A historical Albion printing press has been gifted to Bath Spa University and will take pride of place at the University’s Corsham Court campus in Corsham, Wiltshire.
The iconic iron press is hand-operated and was originally designed by Richard Whittaker Cope in London in 1820. With its simple toggle-action mechanism, Albion presses were generally used for commercial book printing until the middle of the nineteenth century.
The press donated to Bath Spa was manufactured between 1840-45 by Hopkinson & Cope, and was generously donated by Michael Turner, formerly Head of Conservation at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. The gift was secured by Professor Ian Gadd, whose PhD on the English book trade was supervised by Michael.
The printing press was unveiled at a special launch event attended by prestigious poet JH Prynne who entertained guests with a reading from his upcoming book of poems. Other speakers included world-renowned artist, Bruce McLean, poet, John James, and Bridget Heal, who runs QoD Press and is a former student of the Bath Academy of Art. Guests were then treated to a demonstration of the printing press before they had an opportunity to operate it themselves.
There was also a chance to view an exhibition, curated by Michael Pennie, resident artist at Corsham, and Dr Katie Rickard, Subject Librarian at Bath Spa University.
A colourful display of books and prints were also on display, including unique and rare examples from the Early Printed Books handling collection, as well as beautiful examples of Albion press printing by various artists and print-makers, some made especially for the event.
Ian Gadd, Professor in English Literature at Bath Spa University gave a talk on the history and importance of making books. He said: “We are very grateful to Michael Turner for his generous donation of a nineteenth-century printing press to Bath Spa University.
“Printing always makes an occasion of a text, and his gift enabled a joyous celebration of poetry, art, and print. The afternoon brought together poets and writers, artists and designers, printers and typographers, scholars and readers to view a wonderful exhibition of beautifully printed books, to hear new poems from the great J.H. Prynne, to learn about the fizz of creative collaboration—and of course to print on the Michael Turner Albion Press.”
The press, which has been named the Michael Turner Albion Press, will bring together Bath Spa University staff and students through teaching demonstrations, practical workshops, student and staff projects, and other creative and scholarly events. It will offer students of art, design, literature, history, media communications, cultural studies, publishing, education and others the opportunity to learn not only about printing technology, but also about the press as a social and cultural agent.
This is not the first printing press to be gifted to Bath Spa – the University is also the proud custodian of a rare and unique set of Chinese lead letterpress and trays, thought to be the only set of its kind in Europe, located at the Sion Hill campus in Bath.