The Mosley Effect

Library Manager, Bob Richardson, writes about James Mosley’s hugely important role in the history of the St Bride Library collection.  

For a collection with such a long pedigree, the St Bride Library has had comparatively few librarians. Since opening in November 1895, there have been only a handful, with two long-serving incumbents who each transformed the collections in their own individual way.

William Turner Berry was born in 1888 and came to St Bride as a young man, having worked as an assistant librarian with Lambeth Public Libraries. His initial pre-WWI tenure was brief—he was called up in 1914 and returned to the library in 1919 after serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Turner Berry was not only librarian, but also the general manager of the St Bride Foundation. Although he retired, aged 70, over 56 years ago, he is still remembered with affection by some of our older readers.

Former Reading Room Vernacular Signage

On 9th January 1956, the chairman of the St Bride Libraries Committee met with a 20-year-old Cambridge student called James Mosley, to discuss job opportunities within the library. James was acquainted with Turner Berry, and while working at Stevens, Shanks during vacations, had borrowed material from the library as an aid to identifying artefacts held at the foundry. The young man made a good impression and was offered the post of assistant librarian on a salary of £500 per year (£9.62 a week) subject to a successful interview with members of the Library Sub-Committee, which included the redoubtable Beatrice Warde. The interview presumably went well, for later that year, upon completion of his studies, James Mosley joined the library staff, succeeding Turner Berry as librarian two years later upon his retirement in 1958.

Nineteen-fifty-eight is an important year in the history of the library, for it marked the start of a transformation which led to the establishment of the unique collection we hold today. Under Turner Berry the library thrived and developed, but was still primarily a collection of books, many of them unique. Under the management of James Mosley the focus changed. Books would remain at the heart of the library, but the very small collection of printing artefacts in 1958 expanded with James at the helm during a period of significant change within the printing industry. As traditional type foundries wound up their businesses and closed their doors, overtaken by filmsetting and offset-litho, James Mosley was waiting in the wings with his wheelbarrow. A friend of James tells me that this distinguished academic could be seen on occasions carrying his latest haul along Fleet Street to the safe haven of the library. He was never too proud to roll up his sleeves and dig around in the grime of a defunct printshop or load a van with some precious cast-iron relic which had been destined for the local scrap dealer.

Kelmscott Chaucer (1896)

Kelmscott Chaucer (1896)

When we show visitors around our red brick building in Bride Lane, we take great pride in displaying many of the “jewels” in our collection. The deluxe edition of the Kelmscott Chaucer, printed in Hammersmith over a four year period ending in 1896, is a breathtakingly beautiful example of letterpress craftsmanship, and a favourite with visitors. The book came here in 1966 because James lobbied for the money (£1,000) to purchase it. The generosity of the Corporation of London provided the funds. The historically important collection of steel punches from the Caslon Foundry, including a number cut by William Caslon I, came to the library as a result of negotiations initiated by James. Soon afterwards the Pouchée decorated types were also transferred from the Oxford University Press thanks to James’s perseverance. They are unique in the world, and one of our most significant acquisitions.

Caslon Punches

Caslon Punches

Pouchée Blocks (2)

Pouchée Blocks

Pouchée Agricultural Alphabet

Pouchée Agricultural Alphabet

Our letterpress workshop contains a fine cross-section of machines covering almost two centuries of printing history, but when James arrived in 1956 there was only an arthritic wooden Common press, acquired by the governors in 1894 for fifty shillings. Today we have a fine Albion (acquired by JM, 1969), a Columbian (JM, 1969), Stanhope iron press (JM, 1960) and an Ingle newspaper press (JM, 1969).

The compositor frames from the Oxford University Press, c.1668, came here in 1973 and 1988 (James again), followed by the surviving punches and matrices from the Figgins Foundry (via their successors, Stevens, Shanks). The unique Kinneir/Calvert road sign maquettes—the original road sign models made for a presentation to the Minister of Transport in 1957—came here because James sought them out and arranged their transfer. An enormous collection of original material by Eric Gill, including inscriptional rubbings and original drawings and early sketches for faces such as Gill Sans and Jubilee were also acquired as a result of James’s intervention. Even more material is held in storage, including an 1845 Wilson guillotine and a pair of vintage pivotal type-casters. James is a determined man, who rarely accepted “No” for an answer, and whose dogged persistence in the acquisition of important artefacts usually bore fruit – eventually.

