- Also known as
Henry Spencer Ashbee
primary name: Ashbee, Henry Spencer
- individual; collector; British; Male
- Life dates
- Bibliophile and collector, famous for his library of erotica. Travelled widely around the world. His books, antiquities and some prints and drawings were bequeathed to British Museum in 1900; his watercolours went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as did some antiquities from Cyprus (later transferred to the BM: GR 1980,1007.1 to16; 1982,0721.1 to 77). Father of Charles Robert Ashbee (q.v.).
Ashbee formed a large collection of loose prints which he intended to use to extra-illustrate copies of the works of Shakespeare, Fielding, Sterne, Richardson, Goldsmith, Dickens, La Fontaine, Lesage, Voltaire, Cervantes and Molière. This never happened and after his death the prints were transferred to the Department of Prints and Drawings in three groups: the main series in 1900 (1900,1231.2005 to 6572), those for Dickens in 1910 (1910.0705.1 to 673), and those for Molière in 1914 (1914,0228.1 to 1679). The first group was selected by Colvin (see the reports dated 3 and 26 December 1900), and a group of portraits in 1901 (see 1901,1022.1 to 2531).Most of the extra-illustrations to Molière bear a number corresponding to the pagination of his copy of Molière in the BL (11737.i.48). Most of his prints illustrating Don Quixote are in the Hispanic Society in New York.
- Three bibliographies of erotica:
Index librorum prohibitorum, 1887 (privately published, 250 copies).
Centuria librorum absconditorum, 1879 (privately published, 250 copies).
Catena librorum tacendorum, 1885 (privately published, 250 copies).
HS Ashbee & Alexander Graham, Travels in Tunisia, 1887.
David Chambers 2004, 'Ashbee, Henry Spencer', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/737]
Gibson I 2001, The Erotomaniac: the Secret Life of Henry Spencer Ashbee (London).