Vivian Ridler

Vivian Ridler.

Vivian Hughes Ridler, CBE (2 October 191311 January 2009), was a printer, typographer and scholar in Britain. He was Printer to the University of Oxford at Oxford University Press from 1958 until his retirement in 1978; and also established his own Perpetua Press.[1][2][3]


Vivian Ridler was born in Britain on 2 October 1913, at Cardiff. When he was a boy, he and his family moved to Bristol. While still at Bristol Grammar School, he became interested in printing and typography. He bought an Adana platen, and with his friend, David Bland (who had a Wharfedale), established the Perpetua Press, a private press which they ran between 1931 and 1936. One year their Fifteen Old Nursery Rhymes was chosen as one of the fifty best books of the year. During this time Ridler met Eric Gill and Douglas Cleverdon. After school he served a short apprenticeship at the Bristol firm of E. S. and A. Robinson.

Ridler got to know John Johnson, then Printer to the University of Oxford, and in 1936 went to Oxford to help the Assistant Printer, Charles Batey. In the late 1930s Ridler moved from Oxford to London, to establish the Bunhill Press for Theodore Besterman, the Voltaire scholar. He also designed for the publishers, Faber and Faber.

He met Faber's reader, T. S. Eliot, and Eliot's secretary, Anne Bradby. In 1938 he married Anne. They would have four children - Benedict, Colin, Jane and Kate. Anne Ridler became well known as a poet.

During the Second World War Ridler served in the British Royal Air Force, in Orkney, Nigeria and Germany.

After the war he resumed free-lance designing, and also became the first tutor in typography at the Royal College of Art in London and typographer to Lund Humphries & Co. in Bradford.

In 1948 Charles Batey brought him back to Oxford, engaging him as Works Manager at the Oxford University Press. He was appointed Assistant Printer in 1950, and Printer in 1958. As Printer he introduced filmsetting, rotary and web-fed letterpress and sheet- and web-fed offset, replaced collotype with 400-screen halftones and established a fully mechanised bindery. The Press mainly published dictionaries, reference works, Bibles and academic books demanding complicated settings or exotic type; it also accepted commissions from external publishers, learned societies and examination boards. Among Ridler's productions were Stanley Morison's book on the Fell types, facsimiles of Eliot's Waste Land and the Constable Sketchbooks and The Great Tournament Roll for the British College of Arms.

Ridler was widely known in printing beyond Oxford. During the war he had been elected to the Double Crown Club (1943) and on demobilisation had lectured to the Club on the types of Eric Gill; in 1963 he served as its president. He was a founder of the Institute of Printing, an examiner in typographic design for the City and Guilds of London Institute and was elected President of the British Federation of Master Printers in 1968. From 1968 to 1969 he served as president of the British Printing Industries Federation.

In 1970 Ridler was made a CBE. He became a fellow of the Oxford college of St Edmund Hall. He retired from the Oxford University Press in 1978.

After his retirement he ran his own printing shop, where he produced on his hand-press Christmas cards (often incorporating poems by Anne Ridler), broadsides, ephemera, and some small books under the revived imprint of the Perpetua Press. An exhibition of some of his work was held at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford University in 1993.

Ridler's wife, Anne, died in 2001. He himself died on 11 January 2009, aged ninety-five.

Further reading


  1. Pan, Rosalind. "The Perpetua Press – Vivian Ridler's side project". Private Press & Wood Engraved Books. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  2. "Vivian Rider - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  3. Barker, Nicolas. "Vivian Ridler: Printer to Oxford University from 1958 to 1978 and founder of the Perpetua Press". The Independent. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
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