Gill Sans Comparative Drawings

Gill Sans Comparative Drawings

Gill Sans Lower Case

Gill Sans Lower Case

Figgins Matrices

Figgins Matrices

Kinneir Maquette 2

Kinneir Maquette

There is hardly a shelf or cupboard in the St Bride Library which does not contain printing hardware and artefacts relating to the history of type founding and ‘the black art’, or the creation of letters in their myriad forms, which does not owe a debt to James Mosley. He was a librarian, a man who should, by definition, be interested in books, but his passion for the physical objects of printing and typefounding have given us a unique collection which goes beyond anything a reader might expect to find in a building with the word “Library” above the door.

On the 18th of April this year James Mosley celebrated his eightieth birthday. He is still a regular visitor to the library with which he has now been closely associated for six decades. Next year will mark the diamond anniversary of his first day behind the enquiry desk at St Bride. His friends and colleagues at St Bride wish him the happiest of birthdays and a continued association with the library he helped to transform from a very good collection of books to one of the world’s greatest resources of its kind.

Happy birthday James.

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William Blades and The Blades Library – A Commemoration and Celebration.

On Monday, St Bride Foundation hosted a special event to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the death of William Blades.

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Blades (1824 – 1890)

Blades was a printer, author and bibliographer. His involvement with printing started at the age of 15 after becoming an apprentice at his father’s company, Blades, East and Blades. He went onto enjoy a very successful career, vastly improving the firm as a partner.

Although he was an adept businessman, he is also known for his written work. In fact, his obituary in The Printers’ Register (May 1890) suggests that his ‘industry and research’ would have led him to great fame had he devoted himself to a purely literary career, except ‘he was, and preferred to remain, above all things a printer’. Regardless of these notions, he was still recognised as one of the leading authorities on Caxton in his time and remains to this day a hugely important figure in the history of printing.

Blades’ personal library was purchased by the Foundation after his death. This collection of books, research notes and personal correspondences firmly established St Bride Library’s collection.

Various guests from the print, design and publishing industry were given the opportunity to see numerous items in our collection. One of these items was The Enemies of Books (2nd. ed. 1888), which was written by William Blades in order to warn people of the various potential threats to the printed page. Within the book, Blades recalls an interesting tale of a bookworm which he kept for three weeks, very much like his own pet. Blades apparently fed the insect fragments of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.

Boethius’ work is likely to be quite an expensive delicacy for the modern day bookworm. Nevertheless, we have so far refrained from selling any folios the work for such purposes.

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Another item out in the library was The Pentateuch of printing (1891)The copy on display was previously owned by Talbot Baines Reed. A note of appreciation from Blades’ widow, Eliza, was pasted into the front endpapers. She thanks Reed for completing the work, which was published after his death. These personal elements added to the evening’s retrospective narrative.

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Blades Restoration

The reception was also a reason for celebration, as it marked the refurbishment of the William Blades Library. This space, which is located inside the original reading room of the library, is a close replica of Blades’ study in Surrey. Improvements have been made on both a functional and aesthetic level, ultimately enabling us to offer a new historic location for our visitors to use. Conveniently, it also helps towards our central mission to preserve the heritage of print – The Blades Library, after all, is another lasting relic of the man who filled the surrounding bookcases.

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No drinks allowed in the William Blades Library.

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Before departure, guests were invited to print their own keepsakes on an Adana printing press. These small commemorative cards were a physical reminder of the work achieved by members of the team, as well as what was a very enjoyable evening for all in attendance.

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Congratulations also goes to Theatre Manager, Mikey Palmer, who celebrated his 10th anniversary of work at the Foundation on the same night.

The Museum of Typography, Chania, Crete

This week we have a guest article from one of our library volunteers, Heather Jardine. Heather recently visited the Museum of Typography in Crete. Here are a few words about the experience. 

We were lucky enough to be on holiday in Crete earlier this month and therefore took the opportunity to visit the Museum of Typography. Opening hours are restricted during the winter months but pre-booked appointments can be made; Maria, to whom no thanks can be enough, opened the museum especially for us and gave us an excellent personal guided tour.

