History of the Book

Resources for finding book history and book arts in Bodleian Libraries collections

Teaching the Codex

Teaching the Book 

History of the Book blog from the University of Oxford Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages 

History of the Bodleian printing presses

Since 1949, the Bodleian Library has maintained hand-presses and type 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


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


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

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

  • 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.


  • 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

The British Book Trades Index (BBTI)

See the BBTI now hosted by Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services

The London Book Trades: a biographical and documentary resource

The London Book Trades is a database designed to contain biographical information on printers, booksellers, bookbinders, stationers, and those in associated trades who worked in and around London from the introduction of printing into England until about the year 1830. There are currently entries for something over thirty thousand individuals, about two thirds of whom have been derived from the archives of the Stationers' Company. 

The Strickland Gibson Bibliographical Studies Collection


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