St Bride Foundation marked the 125th anniversary of the St Bride Library at an event held last night (25 November).

Held at the Foundation’s premises, which is located off Fleet Street in London, the event offered attendees a private view of a new exhibition celebrating the library’s first 125 years, as well as tours of the building.

The exhibition provides a potted history of the Foundation, demonstrating the vital role of the library within its activity and highlighting the original activities of the Foundation, with the purpose-built print school and sporting and social clubs, as well as a swimming pool.

Items on show include the Foundation’s collections, examples of the work of its print school students, and punches and type-founding equipment from the likes of Caslon and Figgins.

Speaking at the event, Foundation librarian Sophie Hawkey-Edwards said: “During the Covid interlude we used the time at home to plan our 125th anniversary and ran a crowdfunding campaign to support this.

“Thanks to the generosity of our community we were able to raise over £65,000 so massive thanks to all of you who supported us, not just for your money but for your time, advice and outpourings of love for our collections. The online campaign was as much about feeling a connection to our friends as it was about raising the all-important funds that we needed.

“The aim of our campaign was both marking our anniversary with a celebration of who we are and where we’ve come from, and also planning our future.

“Our quasquicentennial has therefore focused on securing St Bride Foundation’s future, from pursuing our mission to become a centre for research, inspiration, cultural connections and creative networks; a place for education and skills development.”

The funding will help the Foundation to reach a wider audience by digitising key parts of its archive, with its collections going online for people to access at leisure.

St Bride Library first opened its doors to readers in November 1895 – the 125th birthday celebration was delayed by a year due to the pandemic – and houses one of the world’s most significant collections of books about printing, typography, papermaking and graphic design.

From the late 1950s, the collections expanded to include many of the physical objects of printing and type-founding, including presses, punches, matrices and type-casting equipment.

It includes 15th century books printed by William Caxton, and more modern-day items of note including Edward Johnston’s artwork for his iconic London Underground signage and the UK road signs designed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir.

It also holds the collection of printing papers amassed by the late Printweek columnist Lawrence Wallis over the course of more than half a century.


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