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The museum is housed in a modern unit on a light industrial estate; it may not have the architectural charm of the St Bride Foundation building, but it has a great deal more light and space. There is therefore room enough to keep and display a great deal of printing machinery of all kinds, some of it enormous. The museum is supported by the local newspaper Haniotika Nea, and initially shared the same premises. This close link with industry means not only that the museum is supported financially but also that it feels like a collection of working tools.

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All of the exhibits are clearly labelled and many are accompanied by photographs or video of the machinery in use; almost all are presented free-standing, so that you can wander round and look at them from all angles. It is very hands-on; there is very little that you cannot touch and practical demonstration is encouraged. Visitors print (and perforate) their own tickets, for example.

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There is a room dedicated to presentations and functions and the museum does a lot of work with local schools, as well as book launches and the like. The museum is 10 years old this summer and is planning a programme of events to celebrate its birthday, as well as a further extension with the opening of a new room.

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Two things I admit to my undying shame, the first being, that I can remember the Telex machine in real life and not just as a piece of history; and secondly, that in my excitement at playing with all the equipment, I completely forgot to ask to see the library… Ah well, there is always next time.

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The printed guide to the collections, in English and well-illustrated, will be added to St Bride library stock in due course. The museum also has an excellent website with many pictures and video, and more information than I am qualified to give. I recommend it to you; but if you can, go to the museum itself and I am sure you will be inspired and enthused.

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St Bride Foundation to Reopen Swimming Pool.

Exciting news from St Bride Foundation.

On Monday 30 March, it was agreed that the theatre will close its doors and cancel all future shows. This decision has been made in order to reopen the Victorian baths and reestablish St Bride Foundation as one of the premier swimming locations in the City of London. Below is a personal letter from the charity.

Dear friends and followers,

The other week we posted a blog article about an art exhibition beneath the floorboards of the Bridewell Theatre. Traces of the Swimming Pool was a reminiscent look back at when the theatre space was a lively and popular venue for swimming. 

Weeks have passed since the article was published. During this time, numerous theatre companies have arrived with a series of diverse shows; members of the public have sat in our seats, applauding the conveyor belt of talent before them. Meanwhile, the empty swimming pool has been left desolate. Indeed this is no new predicament, as the pool has been this way for years. Yet the recent article made everyone question what would actually be more enjoyable: a theatre or a swimming pool?

Subtle grumblings around the office space, attempting to tackle the difficult question, soon escalated to rather intense debates in Governor meetings. Conclusions drawn showed that nearly everyone in the organisation leaned towards the aquatic option in some way or another. 

And so, it was agreed on Monday 30 March that the theatre will close in April for the foreseeable future. All theatre companies who have made bookings will be refunded and efforts will go to help these organisations relocate to other suitable spaces. This decision has been made so that the Foundation can once again be used as a venue for swimming and its associated sports. 

Over the course of its life, the Bridewell Theatre has hosted an array of shows from both amateur and professional companies. Many of the people within these groups have become friends of the Foundation along the way. It therefore seems fitting that the transition between theatre to swimming pool is treated as a celebration, rather than a commemoration. To ensure this, St Bride Foundation will be presenting one final show to signal the start of a new chapter. This show will be Noah’s Ark. 

Noah’s Ark will be a fully interactive, promenade theatre experience. The biblical tale was chosen as it reflects the magnitude of our new adventure. Conveniently, it also allows us to fill the swimming pool with water and chlorine, while still getting money from the general public.

This special one-off show will entail the installation of a specially designed ark at the front of the theatre. Ticket holders will also be assigned an animal, allowing them to star in the show, as well as spectate. Noah, who will be played by  theatre manager, Mikey Palmer, will welcome you all onto the ark while protecting you from the gallons of water that will be submerging the room. Since 1994, people within the theatre have been a part of our story and now we are doing our best to continue this.

Once the swimming pool is back open, we will be announcing a full programme of courses and activities, including ‘wetterpress printing’ and the formation of our own synchronised swimming team (formed from a group of former Fleet Street compositors). 

We understand that this new chapter may be met with some controversy. However, it is something that is strategically necessary in order to restore the true heritage of the charity. We hope you can join us in this vision.

