Past events

2017 Annual General Meeting

The 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Printing Historical Society was held on Wednesday 5 July at the St Bride Institute. During the formal business Dr Rachel Stenner was appointed as Membership Secretary, and a proposal to change the Society's constitution to recognise a new category of membership, Supporting Member, was approved.

The formal business was followed by a fascinating talk on the impact of American printing technology transfer on the UK by Michael Knies, Special Collections Librarian at the Weinberg Memorial Library, University of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The talk focused in particular on the (frequently questionable) antics of type foundries on both sides of the Atlantic during the latter part of the nineteenth century, when pirating of typeface and ornament designs was rife both in the UK and the USA, having been made much easier by the invention of electrotyping.

Conference on twentieth century printing history

A full report on this conference is included in Printing History News No 54.

On 30 and 31 March 2017 the Printing Historical Society, the Centre for Printing History and Culture and The National Print Museum, Dublin, organised a conference on twentieth century printing history entitled From craft to technology and back again: print’s progress in the twentieth century. The conference was hosted by the National Print Museum in Dublin.

During the twentieth century the printing industry underwent considerable change as it shifted from a craft-based trade to a technology-led profession, largely as a result of three major revolutions. In the composing room there was a move from hand- to machine composition followed by photo-setting and finally digital means of letter assembly; while in the press room printers experienced a shift from letterpress to off-set lithography and latterly digital methods of production.

These revolutions initiated both organisational and structural changes: compositors moved out of the printing office and re-located to trade typesetting houses; printers concentrated wholly on graphic reproduction and presswork; whilst design was undertaken by professional typographers working in private practice, remote from the trade typesetters or printing office. Change brought new methods of management into the industry and old grievances surfaced which often resulted in unrest, marking the twentieth century as an era of industrial disputes with the rise and demise of the print unions.

Education and training were seen as necessary in the management of change, with the advent of formal education for printers and the emergence of school-trained professional typographic designers who assumed a defined and prominent role in the preparation of printed products, which showcased typographic trends and new modes of graphic communication.

External factors also affected the industry including political upheaval, two world wars, fluctuating economies, international competition, politics and changing social values all impacted on print’s progress.

However, the end of the twentieth century also saw a revival of interest in craft techniques and an increase in the number of printers who chose not to be taken over by technology but held to older methods of production in order to satisfy a rising alternative market of customers seeking tradition and craft.

The programme was as follows:


GUEST SPEAKERProfessor Michael Twyman (University of Reading), Industrial photogravure: its influence on design 1920–50

Caroline Archer, Just like last time only better: a review of IPEX; Jürgen Bönig, who changed print? Gains and losses; Chris Hill, Printers and press freedom in modern Britain; Daryl Lim, From metal type to typewriter: case of the Plebeian newspaper in 1963; Pouya Jahanshahi, Harmony and discord: the visual language of Iranian graphic design; Patrick Goossens, The psychological profile of the Monotype caster; Katherine Walter, Letters in the light, the advent of photosetting as a new hybrid media technology; Trond Klevgaard, A reconsideration of narratives of New Typography in graphic design history, seen from the perspective of the Scandinavian printing trade.

PRINTERS’ QUESTION TIME – Chair: Anne Brady; Panel: Mary Plunkett, Gloria Kondrup, David Steele, Sean Sills.


Dermot McGuinne, From Colum Cille to Colmcille; Stephen Hoskins, The graphic screen print; John-Daniel Harrington, Form follows technology—the effects of type making technologies on type forms; Alex Cooper, Rose Gridneff, Andrew Haslam, An education in letterpress: from apprentice to design student; Gordon Johnson, The Eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica: an early twentieth-century example of disturbance in printing and publishing; Jessica Glaser, Beatrice Warde, May Lamberton Becker and Books Across the Sea; Robin Fuller, Uppercase, 1958–1961: British Typography in transition; Niall McCormack, Hiding in plain sight: Irish commercial label art, an overlooked letterpress aesthetic; Angela Griffith, Elizabeth Yeats, ‘art printing’ and the Cuala Press.

The members of the organising committee were: Professor Caroline Archer (Centre for Printing History & Culture); Anne Brady (National Print Museum, Dublin); Francis Cave (Printing Historical Society); Dr Christopher Hill (Centre for Printing History & Culture); Dr John Hinks (Printing Historical Society); Carla Marrinan (National Print Museum, Dublin); Sean Sills (National Print Museum, Dublin)

2016 Annual General Meeting

The 2016 Annual General Meeting of the Printing Historical Society took place at the St Bride Institute, London, on Wednesday 4 May. The formal business was followed by an informal discussion about priorities for the future work of the Society, especially in the light of the expected merger with the National Printing Heritage Trust.

