Collections housed by the University Special Collections relating to the British book industry form a valuable resource for the study of all aspects of book production and printing. As a whole, these form the Archive of British Printing and Publishing, which is officially Designated by Arts Council England as an outstanding collection.

The Lettering, printing and graphic design collections held by the Department of Typography represent one of the most important in the country for the study of book design and the history of literary production.

At Special Collections, the rare book collections form a valuable resource for the study of all aspects of book production and printing, from the earliest days of print to contemporary book jacket design.


In 1936, the University’s School of Art hired local artist Robert Gibbings to teach an advanced course in Design applied to Typography and Book Design. By the outbreak of the Second World War, the University cemented a national reputation as a centre for design and typography. It has enjoyed a long-standing association with book design ever since.

The University’s interest in collecting archives related to printing, publishing, and the book trade began in the mid-twentieth century, as awareness of the cultural value of publishing archives grew, in part due to the rise of television. Collecting began in earnest in the 1960s. Collections of books and printed material grew in parallel.


Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection

The Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection is the most comprehensive archive of the work of the Isotype movement. It documents methods of designing and disseminating data that have played a major role in twentieth-century graphic design thinking. Given to the University of Reading by Marie Neurath in 1971, the Isotype Collection includes documents, correspondence, published works, and artefacts relating tot the history, principles, working methods, and products of the movement, from its begginings in 1920s Vienna through to its later incarntions in The Hague, Oxford and London.

Longman Group Archive

The Longman Group is the successor to the oldest publishing house in the United Kingdom. The collection contains over 1000 boxes of material, including ledgers, letters and papers, detailing the history of the firm from the late eighteenth century to the 1970s.

John and Griselda Lewis Collection

John Lewis was one of the most influential figures in the study of printed ephemera, who combined his role as a lecturer in graphic design at the Royal College of Art with the authorship of several publications on printing and book design. Lewis married Griselda Rideout (1917-2014) in 1940. Griselda Lewis was a noted writer, book designer and ceramics collector. The majority of the collection (c.86 boxes) consists of over 20,000 examples of printed matter, ranging from leaves of medieval manuscripts to twentieth century postcards, trade cards and exhibition catalogues.

Printing Collection

A collection of over 1500 published items relevant to the study of printing, typography and book design. The collection was formed to facilitate teaching the history of graphic design. There are books, journals and periodicals. The collection also contains ten incunables, including the oldest book held by Special Collections, Ruralia commoda by Petrus de Crescentius (1471).