Best,

St Bride Foundation

Tickets for Noah’s Ark will be released next week. Upon booking a ticket, guests will be sent a confirmation email, which will include details of your assigned animal. This will need to be brought along to the performance, along with any swimming badges. Towels will be provided.

Shepherds at St Bride Foundation – A few new workshop classes throughout 2015

St Bride Foundation is pleased to announce that from April 2015 we will be running a brand new series of courses in bookbinding.

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We have teamed up with the well-known firm of Shepherds Bookbinders who have been successfully running bookbinding classes in London for the last fifteen years. Shepherds now offer a brand new curriculum with City & Guilds qualifications in both Beginners’ and Advanced Hand Bookbinding.

With its headquarters nearby in the City of London, City and Guilds is the oldest vocational award giving body in the UK and we are proud to offer these unique qualifications as part of our curriculum. Our aim to bring this fascinating and ancient craft to a new and wider audience.

Our ‘taster’ classes will run during the day, evenings and weekends, giving everyone the chance to try their hand at the processes before committing to a longer course. You don’t have to sign up for a City & Guilds Award to enjoy our courses, but all the classes (including the ‘tasters’) will count towards Awards and Certificates should you wish to pursue your studies in bookbinding.

This is an exciting new venture, bringing an important aspect of book-making to work alongside our print workshop. The combination of printing and bookbinding will put St Bride Foundation at the centre of the revival in book crafts and herald a new dawn in art of fine book production.

For full details, visit our website here. You can also visit Shepherds’ website.

Traces of the Swimming Pool

Yesterday marked the arrival of a unique art installation beneath the floorboards of the Bridewell Theatre. Traces is a collaborative project from students at Kingston University, incorporating projections, photographs and drawings within the Foundation’s Victorian swimming pool.

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The exhibition is a reflection on the forgotten or left behind. Katie South, one of the curators, told us how the preservation of the pool informed the work massively. The style of the area also meant that they couldn’t really approach this exhibition like a typical gallery space. Instead, the students had to utilise the environment, incorporating the structural elements for the different work on show.

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This becomes evident when you venture down to the white tiled basin of the pool. Various wooden beams, which were installed to support the seats above, now provide scaffolding for canvases. They are industrial frames for the flickering projections, which also box off different areas of the pool. As a result, the space becomes a series of isolated compartments.

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The overarching theme of the exhibition seems appropriate for the space it’s in. According to the Foundation’s minute books, the last documented swimming season was in 1968. The pool’s closure was then agreed in the second Governor’s meeting of January, 1969. As far as we know, it’s been barely used ever since. During our tenure, the floorboards have been lifted only once, for a site specific theatre production called Amphibians.

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Upon leaving the exhibition, we searched the archives for a few personal tales of the pool, in what was our own attempt to salvage the traces of when it was a lively and active venue for swimming.

A three page booklet, titled ‘St Brides Swimming Pool Memories’, documents various personal accounts of the pool. It’s effectively a very honest guest book from a number of people who learnt to swim here. The reviews were ‘mixed’, with the hygiene of the pool being a favoured topic of conversation:

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These complaints are all taken from the same swimming class. Although, similar feelings were also present back in the early 1900s. A letter to the Editor of the Evening Times, written around 1909, documents a very disgruntled user of the pool, who wasn’t happy about the water. According to the anonymously named ‘bather’, the water was ‘so foul that it was not possible to see the bottom, even at the shallow end’. He continues, ‘In fact it was only possible to see about a third of the white glazed brick below’.

Fortunately, a week later, the Foundation’s swimming secretary countered the complaint. He writes ‘It is a boon and blessing to the City worker on these hot days. I point blank deny that it is dirty or ill kept’.

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Whether the pool really was one of the most disgusting in London is to be decided. The fact that the only person who professed clean water was an employee of the Foundation might be a little bit odd. Regardless, these artefacts provide a glimpse into the days when the pool was ‘alive’.

Below are a couple more tales:

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And our favourite entry…

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Tomorrow will be your last chance to see Traces. This unique installation has meant that we can add another tale to the history of the pool, while at the same time provide a platform for creativity. If you wish to visit, then it’s open 12pm-6pm. Entry is free.IMG_1549

Access to the exhibition also allows you to take a glimpse of the set for Tower Theatre’s current show The Habit of Art, which runs until Saturday.

