Notes on Curious and Uncommon Books  

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"The kind of page that Ashbee continually seems to strive for, and that he frequently manages to achieve, consists of a single line of text from which there depends a page of footnote."--The Other Victorians (1964) by Steven Marcus, p. 52

"In addition, a text which uses quoted material tends, in proportion to the thickness and frequency with which the quotations are sown, to become progressively less readable. Ashbee's own work, with its perpetual flood of quotations, with quotations interspersed with further quotations in several languages (his habit was always to quote in the original and never to translate), and with every page dotted with hiccoughing references and hieroglyphic citations, indicates that his own impulses in the direction of unreadability were quite strong."--The Other Victorians (1964) by Steven Marcus, p. 53

"Ashbee's mania for quotation is not, however, exhausted by these devices. He will stick in a few lines wherever a small blank space occurs, and he is happy to manufacture the opportunity to quote at length and liberty: Volume II, the Centuria, for example, opens with no less than six full pages of epigraphs."--The Other Victorians (1964) by Steven Marcus, p. 53

Related e



Notes on Curious and Uncommon Books (1877-1885) is a series of three bibliographies of forbidden books compiled by Henry Spencer Ashbee. These were privately printed in London.

All three were subtitled "being Notes Bio- Icono- graphical and Critical, on Curious and Uncommon Books."

The title of the first volume is a reference to the Catholic Church's list of banned books Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

Volume 2, Centuria Librorum Absconditorum, features a fifty page description of Rowlandson's bawdy prints.

The Sphere Books edition of 1969 omits all epigraphs, preliminary remarks, works consulted and indices.


  1. Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1877)
  2. Centuria Librorum Absconditorum (1879)
  3. Catena Librorum Tacendorum (1885)

See also

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