2015 Annual General Meeting

The 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Printing Historical Society took place at the St Bride Institute, London, at 5.30 pm on Wednesday 10 June. The formal business of the meeting was followed by printing demonstrations in the Printing Workshop at St Bride by Pia Östlund.

2014 Annual General Meeting

The 2014 Annual General Meeting of the Society took place on Friday 16 May at the Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly in London. A report of the meeting is to be published in Printing History News No 43.

Society's 50th Anniversary Conference

The main event of the Society's 50th Anniversary year was the Anniversary Conference, held on 13 and 14 November 2014. The event was held at the Society's long-standing home in London, the St Bride Institute. Entitled Landmarks in Printing: from origins to the digital age, the conference was attended by over seventy participants. Activities at St Bride alongside the main conference programme included demonstrations of a new wooden hand-press built by Alan May, based upon the well-known drawing by Albrect Dörer, and demonstrations of nature printing by Pia Östlund.

Conference Programme

The final programme was as follows.

Day 1: Thursday 13 November

1030–1110GUEST SPEAKER: Christoph Reske: Did Johannes Gutenberg invent the hand mould: conclusions drawn from microscopic type comparisons of early prints.
1110–1140David Osbaldestin: Sanserif; the face of profit, purity and power.
1200–1230Persida Lazarevic: Landmarks in the printing of Illyrian books in the eighteenth century.
1230–1300Claire Bolton: A printing landmark – the first printed glossed Bible.
1400–1430Jon Melton: The typographic traveller.
1430–1500Melissa Morris + Chainy Folsom: Reimagining Incunables: how accessible digital technology illuminates the production process of Actoninus’ Summa Theologica.
1520–1550Riccardo Olocco: Scotus’ Great Primer Roman: ‘Helvetica’ of the Renaissance.
1550–1630GUEST SPEAKER: Nicolas Barker: The Invention of Printing: the Eyewitness's Account. [This paper was read by Caroline Archer on behalf of Nicolas Barker, who was indisposed.]
1700–1800GUEST SPEAKER: Michael Twyman: Chromolithography.
1800–1930RECEPTION + BOOK LAUNCH + TALK: Andrew Boag: The Monotype Corporation.

Day 2: Friday 14 November

1030–1110GUEST SPEAKER: Lotte Hellinga: How William Caxton designed his books.
1110–1140Alix Christie: Reads from her novel, Gutenberg’s apprentice
1200–1230Elizabeth Upper: Manuscript to press to binding: red frisket sheets and the creation of colour printing, c. 1490–1630.
1230–1300Karina de la Garza-Gil: Material evidence in Cologne incunabula 1465–1501.
1400–1430Caroline Archer: The making of a printer: the advent of technical education in the printing industry.
1430–1500Roger Gaskell + Caroline Duroselle-Melish: Papillon, Diderot and the renaissance of the woodcut in the eighteenth century.
1520–1550James Clough: A close look at Bodoni and his Latin types.
1550–1630CHAIRMAN’S TALK: John Hinks: Printing history and the ‘spatial turn’: how early printers chose their location.

2013 Annual General Meeting

The 2013 Annual General Meeting was held on Wednesday 8 May at the St Bride Foundation, London, and attracted slightly more members than in recent years. The formal business was followed by a fascinating opportunity to view selected treasures from the St Bride Library collections, notably the Blades Library.

Industry and Genius in the Printing Trade

A conference organised jointly by the Printing Historical Society and the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design

4–5 September 2012, Birmingham School of Art, Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BX

Between the Hall of Memory and Baskerville House in Birmingham stands a sculptural tribute to John Baskerville. On the columns of Portland Stone are reversed bronze letters spelling ‘Virgil’, the Roman poet whose works were printed by Baskerville in 1757 in the famous typeface that bears his name. A poem in praise of the printer appeared in the Aris’s Gazette in 1751, entitled ‘Industry and Genius’ from which the sculpture takes its name.

This successful conference examined the contribution made by printers, processes and products to their industry and the wider political and cultural world.

Main presentations in the final programme

Malcolm Dick – ‘The Republic of Learning’: John Baskerville and the Enlightenment

Paul Laidler – Digital publications and technical innovations: the collaborative print studio in the digital age

Vaibhav Singh – British compositors and the Devanagari script, 1796–1896

Caroline Lafitte – ‘Forced to pump bread’: Grub Street plagiarism and the first women's periodical

Brian Foster – The Coalbrookdale Hoard

Caroline Archer – Leonard Jay and the Birmingham School of Printing

Anne Brady – The Queen's primer

Val Loggie – ‘Both useful, elegant and ornamental’: James Bisset's Magnificent Directories of Birmingham

Geff Pulaski – The Grasshopper

John Hinks – Eighteenth century provincial printing in its urban context

David Osbaldestin – The making of the Baskerville and Caslon animations

2012 Annual General Meeting

The 2012 Annual General Meeting was held on Wednesday 16 May at the St Bride Foundation, London.