Prince Charles visits St Bride Foundation

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

The other week we were delighted to welcome The Prince of Wales for a tour of the Foundation. HRH was taken around the building by CEO Glyn Farrow in order to showcase the charity’s ongoing services to the cultural heritage of London.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

St Bride Foundation has had a connection with royalty since its inception. An ornamented stone on the wall in reception states that Prince Edward VII officially opened the charity in 1893. The current Prince of Wales has also been here before, visiting in 2002 to mark the 300th anniversary of newspaper production.

Nevertheless, arrivals of this esteem remain a rare privilege and so are still met with a nervous excitement. They are a royal anomaly to the typical week at work, where ‘nerves’ are only ever really caused by the risk of ink spillage.

The tour was divided into numerous sections to reflect the many functions of the Foundation. The first of these was the library and archives. St Bride Library opened in 1894 as part of the printing school. It quickly became one of the leading sources of information on printing and typography in the world.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Library manager, Bob Richardson, meets HRH in the Passmore Edwards room.

In the weeks prior to the event, thousands of books took part in a rigorous audition process for a chance to meet The Prince. The lucky winners included Dr Johnsons’ dictionary, the Kelmscott Chaucer, and a beautifully bound edition of Macbeth. The diversity of our collection is  something that we were keen to portray. Each of these publications offer their own unique contribution to the history of the printed word and the book.

The special occasion was also used to show off our newly restored William Blades’ library, where other famous works from Caxton and Wynkyn de Worde were on display.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Simon Eccles shows a beauitfully bound edition of Macbeth

Books weren’t the only things exhibited. In the archives, the building’s architecture was also given attention. Here a small square of the ceiling had been taken out, allowing a narrow glimpse of the original wood and glass frame above. In the future, we hope to strip back the building to its original Victorian skeleton.

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Original architectural drawings of the Foundation.

The architecture is a core feature of what the Foundation represents and thus a huge element of our central mission. It’s ultimately another way of displaying the cultural and historical legacy of printing, Fleet Street, and Victorian London in general. So although showing the heir to the throne our ceiling may appear to be strange, we assure you that it was an important part of the visit and not because we ran out of books.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

CEO Glyn Farrow discusses future plans

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Wood engraver, Peter Smith, talks about his craft.

Next stop was the workshop. An underlying debate in the days prior to the royal visit regarded royal etiquette. How does one greet the Prince of Wales? Do you handshake? Do you bow? During this part of the tour, it became apparent that a certain someone (Mick Clayton) clearly wasn’t intimidated by such protocol. Before showing Prince Charles how to pull a print on the Duerer, the ex-compositor cheekily requested a union card. Mick’s ice breaking question received the biggest laugh of the day and also earned him a mention in the Telegraph. The picture below captures the moment quite well.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Mick Clayton teaches a bit of letterpress.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Back in 2002, HRH printed on the Albion. This time he used our latest acquisition, the Duerer Press, which was built by Alan May in collaboration with the Duerer Press Group. If we are lucky enough to host more royal visitors in the future, then we’ll be sure to have another press lined up.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

The finished print.

An enthusiastic expedition around the four walls of the workshop soon followed. Guided around by Mick, the visiting party was given an education on the history of printing and the processes of newspaper making. Our resident wood engraver, Peter Smith, was also there to show HRH some of his latest work. Preserving these crafts and incorporating them with contemporary art and design is ongoing aim of the Foundation.

Coincidentally, Prince Charles visited on a day when we were running a one day Adana course. Meeting Prince Charles wasn’t actually included in the lesson brief, but our student seemed pretty happy. Unfortunately, we do not offer royalty at any of our other classes.

