St Bride Library

One of the remarkable wooden pattern letters from the foundry of L. J. Pouchée, cut around 1823. These letters were part of the Caslon foundry collection, purchased by Monotype in 1936. These were later donated to the Oxford University Press, then to St Bride Library in 1973. 17 Line No. 2 (around 204 point). St Bride Library.


It would almost be impossible to imagine Commercial Classics without St Bride Library in London. For over 30 years, the partners and staff of Commercial Type have visited this specialist library just off Fleet Street, studying countless books, objects, and documents. Opened in 1895 by the governors of the recently formed St Bride Foundation, it has been one of the world’s greatest libraries dedicated to printing and the graphic arts for over a century.

Beginning with the acquisition of the libraries of famed Victorian printer, William Blades, and typefounder Talbot Baines Reed,Reed’s life is covered by James Mosley on his blog, 
 the collection has grown to over 90,000 volumes of books and periodicals dealing with all of the major aspects of industries related to print. Its special collections number well over 150, ranging from the unique drawings of Eric Gill and Matthew Carter, to the wooden pattern letters of Pouchée and the original handmade models of the British road signs by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert.

As type designers, we are especially drawn to its unparalleled collection of type specimens. Numbering over 10,000, they contain many unique volumes from the greats, including Bodoni, Fournier, and Baskerville. Under the foresight of the former librarian James Mosley,Mosley’s remarkable achievements and legacy are covered in an article in Eye Magazine /feature/article/james-mosley-a-life-in-objects
 the library collected what remained of two of the great foundries, Caslon and Figgins. With the library’s particular emphasis on the British firms of the nineteenth century, it is no surprise that this served as the initial focus of Commercial Classics. From this material we have been able to study not just the specimens of type, but the unique punches, matrices, and even proofs made during the manufacture of type. This allowed for a unique insight into these designs and, we believe, an authenticity to the faces of Commercial Classics. We hope that these will, in turn, fuel a new interest in St Bride Library and its collections, for despite the richness of its collections, it is less known than it should be.

Such rich collections as St Bride, which is funded by the independent Foundation and charitable donations from the public, is of course always in need of greater support. In recent years, the Friends of St Bride have organised countless events and lectures that raise valuable funds and continue the tradition of educating students, professionals, academics, and interested parties that began when the foundation first opened and included a trade school. 

We feel that the generosity we have received from the library, its staff, and volunteers deserves more than just our gratitude. With this in mind, we are donating a portion of all license sales from Commercial Classics to support the library. This constant stream will help to repay the enormous debt we owe.

We encourage you to support the library as well, by joining at