The Type Archive (formerly the Type Museum) is a collection of artefacts representing the legacy of type founding in England, whose famous type foundries and composing systems supplied the world with type in over 300 languages. The Archive was founded in 1992 and is located in Stockwell, south London, England.
The Type Archive is the final repository of many of the original forms, punches, matrices and patterns of some of the most famous and successful metal and wood type foundries in the world. It also holds a historic collection of presses. It is estimated that the collections include between five and eleven million artefacts.
The Museum's collection is unique in holding examples of successive generations of technology used for type design and manufacture, from hand foundry and machine composition, through wood type, to photography and film setting (which laid the foundation for today's digital typography).
In addition to holding its collections, it is a working museum that manufactures matrices (moulds for typecasting) for letterpress printing. The Museum has become a valuable educational resource for many colleges, and helps to meet the demand for an educational and experimental type workshop.
According to the Museum's website:
[The Museum's holdings include] punches, matrices and moulds from the principal eighteenth- and nineteenth-century London type foundries, complemented by business archives and by one of the world's best collections of type specimen books, primarily those acquired by Stephenson Blake and the historic foundries taken over by the Sheffield firm.
Cataloguing and conservation of a major collection, acquired from Stephenson Blake in 1996, was completed in 2005 by the late Justin Howes with the aid of a grant from The Pilgrim Trust. Since 1995 the collection has been housed in Stockwell, in a range of industrial buildings built between 1895 and 1905 as a veterinary hospital.
[The Museum's] mission is to collect, preserve and interpret the historic artefacts associated with the spread of the printed word and image, throughout the world, and to place them in the context of modern technology and design and of the far longer history of mankind's use of graphic symbols.
[The Museum's] first goal has been to preserve the means of making type. The Type Museum has been able, with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, to acquire key collections documenting the principal chapters in the history of type in Britain
- traditional typefounding, from Stephenson Blake and Co., Sheffield
- woodletter type, from Robert DeLittle, York
- mechanical typecasting ('hot metal'), from the Monotype Corporation
These collections include materials dating from the sixteenth century to the end of the twentieth. Smaller collections include the working papers of Walter Tracy RDI.
Each major acquisition has brought with it substantial quantities of archival material, including highly important collections of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century type specimen books and, in the case of Monotype, the complete business records of a global enterprise. Taken together, these materials form the nucleus of a typographic study centre where documents can be studied alongside the artefacts and processes to which they refer.
The Museum’s major collections include:
- The Stephenson Blake Collection of English foundry type with industrial and hand casting equipment. Stephenson Blake & Company in their long trading history acquired many of the other famous-name English type foundries and these all now reside at the Type Archive.
- The Monotype Collection covers the entire history of Monotype Corporation’s global supply of fine letterpress machine composition in almost all languages and continues as a working company within the Museum.
- The Robert DeLittle wood type manufactory — the last specialist English wood type manufacturer is a superb resource in this vital, engaging and under-researched area of type design.
The Type Archive involves the following entities: the Type Museum Trust, which is a Registered Charity 1009198 and a Registered Museum 1101 and its subsidiary The Type Museum Limited Registered Company 3677895 (trading as Monotype Hot-Metal).
- 100 Hackford Road
- London SW9 0QU
A small team of staff and volunteers work at the Type Archive on a regular basis. Some are directly involved in the manufacture and provision of Monotype matrices and spare parts, and are employed by Monotype Hot Metal Ltd. The company has never been without orders for matrices and machine parts since it began trading from the Stockwell site. Uniquely skilled volunteers also maintain and operate the historic presses and Monotype casting machinery.
Access to the Type Archive collections in recent years has been hampered by a shortage of experienced and qualified volunteers who are familiar with the Archive's holdings, but this issue is currently being addressed and it is hoped that provision can be made for researchers to have limited access to the collections in the future. Much of the material held at Stockwell is unique and irreplaceable, so procedures must be in place to protect the holdings from theft or damage. Access will be provided only on days when a volunteer is available to locate material and supervise its use.
A major exhibition showcasing the work of the late Berthold Wolpe, artist, designer, calligrapher and typographer opened in September 2017, and although scheduled to end in October it was extended until 4 December due to popular demand. Around 1000 visitors viewed the material on display. The Wolpe exhibition, arranged in conjunction with Monotype Imaging, which provided much of the funding for the event, is hoped to be the first of a series of regular opportunities for the public to access the wealth of unique, historic material held at Stockwell.
A new exhibition featuring the calligraphic work of Icelandic artist and handwriting expert, Gunnlaugur SE Briem, opened in June 2018, closing in mid-July. The display materials remain in situ, and it is hoped that pre-arranged access for small groups can be accommodated throughout the summer months. Further exhibitions are planned.
- Tipoteca Museo del carattere e della Tipografia: Typeface and Printing Museum in Italy.
- Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns, Hamilton's collection is one of the premier wood type collections in the world.
- Simon Loxley (31 March 2006). Type: The Secret History of Letters. I.B.Tauris. pp. 56–64. ISBN 978-0-85773-017-6.
- "Type Archive, Stockwell, London". Prince's Regeneration Trust. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- "London's Most Hidden Museum? We Find The Type Museum". Culture 24. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- Figg, Thomas. "Reverting to Type". The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- The Type Archive.
- The Type Museum Society website
- The Type Archive website
- Charity Commission. The Type Museum Trust, registered charity no. 1009198.