Before leaving the workshop, Prince Charles was shown The Bridewell Theatre through a secret door at the rear of the room. The upper rear gallery provides a top down view of this unique space, which has been used for the performing arts since 1994. At the time, our current theatre-dwellers, LAMDA, were busy building the set for their upcoming show, ‘Rent’.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

The tour concluded with some tea and coffee in the Bridewell Hall. Around thirty guests from various industries mingled, all subtly crossing their fingers in the hope that HRH would make it to them. Meanwhile, a military operation was underway in the kitchen to ensure that the Prince’s drink was timed perfectly for his arrival. After all, we pride ourselves as also being a fine venue for events; serving cold tea would have contradicted this. Once Prince Charles entered the hall, he took the time to talk with everyone in the room (the scene was described by Darrel Danielli, editor of Print Week, as a ‘ networking masterclass’).

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

Before departing, HRH left a signature in our visitors book. His print and signature will be kept safely as a record of what was a very special day for everyone involved. The visit also attracted a bit of media attention, so we may now also be able to pride ourselves as the first group of people to get letterpress printing into Hello! Magazine. This in itself is evidence of our services to the cultural heritage of London. Although looking back at this day, as well as the future ahead, we’re sure that St Bride Foundation will continue to do quite a lot more.

Prince Charles visiting St Bride Foundation

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You can read more on the day on our press page here. Photographs in this article are by Rick Bronks.

St Bride Foundation is a registered charity (no.207607), which relies on regular donations in order to provide its many different services. If you wish to help us, then head over to our donation page here.

The Life of Edward Lloyd – An article to commemorate 200 years since his birth.

To commemorate the 200th birthday of Edward Lloyd, we have a special guest article, written by Joy Vick. Joy is a member of a collaborative research project on the life and legacy of Edward Lloyd. 

Everyone’s heard of Lord Northcliffe. He published the first popular newspaper, the Daily Mail in July 1896. What’s not so well known is the history of the newspapers that paved the way for Northcliffe’s success.

Edward Lloyd

As is so often the case, those in power write history the way they’d like it told. Lloyd’s Weekly, the most popular newspaper in Victorian Britain, barely gets a mention in press history. Yet on this day in 1896 it was the first newspaper printed on Fleet Street to sell over a million copies. And coincidentally, on this day two hundred years ago, 16 February 1815, its founder Edward Lloyd was born.

There is currently no mention of Edward Lloyd on Fleet Street or the names of his two popular papers, Lloyd’s Weekly and The Daily Chronicle. Neither the history of printing in Magpie Alley, nor the one in St Bride’s Crypt, mention him.

When Lloyd’s Weekly is mentioned in the history of the press it appears to have been misrepresented. For instance, Geoffrey Best writes in ‘Mid-Victorian Britain (1851-75)’ that the mass circulation Sunday paper Lloyd’s Weekly contained spicy melodrama. He goes on to say that whilst the Observer hovered on the line of respectability, some like Lloyd’s Weekly were definitely below it.

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Close reading of albeit a small sample of Lloyd’s Weekly and The Daily Chronicle has revealed very different papers to those described by historians.  Both papers assume a calm and reasoned reader with interests in politics, world news, sports and the arts.  They also assume a reader interested in the need for fundamental social change, in particular the eradication of poverty and injustice through constitutional means rather than revolution.  To be fair to historians with limited access to the newspapers, it’s possible that assumptions about them were based on the books Lloyd published in his youth, yet even they were not salacious.

Born in Thornton Heath, Lloyd left school at 14 (relatively late in those days) but his working life was spent entirely in London.  He claims to have started selling his own printed works at the age of 14, cards, song sheets, cartoons, anything the newsagents could sell for him. Clerkenwell, around which he lived and worked, was a hotbed of radicalism at the time and Lloyd published political cartoons – some are now in The British Museum’s collection.

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Lloyd hit gold when he started publishing penny versions of the works of Dickens such as “The Penny Pickwick” and “Oliver Twiss”, selling as many as 50,000 a week. In 1837, Dickens’s publishers Chapman & Hall sued Lloyd for stealing their readership and thus their profits with his cheap imitations.

They lost the case and Dickens reputedly said “I was made to feel like the robber instead of the robbed”. Lloyd’s defence: his books were so bad no one could mistake them for the real thing.

The Dickens versions were just a small part of his output. Lloyd also published a huge number of ‘romances’ featuring highwaymen, pirates and vampires, later termed ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ or ‘Penny Bloods.’ The most famous are “String of Pearls” that introduced Sweeny Todd to the world and “Varney the Vampyre.”   Between 1836 and 1856 Lloyd published more than 200 stories of varying lengths. Many of his books were targeted at a female readership.

