The collections at St Bride Library fall into two classes: general and special collections. A cross-section of the Library's vast number of books is available in the reading room on open shelves. The holdings of works in English are comprehensive, and the history and practice of printing and the book trade in other countries are well represented. There are extensive collections of examples of the work of notable printers, of illustration processes, of text composition, and of the use of special types.

Current issues of many of the Library's periodicals are available in the reading room on open shelves. They range from the major British and overseas technical journals, to journals of graphic design, printing and book trade history, bibliography, and craft printing and binding. The Library also holds many more titles, including trade directories and many rare and out-of-print periodical publications, often unavailable elsewhere.

The Library offers a number of titles on CD-ROM, including the PIRA Paper, Printing & Packaging database.

An appointment should be made for the use of long runs of periodicals, material on microfilm or fiche, early printed books, manuscripts and special collections. To make an appointment, contact the Library.

General Collections

There are about 50,000 books and pamphlets in the general collection with periodical and directory literature comprising around 3,500 titles. There is a near comprehensive collection of the core subjects in English, and a strong compilation of works in other languages. Material in the general collection can be found in the Library’s online catalogue. For a list of the top 100 main subject headings, please click here

Special Collections

There are nearly 200 special collections comprising discrete groups of material, archives from trade bodies or companies, collections on particular topics, or specialized forms of material — valentines, for example, or examples of early filmset text — and there are also manuscripts and drawings. Items in the special collections are not included in the Library’s online catalogue, but are found through calendars and list. Please see below for a representative list of special collections.

  • Almanacs, 160 London almanacs from the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Broadsides, 1,150 broadsides and ballad sheets from the 19th century, many printed by James Catnach
  • British Printing Industries Federation, several hundred minute books and other records of local master printers’ associations and their alliances.
  • Butler shorthand collection, An extensive collection of shorthand manuals from the 17th to 20th century, mainly in English, together with shorthand periodicals and general literature on the subject.
  • Caslon Foundry, 1,051 boxes of punches from the typefoundry begun by William Caslon with original inventories, albums of smoke proofs etc.
  • Chapbooks, 260 chapbooks, songbooks and reciters, mainly British, dating 1750–1900.
  • Chiswick Press, 2,600 woodblocks by Mary Byfield, plus punches, matrices and type for the proprietary founts of the press.
  • Computer Typesetting Research Project, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, the records of this government-funded investigation into new methods of composition.
  • W A Dwiggins collection, books, pamphlets and ephemera designed by William Addison Dwiggins.
  • Ephemera, 6,000 pieces including valentines, greetings cards, trade labels, menus, handbills, posters
  • Figgins Foundry, boxes of punches, matrices, and other typefounding equipment, plus legal documents of patents and articles of association, and miscellaneous correspondence.
  • Gill collection, sketches and rubbings of inscriptions, pamphlets by and about Gill, sketches, proofs and specimens of type and book designs, photographs, posters, calendars and other examples of Gill’s work.
  • Charles Griffin & Co Ltd, company literature and correspondence, plus 165 packets of late 19th century wood engravings.
  • Kinnear and Calvert road signs, original maquettes by Kinnear and Calvert for the current British road-transport signs.
  • Letraset, 164 boxes of hand-scribed master letterforms for typefaces.
  • Macmillan & Co Ltd, 28 albums of advance specimen pages for publications.
  • Newspaper Publishers Association, 239 files of papers recoding the work of the NPA from 1906–1975.
  • Oxford University Press, 170 cases and 950 packets of printing type from the 17th to 20th centuries, mostly cast at Oxford for printing western and oriental languages, including those known as the ‘Fell’ types.
  • Portraits, a collection of engravings, lithographs and photographs from 16th to 20th centuries depicting personalities in the printing and publishing trades
  • Printers Charitable Corporation, subscription records, accounts, deeds and other archives of the PCC from 1827 to 2000.
  • Printing Trades Alliance, minutes, annual reports and accounts of the PTA, 1918–89.
  • Trade documents, two substantial collections of early printing-trade ephemeral documents mainly concerning industrial relations.
  • Trade literature, extensive collections of literature on trade exhibitions, conferences and competitions; printing ink trade literature; bookcloth trade literature; printers’ and auxiliary services’ trade literature; printing; printing machinery and suppliers trade literature.
  • Type specimens, a major collection of nearly 10,000 items, books, pamphlets and single-sheet specimens. The collection of British type specimens is the largest in existence.
  • Lawrence Wallis collection, large collection of papers on type-setting developments form the traditional technologies through photo-setting to the year 2000.
  • Beatrice Warde collection, drafts, typescripts and texts of published work by Beatrice Warde, publicity manager of the Monotype Corporation and editor of the Monotype Recorder.
Printing and beyond