Leonard Jay Collection

Scope and Content

Materials relating to Leonard Jay and his career at the Birmingham School of Printing. Including his apprenticeship indenture; City and Guilds certificate; testimonials and tributes; and substantial correspondence, 1950-1963 between Jay and Arnold Yates an amateur printer and friend of Jay. Papers, 1916-1940, relating to the internationally famous London printer George W. Jones (1860-1942), for many years editor and proprietor of The Printing World , and a great influence on Jay. A more recent deposit includes twenty-nine specimens of original artwork used at the Birmingham School.

Although they cover only the final years of Jay's working life, the letters to Yates are important for the light which they shed on the philosophy behind his craftsmanship. Jay believed that good printing did not have to be set by hand, and that, given first rate technique, machine produced work could be of as high a quality as hand set books.

Administrative / Biographical History

Leonard Jay 1888-1963 was born into a family steeped in the printing tradition, and from 1905 when he was apprenticed to the educational printers Hodgson and Son, he devoted his life to the craft, becoming one of Birmingham's most eminent printers whose work achieved high fame in the history of typography. After teaching typography part-time from 1912 and then full time at the London County Council Central School of Arts and Crafts, Jay was appointed first head of the Birmingham School of Printing (now part of the Matthew Bolton Technical College) in 1925, remaining there until he retired in 1953. Under his direction the students there produced about 192 books and pamphlets, many on hand made paper, which became internationally famous for their exquisite beauty and fastidious craftsmanship.

Reference: The University of Birmingham, Research Libraries Bulletin ( Number 1. Winter 1994 ).


Chronological within broad series as described above.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

This collection was purchased by the University of Birmingham Library in 1987 with assistance from the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund. A later deposit was made by Lawrence Wallis, author of the standard published appreciation of Leonard Jay and bibliography of the Birmingham School.

Other Finding Aids

Please see online catalogue for further details.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

The University Library holds a nearly complete set of the publications listed in L.W. Wallis' bibliography of the Birmingham School of Printing. Catalogue reference may be found on the Library's OPAC Catalogue.