At this time stringent taxation levied on newspapers, so called ‘taxes on knowledge’, effectively put them out of the reach of the poor.  When Lloyd decided to start a newspaper he had to be creative and resourceful.

Seeing the success of The Illustrated London News launched in May 1842 that cost 6d, Lloyd decided to bring out a cheap version, inserting the name Lloyd’s and calling it Lloyd’s Illustrated London News (he even used the same backdrop at the masthead.) It was launched in the Autumn of 1842.

To keep the price down and avoid the ‘tax on knowledge’ sometimes called the ‘tax on seditious literature’ the newspaper contained no news.  It was purely a work of fiction – or news from centuries before.  But after just 6 editions Lloyd was told he had to pay the tax or shut down his newspaper.  He opted to pay the tax.

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Lloyd must have guessed the Government was going to have to concede the taxes that put the price of newspapers beyond the reach of the poor eventually.  Keeping Lloyds Weekly going during the first seven years was very hard.  However once the taxes had gone Lloyd was ideally placed to expand circulation.

Another consequence of the taxes was that they held back the speed and efficiency of newspaper production in Britain because the presses had to be fed with cut sheets rather than reels of paper.  The development of machines to print newspapers fed by reels of paper had forged ahead in the USA and Lloyd lost no time in importing the first Hoe machine.  The first issue of ‘Lloyd’s Weekly’ to be printed with it was on 6 July 1856.  It wasn’t until the tax on paper was dropped in 1861 that Lloyd could sell his paper for 1d, as was his dream from the outset.  This led to a dramatic increase in circulation from 170k in 1861 to 500k in 1863.

Circulation of Lloyd’s Weekly continued to rise after the death of Edward Lloyd in 1890.  Two of Edward Lloyd’s sons, Frank and Arthur, took over the papers. On 16 February 1896 Lloyd’s Weekly finally broke the million mark.  It was the first Fleet Street newspaper to do so.

In 1918, just before the end of the war, Frank Lloyd sold both The Daily Chronicle and Lloyd’s Weekly. Ironically, the man who was effectively its new owner also had the name Lloyd; David Lloyd George – but that, as they say, is another story.

Much of the information here about Lloyd’s Weekly comes from Thomas Catling’s autobiography ‘My Life’s Pilgrimage’ (1911). Catling joined the paper as an apprentice and worked his way up to become its editor.

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A young Catling

The story of Edward Lloyd has special relevance to St Bride’s Foundation as Lloyd spent much of his working life in Salisbury Square. Another connection is that Catling’s farewell party, after working at Lloyd’s Weekly for over 50 years took place at St Bride’s Institute (1 Jan 1907).

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Thank you to Joy Vick for the words. You can read more about Edward Llloyd here.

The Parcels of Charles Griffin and Co. – Illustration blocks of Criminal Prisons.

If you follow us on social media, you may have recently seen a photo of some rather old looking, unopened parcels that we have upstairs in Room 19.

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These are dated from around 1860 onward and contain numerous illustration blocks from the publishing company, Charles Griffin and Co. The majority of the engravings were made for educational publications, covering topics such as botany, anatomy, astrology and also social studies.

Charles Griffin and Co. was established in 1852 after Charles, the nephew of John Joseph Griffin, took over the publishing side of the family company. Prior to this acquisition, the business ran as a partnership, also providing chemical apparatus for the science industry.  The scientific side of the business was continued by his uncle under the name ‘J. J. Griffin & Sons.’.

We have dozens of these parcels that have remained untouched since they were obtained by the library. Only three have ever been fully opened.

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One of the main reasons we haven’t opened every parcel we have in the archives is that each one must be approached meticulously and carefully. Every individual item must be cataloged and then sorted to ensure that it is preserved for the future. Even the simple, seemingly useless things inside are of value to us, as they provide extra information about the artefacts and also add a little bit more to the narrative.

