ASHENDENE PRESS – LONGUS and Gwendolen Mary RAVERAT (artist). Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe. Traduction de Messire J. Amyot éditée et corrigée par Paul-Louis Courier. Chelsea: The Ashendene Press, 1933. 

Quarto (258 x 178mm), pp. [4 (half-title, verso blank, title, verso blank)], iv (publisher’s preface), 163, [1 (blank)]. Text printed in Ptolemy type in red and black. 29 wood-engraved illustrations by and after Raverat, 4 full-page, wood-engraved press-device on title printed in black and wood-engraved press device on colophon printed in red. Initials and paragraph marks supplied by hand in blue by Graily Hewitt and his assistants. (Some very light offsetting from wood-engravings as often.) Original vellum-backed green boards by W.H. Smith & Son Ltd with their gilt stamp on lower turn-in of lower board, vellum tips, upper board with central gilt design after Raverat, the flat spine gilt in compartments, lettered directly in 2, and with date in gilt at the foot, uncut, original slipcase covered with patterned paper. (Slipcase lightly rubbed and bumped, causing minimal losses on spine.) Provenance: Bernard Quaritch Limited, London (price code and stock number on lower pastedown in pencil; catalogue 773, item 30, purchased for £18 by:) – Stephen John Keynes OBE, FLS, London, 22 April 1958 (1927-2017, loosely-inserted invoice).

Second (first published) edition, limited to 310 copies, this one of 290 on paper. Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe was the penultimate book published by St John Hornby (1867-1946), followed only by his monumental A Descriptive Bibliography of the Books Printed at the Ashendene Press, MDCCCXCV-MCMXXXV (Chelsea, 1935), a remarkable and beautiful conspectus of the press’ work. Hornby had founded the Ashendene Press at his father’s house in Ashendene, Hertfordshire in late 1894 and, following his marriage to Cicely Barclay in 1898, in 1899 he moved to Shelley House on Chelsea Embankment, where the press remained until it closed in 1935. For the text of Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe Hornby used a French translation of Longus’ text made by Jacques Amyot (1513-1593), the manuscript of which had been discovered in the Laurentian Library by the French Hellenist Paul-Louis Courier (1772-1825). Courier had corrected and edited the text, and first published part of it in a small edition in 1810, which was followed by a number of revised editions of the complete text before his death. 

The Ashendene Press edition was illustrated by the artist, wood-engraver, and illustrator Gwen Raverat (née Darwin, 1885-1957), who was the daughter of Sir George Howard Darwin, the Plumian Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge and his American wife, Maud du Puy. Gwen Darwin had studied at the Slade School under Henry Tonks and Frederick Brown from 1908 to 1910, and in the years immediately before World War I she became part of the ‘Neo-Pagan’ circle (which included Rupert Brooke, Sir Geoffrey Keynes, and Ka Cox) in Cambridge, where she met and fell in love with Jacques Pierre Raverat (1885-1925), a young Frenchman who was studying mathematics at Cambridge. She persuaded Raverat to join her at the Slade, and he worked with St John Hornby at the Ashendene Press in 1909-1910, printing an edition of twenty-four copies of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell at Hornby’s press in January 1910 (cf. G.E. Bentley ‘William Blake and His Circle: A Checklist of Publications and Discoveries in 2005’ in Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly (40 (2006), pp. 4-41 at p. 10).

