Caroline Archer-Parré

Professor of Typography

Caroline Archer-Parré is Professor of Typography, Co-director of the Centre for Printing History & Culture at Birmingham City University and Chair of the Baskerville Society. With particular interest in typographic history from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, Caroline has published widely and is a regular contributor to both the trade and academic press.

  • Expert
  • Professor
  • Typographic History
  • Printing Culture 


After working as a typographic designer for the UK publishing industry I am now Professor of Typography and Co-director of the Centre for Printing History & Culture at Birmingham City University, and Chairman of the Baskerville Society. With an interest in typographic history from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, I have published widely. I am the author of three books, including The Kynoch Press 1876-1981: the anatomy of a printing house (British Library), Tart Cards: London’s illicit advertising art (MBP) and Paris Underground (MBP). With Malcolm Dick I have co-edited John Baskerville: Art and Industry of the Enlightenment (LUP), Pen, Print & Communication in the Eighteenth Century (LUP) and James Watt, 1736-1819: Culture, Innovation and Enlightenment (Liverpool University Press, 2020). I am also series editor for Printing History & Culture at Peter Lang, and I contribute to numerous journals and write regularly for the trade and academic press.

Academic expertise

My general expertise is in the development and deployment of typefaces in the British printing industry from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries.

I am particularly interested in the work of the printer and typefounder John Baskerville (1707-75). I am concerned with the design of his books, the manufacture of his type and the role Baskerville played in Birmingham’s industrial development, his position within the Republic of Letters and his contribution to the Enlightenment more broadly.

Specifically, I am interested in the manufacture of his typographic punches and alongside colleagues at the University of Cambridge I am working on a £1m AHRC-funded project titled ‘Small Performances: investigating the typographic punches of John Baskerville (1707-75) through heritage science and practice-based research.’ 

This project is bringing together printing historians, heritage scientists, craftspeople, and type designers around the AHRC-funded Cambridge Heritage Science Hub (CHERISH), where we are reconstructing eighteenth-century punch-cutting techniques using pioneering scientific and artisanal methods. Our approach involves microscopy, chemical analyses, 3D modelling and advanced imaging in the laboratory, but also practical experimentation involving jewellers, engravers, blacksmiths, and typeface designers who will help disentangle the craft. 

Industry connections

Through the Centre for Printing History and Culture, I work with a range of organisations within the heritage, libraries, and archives sectors both in the midlands region and beyond. This benefits students not only in terms of access for their research but also for work experience and volunteering, networking opportunities and for forging connections in the sector to enhance their research and their subsequent careers. In addition, I have good contacts in the publishing industry which can be beneficial when seeking somewhere to disseminate research.

Former students

Most of my doctoral students have gone on to work in higher education as lecturers or researchers. Others have maintained their professional practices. Some have worked within the heritage sector in museums, archives, or libraries. All have published work and have forged a reputation for themselves in the field of printing history and culture.

Printing in Birmingham

Birmingham has played a significant role in the history of printing in the UK – and beyond. It is home to the printer and type founder John Baskerville, the pioneering typographic educator Leonard Jay, and the reputable and influential Kynoch Press. Studying in Birmingham means you walk in the footprints of giants.

It is also a city with great resources that support the study of printing history and culture with significant archives at the Library of Birmingham, Cadbury Research Centre at the University of Birmingham and the Typographic Library at Winterbourne House which is also home to a working printing museum. There is a great community of like-minded people in the city ready, able, and willing to share their knowledge.

Notable projects

From January to May 2020, I was wholly occupied with a campaign to prevent the Boulton Family Baskerville Bible from being sold at auction with its likely loss both to the nation as a whole and Birmingham in particular. The volume, Matthew Boulton’s Family Bible, printed by John Baskerville in Cambridge in 1763, had been placed for auction in London by the Birmingham Assay Office who had owned the Bible since purchasing it at Christies in 1986.

The volume has international typographic interest, is nationally important, and has particular significance to the cultural heritage of Birmingham: its appearance at auction placed it in danger of leaving not only the city but also the country. I led a successful campaign to raise the money needed to purchase the volume, the most noteworthy aspect of the campaign to ‘rescue’ the Bible was the communality of the response.

The Bible was seen by many as a distillation of shared cultural values including art, science and industry, faith, and family. This was all bound together by a sense of place, identity, and locality. These cultural values were threatened when the volume—a repository of those values—was placed for auction. The campaign really highlighted for me the importance of print and the emotional investment that many have in the physical artefact.