Geoffrey Wakeman Plough Press collection

Biographical and Historical Notes

English printer and author Geoffrey Wakeman (d. 1987) founded the Plough Press in 1967 in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England. Wakeman was a noted professor of printing history, author, and printer, and his work on papermaking, color illustration and printing processes, and binding techniques remains a lasting contribution to the study of print culture.

He is the author of several books, including A Guide to Nineteenth-Century Color Printers (1975); English Marbled Papers: A History (1980); Victorian Book Illustration: The Technical Revolution (1973) and Nineteenth-Century Trade Binding (1983). A student of Phillip Gaskell at the College Press in Glasgow, Wakeman established the Plough Press based on a desire to learn by doing. The first book printed by the press was Share of Ploughs (1968), consisting of a series of color prints of plows with accompanying verses about plows and plowing. The first major Plough Press publication was XIX Century Illustration (1970). It describes sixteen printing processes with accompanying contemporary specimens. Such leaf books became a regular feature of Plough Press publications, as Wakeman believed the only way to properly study the history of paper and printing was by examining actual specimens. The Plough Press publications, reprints, and original works by Wakeman and others pertain to print culture, particularly printers and printing, illustration processes, binding, and paper. The majority of Plough Press works are letterpress-printed, hand-bound limited editions, but some publications were also manufactured commercially.

The Plough Press was a family business; Geoffrey Wakeman and his wife Frances Wakeman (née Docker) ran the press together and later with their son Paul Wakeman. After the death of Geoffrey Wakeman in 1987, Paul and Frances Wakeman took over the Plough Press, with offices in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, and Nottingham. Paul Wakeman joined Oak Knoll Press in Newcastle, Delaware, as its first publishing director in 1988, establishing collaborative ties between Oak Knoll and Plough Press. In 1991, Paul Wakeman established Plough Press USA in New Castle. Plough Press continued with offices in Kidlington and New Castle, until the press ceased production in the mid-2000s.


Fleck, Robert. "Books about books, parts 5, 6, 7," in the Oak Knoll Biblio-Blog. (accessed September 27, 2010).

Additional information derived from collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Geoffrey Wakeman Plough Press collection consists of approximately 10 linear feet plus oversized material of the records of the Plough Press and the works and research materials of the Plough Press's founder English printer and author Geoffrey Wakeman and spans the dates 1796 to 1993, with the bulk of the material dating from 1970 to 1993.

The collection is arranged into three series: I. Plough Press UK records; II. Geoffrey Wakeman lecture notes, research files, and publications; and III. Oak Knoll, Paul Wakeman and Plough Press USA. Series I. consists of the records of Plough Press UK, divided into three subseries. The first subseries contains material contributing to publications of Plough Press UK, arranged chronologically by publication date of the work. Project files include the materials tracing the development of each project, such as correspondence, research material, proofs, galley proofs, illustrations, research, camera-ready copy (paste-ups), dummies, and printed matter. The second subseries contains material relating to Plough Press publications by Geoffrey Wakeman, arranged chronologically by date of publication, also including material that contributed to the production of each work. The third subseries consists of ephemera relating to Plough Press as well as catalogs from Frances Wakeman Books, the rare book business operated by Frances Wakeman, which specialized in publications pertaining to the book arts.

Series II. consists of Geoffrey Wakeman's research files, lecture notes, and material pertaining to publications not published by the Plough Press, divided into three subseries. The first subseries consists of Wakeman's lecture notes used for teaching classes on a variety of topics related to printing and printing history, such as bookbinding, illustration, and papermaking. Wakeman's research files, which comprise the second subseries, include files on similar print culture topics. Wakeman's original file structure, including file names, has been maintained. The additional ephemera not associated with a particular file was collected into a small grouping at the end, which includes books, prints, catalogs, letters, and articles. The third subseries includes material contributing to Wakeman's publications not produced by Plough Press, including research materials, correspondence, manuscripts, layouts, dummies, page proofs, financial records, specimens, and illustrations.

Series III. comprises material relating to Paul Wakeman, his association with the New Castle, Delaware, press Oak Knoll, and the establishment of and publications printed by Plough Press USA. The first subseries consists of material contributing to the publication of two Oak Knoll titles for which Paul Wakeman designed and printed various components during his tenure as Oak Knoll's publishing director. The second subseries includes items relating to the design and printing of Paul Wakeman's wedding invitation, as well as a wedding gift from Bird & Bull Press owner Henry Morris. The third subseries contains records of Plough Press USA, including material contributing to the production of Notes Towards an Account of Paper Mills in Oxfordshire (1991) and the posthumous publication of Geoffrey Wakeman's Developments in Functional Bookbinding (1993).

Plough Press's publications--original works by Wakeman and others and reprints of classic and obscure texts--pertain to print culture, particularly printers and printing, illustration processes, binding, and papermaking. The majority of Plough Press works are letterpress-printed, hand-bound limited editions. The collection represents a valuable resource in the field of print culture, containing material relating to the production of many of the press's publications, such as correspondence, manuscripts, proofs, galley proofs, dummies, as well as paper, leather, and type specimens, and binder's tools (see Item Appendix); Geoffrey Wakeman's own research files, which include bibliographies and lecture notes on a variety of printing topics; and the business and financial records of the two branches of Plough Press.

The collection also offers a wealth of specimens and tools from Wakeman's business dealings and research: leather and cloth samples, paper samples, type specimens, woodblocks, engraved plates, and binder's rollers and engraving tools can be found throughout the collection. Please see the Item Appendix for an index to the locations of the physical objects in the collection.