While at the Slade Gwen Darwin had taught herself wood engraving and ‘[w]ith the encouragement of her cousin by marriage, Elinor Monsell (Mrs Bernard Darwin), a recent Slade student, who sent her some wood engraving tools, she learnt the rudiments of the medium in the summer of 1909, impressing both William Rothenstein and Tonks with her early efforts. […] The combination of Gwen’s drawing skills, her ability to think in black and white, and her pragmatic readiness to experiment, all essential prerequisites for competent wood engraving, made it an ideal medium for her particular visual language’ (J. Selbourne and L. Newman, Gwen Raverat Wood Engraver (London and New Castle, DE, 2003), p. 16). Gwen Darwin and Jacques Raverat married in 1911, living at first in Hertfordshire before moving to Vence in the Alpes-Maritime in 1920, where they remained until Jacques’ death in 1925. As a consequence, ‘Gwen brought to the insular world of British wood engraving a refreshing continental approach; one which had an affinity with the pictorial style of French wood engravers such as Auguste Lepère, prolific contributor to the periodical L’Image which was dedicated to wood-engraved illustration. With the notable exception of John Buckland Wright, Gwen Raverat was one of the few wood engravers before the Second World War to have lived on the continent for any length of time and to have had direct contact with French art and artists’ (op. cit., p. 18). 

This affinity with French book-illustration may have influenced Hornby’s decision to offer Gwen Raverat her first major commission – illustrating Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe, ‘a bucolic classical romance described in the preface as “an oblation to Love and to Pan and the Nymphs”, [which] evokes the birth of love and the power of passion which reach fulfilment in happy marriage. As such it was a natural subject for Gwen who found it “a most heavenly book & just what I shall enjoy doing”. […] As with her treatment of Spring Morning she was more concerned with extracting the essence of the text than with translating it literally. She sympathetically conveyed the underlying emotions of the young lovers, her somewhat inhibited approach to nudity reflecting her earlier Neo-Pagan style. The sensuous nature of the text is implied from her intimate compositions and subtle handling: the seductive scene of Chloe bathing […], for instance, is enhanced by softening the outlines of the figures by means of broken lines and at the same time contrasting the smooth, bare, sunlit skin of Chloe with the lightly shaded profile of Daphnis reclining in the foreground’ (op. cit., p. 47).

Gwen Raverat cut the blocks for Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloe between 1928 and 1931, and Hornby planned to issue the book in 1931, mentioning it in a note to his subscribers in February 1931. Printing was indeed completed in 1931, but ‘[u]nfortunately the ink used was very slow in drying and the sheets were packed before it had sufficiently hardened. The mistake was not discovered until the sheets were unpacked at the binders when it was found that very bad “off-set” had occurred on many of them. As the book would have been unworthy of the Press I reluctantly decided to destroy the whole edition with the exception of 10 copies, which I had made up from the least spoiled sheets, and some odd specimen pages. […] I greatly regret the mishap to this edition, as it was a pretty book, the text being printed within blue ruled lines. […] The initials in this edition were printed in red instead of being filled in by hand in blue as in the subsequent [i.e. present] edition. Otherwise the second edition is practically a line for line reprint of the first, although there are slight differences in the collation of the two volumes’ (Descriptive Bibliography of the Books Printed at the Ashendene Press, p. 94).

This copy was previously in the library of Stephen Keynes, a noted bibliophile and collector, the founder and chairman of the Charles Darwin Trust, and a member of the Roxburghe Club. Stephen Keynes was Gwen Raverat’s nephew (his mother was her sister Margaret Darwin) and his father was Geoffrey Keynes, Raverat’s fellow Neo-Pagan (she had designed bookplates for both her sister and brother-in-law in 1909, and provided illustrations for A Bibliography of Sir Thomas Browne, Kt., M.D. (1924) and John Evelyn: A Study in Bibliophily & A Bibliography of his Writings (1937) by Geoffrey Keynes). Stephen Keynes owned an important collection of works by Raverat (some inherited or gifted, others, like this, acquired by purchase), which was consulted by Joanna Selbourne and Lindsay Newman for their work on Gwen Raverat, and Keynes also provided them with biographical information on Raverat and her family.

Descriptive Bibliography of the Books Printed at the Ashendene Press, XXXIX; Selbourne and Newman, B12b and P148-P176; R. Stone and S. Brett, The Wood Engravings of Gwen Raverat (Cambridge, 1989), 148-176.


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