer Book, and also used the 18th-century type revived by the Chiswick Press, Caslon. Ashbee and Richard Savage designed a series of elaborate capitals which are used throughout the publications of the Press. Illustrations were done by many of the well known book illustrators of the day including Laurence Housman and William Strang, as well as local artists such as the stained glass designer Paul Woodroffe. The masterpiece of the Press was the Prayer Book produced to celebrate Edward VII coming to the throne. It is very much an Arts and Crafts production: the cover was made of oak boards fitted with hammered iron and leather clasps made by the Guild of Handicraft, and Ashbee illustrated it all himself.

Essex House Press

Essex House Press

Essex House Press

The Press ran into financial difficulties around the same time as the Guild of Handicraft. In 1907 the Press closed, but it was taken over by Ashbee’s friend the Sri Lankan philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy and continued until 1910.

2017 History of Graphic Design

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