In addition to the regular formal business, the Annual General Meeting agreed a proposal to establish a new Officer post of Publications Secretary, in effect to make the post of chair of the Publications Sub-Committee into an elected post with a three-year term of office.

The results of elections were as follows. Paul Nash was elected as the new Publications Secretary and Sandro Jung was elected as the Journals Editor. The following were elected to the Committee: Sebastian Carter, Victoria Gardner (Journal Book Reviews Editor), Richard Lawrence and James Mosley.

Following the formal business of the AGM, Michael Twyman gave an excellent illustrated talk entitled “Chromolithography: the critical years”.

2011 Annual General Meeting

The 2011 Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday 12 April at the St Bride Foundation, London.

The following members of the committee retired by rotation in 2011 and, being willing to stand for a further term, were re-elected: Martin Andrews, Andrew Boag, Giles Mandelbrote.

Following the formal business of the AGM, Professor Ian Rogerson, Honorary Research Fellow at the John Rylands Institute, University of Manchester, gave a talk entitled Book Illustration: the Search for Affordable Colour. Professor Rogerson is a former University Librarian, Manchester Metropolitan University, and is author of monographs on Agnes Miller Parker and Barnett Freedman.

2010 Annual General Meeting

The 2010 Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday 27 April 2010 at 5.30pm at the St Bride Foundation, London. Elections were held for the following officers:

Hon. Chairman: Dr John Hinks
Hon. Treasurer: Mr Andrew Dolinski
Hon. Secretary: Mr Francis Cave
Hon. Membership Secretary: Dr Catherine Armstrong
Hon. Journal Editor: Mr John Trevitt (who retired by rotation and was willing to stand again)

The election of these five officers was proposed by Richard Lawrence and seconded by Michael Twyman, and was welcomed by the meeting.

The following members of the committee retired by rotation in 2010 and are willing to stand for a further term: Ken Brooks, Richard Lawrence, Paul W. Nash, James Mosley and Peggy Smith.

After the meeting Dr John Hinks spoke on 'Printing: a Revolutionary History'.

Other past events

Annual General Meeting, 2009
The 2009 Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday 12 March 2009 at 5.30pm at St Bride Foundation, London. The Meeting was followed by a talk by Dr Cristina Dondi on The two earliest illustrated books of Hours: Verona: Boninus de Boninis 1481 and Venice: Georgius Arrivabene and Paganinus de Paganinis, 1 Apr.1485.

Alan May's One-pull press demonstration
Tuesday 6 May 2008, 18.30 - 20.00
The British Library Conference Centre

Johann Gutenberg's printing press, which brought about the dawn of mass communication is of barely equalled significance in the development of human culture. His achievement reached its pinnacle with the printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455.
A new documentary 'The Machine That Made Us', presented by Stephen Fry, was screened on BBC4 in Spring 2008, and excerpts were featured in this event. For the programme, and in order to unravel mysteries of Gutenberg's technique, a team of experts built a unique copy of his press: watched it action at the event, alongside discussion of the remarkable story behind its invention.
Speakers included Alan May (printing expert and press builder), Martin Andrews (University of Reading) and Patrick McGrady (Wavelength Films)

Annual General Meeting, 2008
The 2008 Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday 22 April 2008 at 5.00 at the St Bride Library.

Hot Metal to Hot Keys: Fifty years of turmoil 1950-1999

PHS Conference, 22 & 23 April 2008, St Bride Library, London

The conference specifically addressed the overwhelming changes in the British printing industry during the second half of the twentieth century. Day one featured the changes brought about by flexography, gravure and print on demand, and the roles of 20th-century apprenticeships. Day two continued the theme of changes in technology but featured a ‘film festival’ of fascinating and informative archival films bringing the past alive.

List of speakers on Day 1, and their papers:
Rob Clayton, Significant extracts from the award entries of the Donald Milham Awards
Anthony White, Against the tide: the replacement of letterpress by
flexo at the Daily Mail in the 1990s
R. O. Bradley, John Crosfield C.B.E., D.Sc., M.A., his company’s contribution to the advances in printing technology
Brian Reynolds, Commentary to film ‘Inside Sun Printers Ltd 1938’
Bernard Catterall, At the sharp end
Peter Milham, Apprenticeships were special
Antony White, Print on Demand? Can it be that easy?

