April 8

Early in 1891 there was set up in the Parish of St Bride in London a Foundation which was to be a center for educational and social activities in the area. This spot happened to be also the heart of the district which had contained, from the time of Wynkyn de Worde, the majority of the printing establishments in the city. As one of the functions of the newly formed Foundation was to establish a school for printers, the Secretary of the London Society of Compositors suggested that his organization attempt to secure the library of the eminent printer and typographic historian, William Blades. This library had recently become available following the death of its owner in 1890. A deputation representing St Bride’s examined the library and placed upon it a value of £975

When the Governing Board of the Foundation met for the first time on this day in 1891, the purchase of the library of William Blades was one of the principal items on the agenda. Since printing classes were to be a part of the program of the Foundation, permission was granted to provide half of the sum needed, with the stipulation that the remainder be obtained from other sources. With the help of printing firms and individuals in the craft, money was obtained and one of the great technical libraries in printing had received its start.

Of the other great libraries specializing in printing, the collection put together for American Type Founders Company by Henry Lewis Bullen is probably the most complete. This library is now the property of Columbia University. The Amsterdam Type Foundry maintains a magnificent collection of printing books, as does Enschedé en Zonen at Haarlem. While privately owned, both of these libraries are available for serious typographical studies. The Plantin Museum at Antwerp contains a fine library which has been virtually reorganized during the past dozen years. It is particularly strong in 16th century material relating to typefounding.

With the number of private collectors of technical books relating to printing growing year by year, it is indeed fortunate that there exist such well-established sources for the study of printing in all its aspects.

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