IMG_0901These brown pages were wrapped around the blocks in numerous layers, turning our exploration into a game of pass the parcel – albeit with no music or screaming kids. One of the sheets was the front page of an English grammar book, titled The Heart’s-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse. This was written by the elusively named ‘A Lady Teacher’, and was likely to be a very exciting page-turner for the ‘very young children’ which it was made for. Interestingly, this book was published by Richard Griffin and Co. in 1854 – another fragment of the Griffin family tree. Maybe the choice of wrapping paper symbolises some sort of family rivalry?

The chosen parcel was labelled ‘Criminal Prisons’. Inside were a number of engravings, that were all used as illustrations for a publication called The Criminal Prisons of London : and Scenes of Prison Life. Written in 1862 by Henry Mayhew and John Binny, it was the final volume in a series of books which provided information on ‘the lower phases of London life’.

female convicts in brixton prisonDuring these times, photography was rarely used to illustrate books. The engravings therefore also provide a technological insight into publishing and how people were educated by print.

According to the preface, written by ‘Stationers’ Hall Court’, Mayhew’s book gives readers an understanding of London’s prisons at a significant stage in their history. It states that ‘Prisons were formerly hotbeds of vice’ and that ‘reformation was a thing unknown’. However, The Criminal Prisons of London was produced at a time when these institutions began to change their role and function. Prisons were now ‘places of punishment, where idleness was banished’. At the same time, they also became a place of labour, where a strong work-ethic was rewarded. You can actually see from the engravings how this balance became a fundamental aspect of the prison experience.

prisoner at work making shoes in seperate cell

In these images, we have also included prints that were used in the book. This should give you better idea of the technical skill on show.

returning to the hulks from their labour in the arsenal

the escapepage cannon balls

One of the most striking engravings inside the box was ofa bird’s-eye view of Millbank Prison (pictured below). Millbank first opened in 1816 as a National Penitentiary. The hexagonal structure also became a holding pen for prisoners before they were deported to Australia.

milbankMillbank was demolished in 1890. One reason for its demolition may be its architectural complexity. Some accounts state how even regular prison wardens would get lost among its many corridors. If you visit the prison’s location nowadays you will find the Tate Britain and Chelsea College of Art and Design.

chain room at millgate

We have dozens of these parcels that are still in their original packaging. They are not only visually pleasing, but also inherently fascinating, allowing us to understand more about publishing, illustration and Victorian educational writings.

Before we put the parcel back in the archives, we ran a quick proof in the workshop on our Dürer press. The block chosen was of the Wash house at Brixton Women’s Prison. Considering we have Wash House Poets returning to the Bridewell Bar on Monday, we felt it was rather appropriate.

brixton washouse print

15th Century Manuscripts – An exciting discovery during the restoration of the William Blades Library.


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While the reading room doors are closed, St Bride Library has been busy making an abundance of improvements. One of the first projects has been the restoration of the William Blades Library.

William Blades’ famous collection of books was purchased by the Foundation soon after his death. This was one of the first major collections of the library, ensuring that the building instantly became one of the finest sources of information on printing. However, this is not the only thing that makes it so special. The library is also an architectural facsimile of Blades’ personal library in Surrey.

Darren Cool Images

The team has been busy restoring the room to ensure that the layout is even more faithful to the original than before. We will be writing an article especially for this when the project is completed. Until then, we thought we would show you a very exciting discovery that happened along the way.

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These beautiful, handwritten manuscripts were found within the overhead cabinets in the library. Surprisingly, their existence was completely unknown to the current team. Nobody really knows of their provenance either, as the Blades catalogue has nothing about them.

IMG_0584However, we can still say a few things with confidence. Firstly, the manuscripts vary in their written language. Some are in Latin, which carried the linguistic function of religion in these times, while others are in European vernaculars such as Flemish and Dutch. They are also likely to be ‘book of hours’ dated from c.1450 onward. These common prayer books are the most prevalent surviving manuscripts from this time period.

The majority of the items that live within our walls are related to printing. Even the few religious texts that we do have are here as a demonstration of fine printing, or as a record of typography. These manuscripts are therefore quite special exceptions in our collection, exhibiting the meticulous work of scribes, whilst simultaneously providing the library catalogue with some paleography.

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As the restoration continues, an effort will go towards retrieving some more information about these books. The first question to ask may be, ‘why do we even have them?’. Meanwhile, I’m sure the team will now be keeping an eye out for any other hidden books or artifacts.