The Type Archive holds the National Typefounding Collection, purchased with grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund; broadly comprising; 1. the typefounding materials of the Sheffield typefounders, Stephenson Blake, a collection dating from 16th century London typefounders to their 20th century counterparts; 2. the hot-metal archive and plant of the Monotype Corporation, operating from Salfords in Surrey from 1897, and in London's Lambeth from 1992 to date; and 3. the Woodletter pattern collection and plant of Robert DeLittle in York from 1888, and in Lambeth from 1996.
The Type Archive holds the National Typefounding Collection, purchased with grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund; broadly comprising 1. the typefounding materials of the Sheffield typefounders, Stephenson Blake; 2. the hot-metal archive and plant of the Monotype Corporation; and 3. the Woodletter pattern collection and plant of Robert DeLittle.
In 1992, after successfully rescuing the hot-metal plant and stock of the Monotype Corporation, Susan Shaw founded the Type Museum Trust at 100 Hackford Road in South London. The Type Museum Trust subsequently rescued and acquired Stephenson Blake & Co. and Robert DeLittle collections.
For thirty years The Type Museum – later renamed the Type Archive (TA) – has been kept going by the efforts of its Trustees, a loyal group of volunteers, customers who need its products, and interested members of the public. The TA has continued to make and maintain all the machinery by which letterpress printing is enabled, and preserve the skills that go with it. The TA Trustees are very grateful to all who have made this possible.
Over the last few years, the TA has struggled to achieve the income required to keep going. Recent worsening economic conditions have made that even more challenging. The Stockwell premises requires significant investment to tackle a backlog of substantial repairs, improve accessibility, and ensure the safe use and preservation of the collections,
The TA Trustees have been looking at a number of options that would house the collections in an improved environment. However, none of these options have provided a viable solution and there is no realistic prospect of sourcing the significant funding required in the short or medium term to address the repairs, accessibility and the care of the collection issues.
The TA will surrender the SMG loan of the Monotype Collection, made when the collection was purchased with funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF). The Stephenson Blake collection, which was also purchased with NHMF funding, will be loaned by the V&A as interim custodian to the SMG. The DeLittle collection was donated to the TA and conversations regarding its future home are ongoing.
Members of the public can already access a proportion of the Monotype Collection online, following a major cataloguing and digitisation programme by the SMG, which has created more than 5,800 records, including new photographs and insights. See Science Museum blog
Before the collections are moved to the National Collections Centre, the SMG will be inviting TA volunteers to participate in oral history interviews and a film to supplement the written and photographic work already done by the TA. These measures will help ensure some record of typefounding manufacture at the TA is captured and preserved.
The Monotype Collection sits within the Printing and Writing section of the Science Museum Group Collection and contains more than 2 million individual items, including a comprehensive archive, around 100 machines, patterns and matrices, and over 4,000 drawers of punches.
The Stephenson Blake Collection will be the responsibility of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) on an interim basis and consists of the stock, plant and archive of Stephenson Blake and Co Ltd, Sheffield, the last commercial type foundry in the United Kingdom. The Stephenson Blake Collection comprises 2.5 million artefacts relating to typefounding from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, together with a library of type specimens and business records.
The DeLittle Collection is currently owned by the TA, comprises the collection of machinery and wood type patterns of the York factory of Robert DeLittle, formerly the largest manufacturer of wood type in the UK.
Over three decades the TA has staged open days, conducted tours, hosted school groups, members of the public have had escorted visits, students and independent researchers from around the world have had unprecedented study access.
The SMG’s cataloguing and digitising part of the Monotype Collection has made certain artefacts accessible to anyone via the internet. Access to the Monotype Collection for researchers will in the future be provided at the National Collections Centre, in line with other access to the Science Museum Group Collection.
SMG plan to record the unique skills for manufacturing Monotype punches and matrices by filming the process and by carrying out oral history interviews with the TA’s experienced volunteers.
Significant and immediate investment is required to upgrade and maintain the Stockwell premises and there is no prospect of such funding.
The Type Archive is home to the art of printed words. We hold an amazing collection of letterpress fonts in metal and wood which celebrates the joy of printing: the craft that has served as the fundamental basis of modern civilisation and graphic design.
While modern typefoundries are entirely digital (Monotype.com) the Type Archive's collection spans the nearly 600 year period when the foundry cut letters in steel, drove them into brass blanks, and cast lead type from them in molten lead.