The Stationers’ Company has opened an archive and reading room that will make access to its priceless archive easier both for members of the Company and for the general public.
The Tokefield Centre is accessed through the garden of Stationers’ Hall and has been created with funds from Duncan Spence and Amy McKee, two liverymen of the Company, and with the support of the Stationers’ Company itself. Now instead of climbing a narrow staircase, visitors have a separate library and reading room that can be reached through a separate entrance to the Hall itself.
The conversion of the building into an environmentally controlled secure archive room to national standards was overseen by Sarah Mahurter, manager of the University Archives and Special Collections Centre at the University of the Arts, and also a liveryman.
There are hopes that making the collection easier to explore will throw up new findings. Stationers’ Company archivist Ruth Frendo explains: “The Stationers’ Archive is already known as a key resource to historians of the book trade. However, it also holds a wealth of records whose potential is yet to be explored.
“As custodians of the records we have inherited through the care and dedication of our forebears, we have a serious responsibility to maintain these documents for future exploration. Through the development of this, purpose-built storage facility, and a reading room which will provide unprecedented access to its Archive, the Stationers’ Company is demonstrating that it is whole-heartedly embracing this responsibility.”
The new centre is named after 17th century Clerk George Tokefield who saved the records and books, including a first annotated edition of Shakespeare’s plays, by carting them away from the Great Fire of London in 1666 in a wheelbarrow.
His 21st century successor William Alden says the opening of the centre is just the first step in developing the Hall. “The opening of the Tokefield Centre marks the completion of the first phase of a broader Hall development programme, which we hope to complete by 2023, the 350th anniversary of the building of the Hall.”