The Bodleian Bibliographical Press

Bibliographical Press workshop in the Old Bodleian Library

What’s beneath the words: a paper journey

Recorded Tuesday 23 June 2020, 3.30-4.30pm BST

Contemporary letterpress artist David Armes (Red Plate Press) and book conservator Andrew Honey (Bodleian Libraries) share their appreciation for paper and for the craft and art that goes into the making of books. Armes explains how he printed a new book on 'Oxford India Paper,' very thin but opaque paper used to print Bibles, encyclopaedias, and other lengthy works. The resulting work, Curses, exploits the paper's unique qualities.  Find out how demanding this was, and hear about Armes's printing residency in Oxford, where he created the work 'Between Sun Turns,' a response to the environment and cityscape in and around the city.  It has been thought that ‘Oxford India paper’ was locally produced at the Wolvercote Paper Mill; Andrew Honey discusses this idea, and reveals other historical paper research taking place at the Bodleian.  


Thomas Gravemaker of LetterpressAmsterdam to be Printer in Residence in 2021


The workshop

The Bodleian's hand-press printing workshop is located in the Schola Musicae, in the Old Bodleian Library. See map. 

Equipment of the Bodleian Bibliographical Press
PRESSES

John & Jeremiah Barrett Albion Press of 1835 (ex-Daniel Press). Platen 17¾” x 24”. Belonged to Charles Henry Olive Daniel (1836–1919) Provost (1903-1919) of Worcester College.

More about the history of the Daniel Press.

Miller & Richard Albion Press of 1898 (ex-Moss Press). Platen 12” x 18”.

Harrild & Sons Albion Press of 1877 (ex-Leonard Baskin). Platen 11” x 16”. Belonged to Leonard Baskin (1922-2000), who 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.

Frederick Ullmer Albion Press of circa 1900 (ex-Samson Press). Platen 7” x 12”. 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.

(Miller & Richards?) Columbian Press of circa 1860 (ex-Samson Press, see above). Platen 18”x 25¾”.

Star-wheel Hughes & Kimber etching press, 19th century. 13” roller x 30” bed (ex-music printing).

Western (‘Vandercook’ type) proofing press (ex-Vivian Ridler, on loan from The Story Museum, Oxford); 24” x 16” bed.

TYPE

Wood type, mostly 20th century, in a range of sizes from 30-line to 6-line

Caslon type (12-48 point), Caslon Italic (12-42 point), Caslon small capitals;

Bell type (8-36 point)

Ancient Black (12-18 point)

Perpetua type (12, 14, 18 pt)

4 cases of Fell italic [from C.H.O. Daniel]

One case each of Greek, Hebrew

15 cases of Centaur, Arrighi and other faces from the Moss donation. Two cases of ornaments.

Half-tone and line blocks from the Samson Press

Half-tone and line blocks from the Bodleian Quarterly Record

What we do

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 current home of the workshop is in the Old Bodleian Library, in the Schola Musicae. 

Contact: bookcentre@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Universities

By appointment with the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book. Write to: alexandra.franklin@bodleian.ox.ac.uk 

Schools

Arrange a session through the Bodleian Education Team: e-mail education@bodleian.ox.ac.uk 

Open Sessions

Experienced printers are welcome to use the workshop under supervision, by invitation. Sessions are held on Thursday evenings during University of Oxford terms, 5:30 to 8 pm. Come to a session period to request an invitation or email bookcentre@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Line blocks of Adam and a mermaid, created from an old ballad

 Line blocks of Adam and a mermaid, recreated from a 17th-century broadside ballad.

Presses in the Weston Library

Blackwell Hall

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.

Equipment at the Bibliographical Press

See a list of type available. 

Free-standing iron presses 

(1) Large John & Jeremiah Barrett Albion Press of 1835, serial number 539.
Platen 17¾” x 24”
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) Small Frederick Ullmer Albion Press of circa 1900, serial number 2919. 
Platen, 9 ⅞ x 7 in.

(3) Medium Miller & Richard Albion Press of 1898, serial number 4993. 
Platen 12” x 18”
From the Moss Press 

(4) Large (Miller & Richards?) Columbian Press of circa 1860. No serial number.
Platen 18” x 25¾”
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) Medium Harrild & Sons Albion Press of 1877, serial number 3531. 
Platen 11” x 16”
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

(6) Star-wheel Hughes & Kimber etching press, 19th-c. 13” roller x 30” bed. (ex-music printing)

(7) Western (‘Vandercook’ type) proofing press (ex-Vivian Ridler, on loan from The Story Museum, Oxford); 24” x 16” bed

 


'Printing a Line' with Tamarin Norwood

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