Leonard Jay

Category: Ph.D. Research


Leonard Jay is the subject of BECKY HOWSON's PhD Research Project, which using archival material in both Birmingham City University and Birmingham University, will document the life, work and teachings of Leonard Jay, head of the Birmingham School of Printing.

From 1450 to the end of the nineteenth century, printing was an entirely hand process, and printers and compositors learnt their trade on-the-job as apprentices who were indentured to Master Printers. By the turn of the century, printing had become mechanized and the more enlightened members of the printing industry understood that as a result of increasing specialisation and the sub-division of the many trades involved in printing, the majority of apprentices were unable to obtain the same experience as their predecessors. Therefore, to enable apprentice to progress in the trade, schools of printing emerged taking printing education out of the workshop and placing it in institutions designed for study.

This research will consider printing education between 1890 and 1990. These dates mark the emergence and subsequent decline of the printing schools. This thesis will reflect on the conditions that brought about the establishment of the schools of printing; the reasons they flourished; and the causes of their demise. It will document the teaching methods employed by the schools; the work they produced; and their relationships with the industry they served.

To address these issues, this research considers the work of Leonard Jay, first Head of the Birmingham School of Printing (1925-53), which was widely regarded as pre-eminent in Britain if not the world. I will discuss Jay’s pioneering and influential approach to print education in the first half of the twentieth century; his impact on and relationship with the printing industry locally, nationally and internationally; and his lasting legacy which has been passed on through the many students of the School who became teachers themselves or who built successful careers in the commercial print industry.

Members involved in this research

Becky Howson

Ph.D. Research Projects