Rob Banham introduced the second day’s programme and talked about his research on films showing some clips. Viewing of Pen-ruling: a vanishing craft, 1985 (15mins).
Mick Stocks talked about his experiences of the CRTronic typesetting system – discussing advantages and disadvantages, the mystical coding used and the problems of specification and design.
Martin Andrews outlined the evolution of ‘strike-on’ composition, and the dominance of Letraset from the 1960s to 1980s. He explored the impact of these mediums on low-budget production and the democratization of typesetting.
Ann Pillar explored how type manufacturers produced publicity for
changing technology.

Printing on film: The creation of a printing type from the design to the print by Fredrick W. Goudy, c. 1935 (11 mins). Spot News, 1937 (9 mins); the sending of photographic images by telephone for printing as half-tones. Learning to set type, 1959 (10 mins).
Printing on film: Farewell etaoin shrdlu: an age-old printing process gives way to modern technology, 1978 (29 mins). The last day of linotype hot metal composition at the New York Times.
Printing on film: The art and technique of photo-engraving, c. 1950 (29
mins). From hot metal to cold type, c. 1955 (25 mins). Looking at litho, c. 1955 (23 mins).

Annual General Meeting, 2007
The 2007 Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday 27 March 2007 at 5.00 at the St Bride Library. At 5.30 Tony Edwards, Professor of Textual Studies at DeMonfort University, spoke on 'Directions in the study of English incunables'.

3&4 July 2006: Jobbing printing; the stuff of life

In 2006, the PHS and The Ephemera Society joined forces for a two-day conference at The University of Reading on the theme of the jobbing printer and his work. There was a reception the evening of 2 July, and on the 3rd a day of papers. On Tuesday the 4th the conference moved to the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, which houses the Centre for Ephemera Studies, for short talks, demonstrations and the opportunity to explore the Maurice Rickards Collection of ephemera. The University Library's John Lewis Collection of ephemera was also featured.

Speakers on Monday 3 July included James Mosley, Rob Banham on lottery printing, Barry McKay on chapbooks, Patrick Frazer on George Madeley, Mary Ann Bolger on Catholic memorial cards, Patricia Thomas on ephemera's role in 19th-century emigration, Graham Hudson on the Printers' International Specimen Exchange, and Paul Shaw on W.A. Dwiggins. On Tuesday, somewhat less formal talks were given by Michael Twyman, Johan de Zoete, Claire Bolton, Maurice Collins and Sebastian Carter.

At the AGM for 2006, John Tuck, Head of British Collections at the British Library, gave an illustrated lecture, 'From ephemera to icon: enhancing access to the British Library'.

On March 10th 2005, Robert Faber of Oxford University Press gave an illustrated lecture, 'The Oxford DNB and scholarly publishing 1882–2004', following the Society's AGM.

The 2004 PHS Conference

Conference 2004: Printing and the worlds of learning
5 and 6 January 2004, at Downing College Cambridge

The Printing Historical Society, in association with the Cambridge Bibliographical Society and the Textbook Colloquium, held its 2004 Conference. In addition to the papers delivered, participants had opportunities to visit the famous Wren Library at Trinity College Cambridge, the recently built Quinlan Terry Library at Downing College, the Rampant Lions Press, and at Cambridge University Library, Stanley Morison's Library and the 'bibliographical' press.

The conference theme related printing and printing history to education and learning. Printing has contributed to learning at all levels and to the educational sector since its inception in a wide variety of ways. This conference considered the past, present and future of these relationships.

Printing and universities: university printers, university presses and printing houses, university censorship of printing, printing history as an academic study, university libraries and printing history, bibliographical presses for training academics

Printing and schools: printing and literacy, printing and textbooks, school presses, training the printer

Printing and learning beyond academia: non-university printing museums and libraries; private and fine presses; printing and self-help; printing as rehabilitation.

The list of speakers and their papers:
Paul Hoftijzer, Jobbing printing in Leiden during the seventeenth-century
Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, Defining place: textbooks and identity in Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities
Judy Ivy, Sir Frank Short: prints and printmaking beyond the classroom
Lucy Lewis, Page design and commentary formats in early printed books
Paul Luna, Type for lexicography
Lisa Maruca, 18th-century technologies of learning: the how-to manual and print
Henry Notaker, Printer or cook? The role of the printer in early modern cookbook publishing
Martyn Ould, Stanley Morison & Oxford University Press
Robert Ritter, The Clarendon Press and the origins of Oxford house style
Nicola Robson, Design for children's reading: the style and influence of the Isotype Institute
Jan Roegiers, The first Leuven University Press (1759–1797)
Fred Schurink, Printing for the grammar schools in Elizabethan and Jacobean England
Chris Stray, Paper wraps stone: the beginnings of educational lithography
Patricia Ann Thomas, Printer to/for/at the University
Daniel Wakelin, The first printed classics, the schoolroom and the vernacular
Sue Walker, The tales the letters tell: typography in children's readers 1830–1960