Among the items in the collection at St Bride is a plump album of specimens from the firm of Walker, Evans and Company of Charleston, South Carolina. Although not technically a guard book, it contains a broad selection of examples of material being printed in the southern states of the USA circa 1860. The album was purchased by the library in February 1917, with the aid of a grant from the Institute of Printers.
Printers traditionally kept a ‘guard book’: an album which contained examples of the jobs they produced. This record was retained partly for legal reasons, but also as an aid to the printer when customers requested repeat orders.
Amongst the examples of calendars, receipts, and invitations are more quirky items, such as a blank form for those ‘taking the Pledge’ – a promise to abstain from alcohol. This practice originated with an Irish Catholic reformer, Theobald Mathew, who was fêted in the United States for his stance on total abstinence from ‘the demon drink’. Walker, Evans and Co., along with many other printers, produced a version of ‘the Pledge’ to be signed by those who wished to reform their alcoholic ways, or simply wanted to secure employment in an industry where alcohol dependency could cause major problems, such as the merchant navy.
The example owned by St Bride is for the Marine Washingtonian Total Abstinence Society.