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 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.
'Printing a Line' with Tamarin Norwood
Weston Library press
Drop-in printing for the public on the first Saturday of the month, May to September, begins on 5 May with a commemoration of Karl Marx (born 1818): make a collective poster. 12-3 pm, all ages.
Classes in the workshop
The Bodleian's hand-press printing workshop is located in the Schola Musicae, in the Old Library.
Adults (over 18) are welcome at six-week letterpress classes, usually offered in the evenings. A registration fee applies. Next available course will begin in October 2018.
Family printing workshops are offered during some school holidays. See the Bodleian's 'What's On' listings for links.
For the ambitious, Robin Wilson and Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley lead an intensive one-week workshop during which you will make your own entire book. Make a hand-printed book in 5 days. Follow link to find out more and register. Registration fee.
Experienced printers are welcome to use the workshop under supervision, by invitation. Sessions are held on Thursday evenings during University terms, 5:30 to 8 pm. Come to a session period to request an invitation.
Presses in the Weston Library
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
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