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Fine Printing: Presses

Early and Fine Printing Collection,
Early Printing:Collection and Parish Libraries
Fine Printing:Presses and Illustrated and Miniature Books and Two Birmingham Printers

John Baskerville-portrait 1774

Private Presses

Earlier private presses such as the Strawberry Hill Press of Horace Walpole (1757 89) and the Hafod Press of Thomas Johnes of Aberystwyth (1803 10) are represented. There is a very good collection of books printed by John Baskerville (1706 75), the amateur printer who lived at Easy Hill, Birmingham and whose first book, an edition of Virgil, "went forth", according to Macaulay "to astonish all the librarians of Europe". Baskerville gained the support of Matthew Boulton of the Soho Manufactory, who was one of its subscribers. He printed his magnificent lectern Bible at Cambridge with special permission from the University who held the patent. There are also several editions of his Book of Common Prayer, some finely bound in contemporary gilt-tooled bindings, such as the one by John Baumgarten. The type specimens and prospectuses in the collection are extremely rare - any that appear on the market are snapped up by libraries and collectors.

Kelmscott Press


Library of Birmingham has a complete collection of Kelmscott Press books printed under the direction of William Morris, including the Press most renowned book Works of Chaucer (1896) which was illustrated by the dramatic wood engravings of Edward Burne-Jones. He was the pre-Raphaelite artist born in poverty in Birmingham who rose to public acclamation and a knighthood from Queen Victoria for his work.

The Kelmscott Press and William Morris inspired the private press movement in England and abroad at the turn of the century, and the Library has a comprehensive collection of books printed at the Doves Press (including the Bible, 1903-5), the Ashendene Press, the Golden Cockerel Press (including The Four Gospels with wood engravings by Eric Gill, 1931), The Gregynog Press, Essex House Press and others. Amongst them is a set of the books produced at the Birmingham School of Printing under the supervision of Leonard Jay.

Chaucer-kelmscott press 1896

lens of cyrstal

Contemporary Private Presses

The Library continues to support the tradition of buying examples of the work of contemporary private presses in the UK. The Old Stile Press, run by Nicholas and Frances McDowell, matches literary texts with imaginative illustrations. The Whittington Press is owned by the Randles who escaped the mainstream publishing scene for hand printing on historic presses. The Rampant Lions Press was founded by Will Carter, and later run by his son Sebastian, both typographic designers. The Fleece Press of Simon Lawrence is known especially for its wood engravings. Find out about other private presses of the UK.

In the USA, there are examples of the publications of the Ariel Press, the Bird and Bull Press, the Janus Press of the artist Claire van Vliet, the Pennyroyal Press and others. There are also small collections of French, German and Italian fine printing.

The Library is fortunate to include in the collection works by both Bill Pardoe and David Wishart, two Birmingham Printers, who have both sadly died in the last few years.

Image: Lens of Crystal, Poems by Robin Skelton, images by Sara Philpott. Reproduced with kind permission, Old Stile Press.

Recent Acquisitions include Avocet to Zander by Anne Cathcart, one of the highly commended entries for the Clarion/Fine Press Association Competition for alphabet books. Weaving and Interlocking Book Structures from the Janus Press, and Inwards where all the battles is by Alun Lewis printed at Gwasg Gregynog. There are two miniature books from the Old Stile Press, Be still and Psalm 150. A collection of pamphlets and ephemera printed by F.E.Pardoe have been added since his death in 2002. He will be much missed

In 2005 the library purchased for the collection The bricks of Venice by Peter Harris, printed at the Old School Press in a limited edition of 150 copies of a volume of text and a box of watercolour plates.

For details see www.theoldschoolpress.com

Tale of Igor

Ridler Collection

The William Ridler Collection of Fine Printing was deposited on loan from Dr Ann Ridler in Birmingham Central Library in 1988, and is shelved in glass fronted cases on Floor 6.

It contains about 3,500 finely printed and illustrated books, dating from the beginnings of the private press movement in the 1890s to the 1970s, and complements the Library own collections.

The illustration on the right is from The Tale of Igor, published by the Beaumont Press in 1918.

The Ridler Collection has its own printed catalogue.

Please note We are not responsible for the content of other organisations' websites.

Early Printing Collection: Books
Early Printing Collection: Atlases and Parish Libraries
Illustrated Books and Bindings
Early and Fine Printing