King's College London
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'To make a good one better': translating the Bible

The Ashendene Ecclesiasticus

Pages 64-5 showing text in red and black and hand-coloured initial letters in green and blueThe Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach, published by the Ashendene PressIn 1894 the director of the booksellers WH Smith, CH St John Hornby (18671946), founded the Ashendene Press. It was to become one of the most important of the English private presses, seeking to revive the craftsmanship of the handmade book in a mechanised age.

Hornby was strongly influenced by the Arts and Crafts ideals of William Morris but favoured a cleaner page layout than that adopted in the productions of Morris’s Kelmscott Press, generally avoiding the use of illustrative woodcuts and decorative initial letters. The Ashendene Ecclesiasticus, printed in 1932, features simple initial letters hand-coloured in green or blue ink.

Ecclesiasticus is one of the Apocryphal books of the Bible. The text was prepared by Arnold Danvers Power (1875–1959), Biblical scholar, traveller, publisher and friend and colleague of Hornby.

Power was a fellow of King’s College London and pays tribute in his foreword to two eminent Biblical scholars of the College, Canon George Herbert Box (1869–1933), emeritus professor of Hebrew, and William Oscar Emil Oesterley (1866–1950), then professor of Hebrew and the exegesis of the Old Testament, without whose help he would have been unable to compare the revised King James Bible version of Ecclesiasticus with various Greek, Latin and Syriac versions. Power generally follows the revised King James version but does include a number of emendations based on his studies with Box and Oesterley.

The copy on display was presented by Power to the College and is handsomely bound in dyed red vellum with silk ties.

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