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John Fell and the Oxford University Press

The Fell type reused in C. H. Wilkinson's The Poems of Richard Lovelace
C. H. Wilkinson's The Poems of Richard Lovelace (1930), using the Fell types.

John Fell (1625-86) was Dean of Christ Church and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. According to legend, thus recounted in the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: "[Thomas Brown's] undisciplined life led . . . to a threat of expulsion by the then dean of Christ Church, Dr John Fell, who withdrew the threat on condition that Brown produce an apology and an extempore translation of Martial's epigram 1.32 ('Non amo, te, Sabidi')". Brown's mischievous response:

I do not love thee Dr Fell
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know and know full well,
I do not love thee, Dr Fell

achieved a lasting minor notoriety, but on the dean's death in 1686 he wrote a respectful epitaph.

More seriously, Fell played a leading role in establishing the Oxford University Press, initially in the Sheldonian Theatre and then in the Clarendon Building. The types he commissioned are still preserved in the OUP Museum.

With the twentieth-century revival of interest in the history of typography, the Fell types attracted new attention. They were borrowed by Wilfred Meynell and Stanley Morison for some privately printed books. These included a pioneering work in the revival of early modern women’s writing, a selection from the ‘Meditations’ of Mary Carey (fl. 1643-80) (printed in 32 copies, London, 1917, Bodleian call number 1419f.2600, second edition of 100 copies, 1918, 1419f.2575; a manuscript of the complete text, still not in print, is in the Bodleian, MS Rawl. D. 1308). The Fell types were used for a number of Oxford University Press editions including C. H. Wilkinson's The Poems of Richard Lovelace (2 vols., Oxford, 1925, 1 vol., 1930); see illustration on right. A digital version of the Fell type is available from Igino Marini's Fell Types page.

Stanley Morison's <em>John Fell: the University Press and the 'Fell' Type</em> (Oxford, 1967)
A specially bound Bodleian copy of Stanley Morison's John Fell: the University Press and the 'Fell' Type (Oxford, 1967). © Bodleian Library, Oxford (Arch. AA b.9).

As the Centre's thanks to Fell, his fund and the Press, here is an image of a specially bound Bodleian copy of Stanley Morison's John Fell: the University Press and the 'Fell' Type (Oxford, 1967). Morison devised the Times New Roman typeface, which has taken on new life (in rival versions) as a leading typeface on the Internet.

Throughout his life, however, he maintained an interest in Fell, which was crowned by this magnum opus, completed with the assistance of Harry Carter and published the day after his death. The book was printed by hand in Fell's types: a tribute to an Anglican monarchist from a Catholic socialist. It has received its own study in Martyn Ould, Stanley Morison and 'John Fell': the Writing and Printing of Stanley Morison's Book John Fell, the University Press and the 'Fell' Types (Bath, 2003).

This special Morocco binding was made for the Bodleian by Roger Powell. The lettering is slightly varied from the Fell type; the printing press is modelled on the one still used for English postgraduates' printing classes. Above is Fell's college, Christ Church; below, the Sheldonian Theatre where the Press was first housed.