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Book Design

This collection of some 13,000 books represents the history of British book production from the time of Thomas Bewick to the present day.

It embraces the book as an artefact, with books being purchased for their design in addition to their content.

The main emphasis is on finely printed and illustrated books.

British private presses can be studied alongside commercial publishing from the late nineteenth century to date.

Currently viewing:
J Vassos, illustration from Humanities (1935)

© Estate of John Vassos

Examples of private presses include Circle, Essex House, Fleece, Golden Cockerel, Gregynog, Kelmscott, Nonesuch, Rampant Lions and Whittington. A strength of the collection is the work of British wood engravers, especially those working in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Eric Gill, John Farleigh, Agnes Miller Parker, Gwen Raverat and Claire Leighton. Twentieth century artists' books, books in which an artist has a major creative input, form about a tenth of the collection. Multiples, conceptual works, narrative books, and books as visual and verbal explorations can be browsed in a separate sequence. See separate page on Artists' Books.

A small number of original Livres d' artiste (hand made books with original prints, craft bindings, hand set typography etc.) are complemented by good facsimiles. These include Picasso's etchings for Ovid's Metamorphosis, and Matisse's Jazz.

Artists who have studied or taught at the University are collected as well as examples of publications from other British art schools. Two major Victorian children's book artists, Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott were former Director and pupil at Manchester. See separate page on Children's Collection.

The collection can be searched by selecting 'Book Design' under 'Collection' on the Library's catalogue at Entries are available under author, artist, press, printer and typeface. In addition, the BookHAD (Book History And Design) website supports researchers by providing a virtual catalogue of the specialist collections of six libraries including Manchester Metropolitan University.

Themes drawn from the collection feature in our temporary exhibition programme. Many of our exhibitions are accompanied by a published catalogue.

The Book Design collection has received external funding from the MLA/V&A Purchase Fund, Friends of the National Libraries and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust.

Contact the Book Design Collection

Access to the collection is on a weekday basis, Monday - Friday 10.00 - 16.00

It is open for private research by staff, students and external visitors

Phone +44 (0)161 247 6107


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Current Exhibition

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A Feast for the Eyes - A journey around Special Collections

There's also an archive of previous exhibitions and information about future exhibitions.

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Where are we?

Maps of our locations and contact details for Staff in the Special Collections.