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The Meynell collection comprises part of the personal library of the publisher, typographer and poet Sir Francis Meynell (1891-1975), and includes around 260 volumes. Meynell began his career in his father's publishing house Burns & Oates, and in 1916 founded the Pelican Press on which he worked with Stanley Morison, an early friend and associate. In 1923 Meynell founded the Nonesuch Press which designed and published 140 fine editions of poetry and literature, although it did not print them. These books are held in the University Library's main collections and are not duplicated here. The collection's strength lies in the personal nature of much of the material and its illustration of Meynell's relationship with other important figures in the fields of literature and publishing.

Noteworthy items include several proofs of works printed by Meynell with his own annotations, including the orders for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, which Meynell worked on in his capacity as typographer to Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Meynell developed a close relationship with Geoffrey Keynes during the latter's time working on editions of poetry for the Nonesuch Press, and subsequently on editions of the work of Siegfried Sassoon, and the collection includes five works with personal inscriptions and letters from Keynes and Sassoon to Meynell.

Among the particular treasures of the collection is To Sir Francis Meynell, Kt. on his retirement from Mather & Crowther (London: The Brettenham Press, 1951). This appears to be a unique volume, signed by each of the contributors (illustrator, printer, layout artist etc.) and in a presentation binding by Sangorski and Sutcliffe.

Of personal significance to Meynell is an early work printed by him independently at 67 Romney Street, Westminster in 1917, one of 32 copies of Meditations from the note-book of Mary Carey, 1649-1657. There are 7 volumes of religious texts printed by Burns & Oates, the Holy See's official publishing house in England, from the years 1911-1916, probably volumes Meynell himself worked on during his apprentice years there. His mother Alice Meynell was a close friend of the poet Katharine Tynan, and a volume of her poems has been bound with an early version of the poem The quiet nights (first published 1911) addressed to 'Dear Francis Meynell, 1910'.

Other collections in Cambridge University Library of typographical interest include the MorisonBroxbourne and Dreyfus collections. The Library also holds a large collection of archival material relating to the Nonesuch Press, as part of its collection of Printers' Papers, which may be consulted in the Manuscripts Department. 

References and further reading:

  • Dame Alix Meynell, Francis Meynell of the Nonesuch Press: the Stanley Morison Memorial Lecture, 17 October 1979. Meynell.20
  • Ian Rogerson, Sir Francis Meynell: designer extraordinary (London, 1992). 1993.9.493
  • A. J. A. Symons, The Nonesuch century: an appraisal, a personal note and a bibliography of the first hundred books issued by the press, 1923-1934 (London, 1936). 864.a.28; Meynell.74