Typographical heritage at risk

A communiqué from the Centre for Printing History and Culture

Matthew Boulton’s Baskerville family Bible

We were alarmed to learn that Assay Office Birmingham has decided to sell its copy of Matthew Boulton’s Baskerville family bible, together with other items from its library. The sale will take place at auction on 26 March 2020. Furthermore, this decision has been made without any prior consultation with key heritage organisations in the city. This particular bible is arguably one of Baskerville’s most important volumes. It not only represents the relationship between Baskerville and Boulton, two of the most influential figures in Birmingham’s history, but is also a particularly fine and rare example of Baskerville’s marbled end-paper.

We feel very strongly that the bible should remain in Birmingham and made available to the public. A sale at auction will almost certainly mean that the bible will end up in private ownership and could even be taken abroad.

It is our hope that a sale can be negotiated prior to the auction. I am pleased to let you know that a consortium of city heritage organisations has been formed for this purpose and the Cadbury Research Library (CRL) at the University of Birmingham will lead the negotiations. We feel that the CRL would be the ideal home for the bible as it has the resources both to provide appropriate care for the book, together with its other Baskerville holdings, and also make it available to the public.

We will be writing, urgently, on behalf of CPHC. Should the Assay Office not agree to a private sale and continue with the auction, then we would express our deep concern through a public campaign involving local and national press and social media. The Assay Office is simply wrong to ignore its obligations to the history, heritage and people of Birmingham.

If you have any comments or questions about this situation, then please do feel free to contact us at the email below.

Best wishes
Caroline Archer + Malcolm Dick
Centre for Printing History and Culture