The Bodleian Bibliographical Press

The Bodleian's hand-press printing workshop is located in the Schola Musicae, in the Old Library. The entrance is from the Old Schools Quadrangle.Classes in hand-printing and bibliographical theory are held for students and for University staff and visiting groups by request.Those wishing to arrange or attend classes should contact the Centre for the Study of the Book, tel. 01865 277160, e-mail

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Presses in the Weston Library

Blackwell Hall

The public are welcome to join in keepsake printing on the first Saturday of every month in Blackwell Hall, Weston Library, between 12 and 2 pm. No booking necessary. The press standing in Blackwell Hall is a replica made in 1951 by A H Smith, Quain Professor of English at UCL, with A Brown, from designs published in 1683 by Joseph Moxon in Mechanick Exercises, or, The doctrine of handy-works, applied to the art of printing.

Common press, in the Centre for the Study of the Book 

A wooden common press, used for demonstrations only, is kept on Level 2 of the Weston Library.

History of the Bibliography Room

Since 1949, the Bodleian Library has maintained hand-presses for the purpose of teaching practical printing. Each year, students from the University of Oxford and from other universities learn to set type and print by hand on presses dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. Equipment has been acquired over the years from a number of generous donors.

The workshop contains four Albion hand-presses (one acquired from Leonard Baskin's Gehenna Press), a Columbian press and several tabletop machines. There is a range of sizes of Caslon and Bell types, plus some other faces in smaller quantities. The oldest major items in the room are three composing frames which were originally made for the University Press by a local joiner, John Rainsford, in 1669. The room also includes specimens of printing and typefounding equipment and numerous relief blocks, many originating from the Samson Press archive, which came to the Bodleian around 1970. 

The press workshop has had various homes, originally on the ground floor of the New Bodleian, later in the Clarendon Building and, between 2003 and 2011, in the basement of the New Bodleian. During refurbishment of the New Bodleian, the Room was housed in the Story Museum in Pembroke Street. When the Bodleian building on Broad Street was reopened in 2015 as the Weston Library for Special Collections, the workshop moved to the ground floor of the Old Library, in the Schola Musicae.

Equipment at the Bibliographical Press

Free-standing iron presses 

(1) Albion (1835), serial number 539. Maker, Barretts
Platen, 24 x 18 in
This was the press used by C.H.O. Daniel, Provost of Worcester College, from 1880-1906 and presented to the Bodleian Library in 1919. Charles Henry Olive Daniel (1836–1919) was Provost of Worcester College from 1903. He started printing when he was a boy and continued while at Oxford to reprint early-modern literature, works by major poets, and poems by his contemporaries including Lewis Carroll.

(2) Albion, serial number 2919. Maker, Fred. Ullmer
Platen, 9 ⅞ x 7 in.

(3) Albion (1898), serial number 4993. Maker, Miller & Richard
Platen, 18 x 11.5 in.
From the Moss Press 

(4) Columbian Press of circa 1860. No serial number.
Platen, 26 x 18 in.
The Samson Press was a private press run by Joan Mary Shelmerdine (1899–1994) and Flora Margaret Grierson (1899–1966). The press began in 1930 in Warlingham, Surrey and moved to Woodstock, Oxfordshire in 1937, where the business continued until 1967 when Joan Shelmerdine gave the archive and the printing equipment to the Bodleian.

(5) Albion Press (1877), serial number 3531. Maker, Harrild
Platen, 15.75 x 11 in.
Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) founded the Gehenna press in 1942 (the name coming from a line in Milton's Paradise Lost: "And black Gehenna call'd, the type of Hell.")  The archive of the Gehenna Press was acquired by the Bodleian Library in 2009

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