Review of 2023: Lettering, Printing and Graphic Design Collection

2023 has seen continued and growing interest in the Lettering, Printing and Graphic Design Collection (LPGDC) for research, outreach and education.

Highlights include visits from academic researchers from overseas, the EU and within the UK to the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection (13 days in total); and to the ephemera collections (6 days in total). 2023 has also seen an increase in collections-related events requested by societies and groups. We hosted the Society for Historical Geological Maps Group who were interested in printing process materials and lithography. The 20th Century Society viewed items from the Isotype Collection; Edward Wright materials; and from the Greig Aviation Collection. The Friends of the University spent an afternoon looking at and discussing our rich collection of ephemera relevant to the history of Reading and the New Baxter Society visited for their AGM.

The Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing (CBCP) held its inaugural Summer School ‘Cultures of the book: lithography, consumption, reading’ in Typography & Graphic Communication with research-led talks and discussions based on material from the LPGDC (see image above with examples of book-related ephemera) and stone lithography practical sessions.

A Collections Assistant working over the summer contributed to updating our current collections listings and making new ones. Thanks to her work we have new lists for the handwriting materials, Piech posters and the C19/early C20 newspaper collection. She also worked on the curation, design and install of the ‘Up in Arms’ exhibition (C20 protest posters and ephemera) as part of the CBCP annual conference.

The research value of the LPGDC has been affirmed through research student interest and it has been pleasing to note that, as the Design Star CDT reaches the end of its life, 7 funded PhDs (out of 13 awarded) have been inspired by the LPGDC and related collections. This is in addition to 12 other PhD students funded from other sources in this period who also conduct collections-based research under our supervision. PhD titles include: ‘The early typographic representation of the Persian language’, ‘A new method of analysing printed type: the case of 15th-century Venetian romans’, ‘The discourse in early digital type design technologies’, ‘Better museum maps: an empirical study comparing the appeal and effectiveness of graphic design approaches’ and ‘Networks, artefacts, and technology: nineteenth-century Muslim lithographers, missionaries, and colonialism in the Malay archipelago’.

Much of the material from the LPGDC continues to be used in teaching in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, including twentieth-century posters for the National Theatre, by David King and those from the Swiss collection; manuscript and incunable fragments; ephemera collections – menus; Chinese-themed ephemera, Chinese ephemera; Greig Aviation material; print – intaglio tools and examples; Forms Information Centre material and the newly-named Typeface Collection representing world scripts. Staff and students from other parts of the University have studied May ’68 protest posters; ephemera relating to landscape and coastlines and to punk bands; and the Palmer papyrus.

Undergraduate and postgraduate student access in T&GC has increased over the year as more students use material from the LPGDC for essays and dissertations. Topics have included Emigré magazines and type specimens; commercial art / early 20th design magazines; walking guides and guide books; Malayalam hanging folders; WWI and WWII posters and related items from the ephemera collections; Double Crown Club menus; shipper’s labels and books on history of labels.

Sue Walker, Director of the Lettering, Printing and Graphic Design Collection
Emma Minns, Assistant Curator