An Endeavour in Printing: highlights from the Essex House Press Collection
Court Barn Museum’s first major exhibition this year.

An Endeavour in Printing will show for the first time a selection from its recently acquired and nationally important collection of private press books printed by the Essex House Press. The collection belonged to C.R. Ashbee, the radical Arts and Crafts designer who established the press in 1898.

The Essex House Press was one of a small number of private printing presses established at the end of the 19th century as a reaction against the mass-produced works of the Victorian era. Its aim was to produce books that were a pleasure to read and handle with decorative work by some of the foremost illustrators and often specially-designed typefaces printed on handmade paper using traditional printing and binding methods.

One of the highlights on display will be The Prayer Book of King Edward VII, 1903. Printed to commemorate the accession to the throne of Edward VII it features illustrations and decorative letters by Ashbee himself.

The Essex House Press is directly linked to William Morris’s Kelmscott Press and the beginning of the private press movement. Following Morris’s death Ashbee took over three of the Albion printing presses and employed four of his printers. He named his new enterprise the Essex House Press after the building which his Guild of Handicraft occupied. The press moved to Chipping Campden with the Guild in 1902 and was operational until 1906 when due to financial difficulties it had to close. There was then a short-lived reprieve when a supporter of Ashbee’s, Ananda K Coomaraswamy, the Singhalese historian and scholar, moved the press and some of the workers to Broad Campden. A new printer’s mark was created by Ashbee and over the next three years a number of books were published.

Other books on display include the first book printed by the Essex House Press The Treatises of Benvenuto Cellini on Goldsmithing and Sculpture, 1898. An Endeavour towards the teaching of John Ruskin and William Morris, 1901 by Ashbee was the first book to be printed in the new Endeavour typeface designed by him.

The collection passed by descent to Ashbee’s second daughter Felicity. When she died in 2008 her executors, mindful of its historical importance, offered it as part of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. Under this scheme, objects of artistic or historic value that form part of an estate can be accepted by the government in lieu of Inheritance Tax. The Essex House Press collection was accepted and at the executors’ request, came to Court Barn Museum.
These books form the largest and most important collection of Essex House Press material. They represent one of the influential late 19th /early 20th century private presses and the additional hand-written and printed material provides an additional insight into Ashbee’s ideas and passions.

Events Programme:
Lecture: Dr Philip Errington, C.R.Ashbee’s Essex House Press
Saturday 26 May 5.45, Court Room, High Street, Chipping Campden
Tickets £5

The exhibition runs from Thursday 26th April – Sundau 1st July 2012

For information about Court Barn Museum please contact Carole Reynolds, Administrator: [email protected] and 01386 841951.

Court Barn Museum, Church Street, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6JE

Admission charges
Adults £4; Concessions (students, senior citizens) £3.25; Children under 16 are free

Opening times

April – September: Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 – 5pm
October – March: Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 – 4pm
Closed Mondays (except Bank Holidays) and Closed 24 Dec, reopening second Tuesday in January.

Court Barn Museum is an independent museum and the brainchild of a group of local enthusiasts called the Guild of Handicraft Trust. The museum was created through the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and monies raised by the Guild of Handicraft Trust.

This groundbreaking museum, situated in the Cotswold town of Chipping Campden, tells the story of how a small town, in a beautiful setting, became a gathering place for creative people at the start of the 20th Century and continues to attract designers and makers today. Highlights include work by C.R.Ashbee, F.L Griggs and Katharine Adams.

Source: Court Barn Museum Chipping Campden