Last week I was invited to the private view of St Bride Unveiled – the latest must-see exhibit for design, typography and print geeks.
The St Bride Foundation was established in 1891 in the centre of the publishing hub on Fleet Street, but of course communication via typography and print go back a long way before then! St Bride is home to a large collection of historical items – I’d love to delve into the archive cupboard because who knows what you might find! But unfortunately a lot of the time this is where these amazing pieces stay; as hidden gems.
So when I heard that the newest exhibit at St Bride was going to be a showcase of items which have never been on public view in the same room before, I was pretty intrigued! And I wasn’t alone…
…Lucy & I found a room full of print enthusiasts all studying, admiring and discussing the pieces on display. The majority of pieces are from the 18th century onwards, but the oldest piece in the room is a fragment of the Egyptian Book of the Dead from around 1400BC – how amazing is that!? A piece of a book from Egyptian times, and it was in great condition – how has it survived all this time!? (Well, thanks to foundations like St Bride who protect our history.) It’s absolutely amazing and I’ve not included a photo so that you HAVE to go and see it for yourself 😉
I really loved The Japanese Village posters. Chromolithographs and letterpress, the layout, mix of type and image and content fascinates me. If only all circus posters looked this good!
Another piece that caught my eye was The Novus Atlas Sive Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Vol 1) – beautiful illustration and amazing colours – so bright and crisp! Staring at it for a while, Lucy & I noticed that you could see the imprint from the other pages – they don’t make books like that anymore!
Wine and decorative alphabets – the best way to spend a Tuesday evening if you ask me. The Pouchée alphabets are described ‘as the most ambitious and most beautiful types created in wood in any period’, and I definitely agree. I said to Lucy: ‘They’re so detailed, but what the hell would you use them for?’ – headlines and posters apparently! Louis John Pouchée produced over 40 different themed typefaces before being forced out of business by Caslon, and 23 of these survive at St Bride. The font on display looks to be the agricultural version, which pleased me being a country girl.
A flash of green up high caught my eye – 1 of 12 surviving hand produced maquettes made by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert (whose D&AD Presidents Lecture I recently enjoyed). It was used to present the new British Road signage system concept to the Ministry of Transport. That is some skilled scalpel cutting right there!
There is a range of pieces from typographers John Baskerville and Eric Gill, including these technical drawings of Gill Sans which are so detailed and beautiful.
So if that’s tickled your taste buds, get yourself down to St Bride to get a closer look at these amazing artefacts. The Unveiled exhibition is open now until 25th September (Monday – Friday 10.00 – 21.00; Saturday & Sunday 11.00 – 16.00), in the Layton Gallery in the basement of St Bride.
So which is your favourite piece, if you can choose just one that is. Thanks to St Bride for having us and to Oliver for the invite. St Bride is a foundation that relies on donations, so if you do visit don’t forget to donate and keep the legacy alive.