Celebrating the life of Anne Ridler

At last! - a blue plaque for Anne Ridler and her husband Vivian Ridler

This September saw a blue plaque unveiled at the former home of Anne Ridler and her husband Vivian Hughes Ridler. Both were exemplars in their chosen fields - Anne Ridler published seventeen volumes of poetry and verse-plays whilst Vivian Ridler was Printer to the University of Oxford.

Anne Ridler (1912 - 2001) studied at King's College, London and worked on the editorial staff of Faber & Faber where she was, for a time, an assistant to T. S. Eliot and helped him with the literary journal 'The Criterion'. She was also a renowned translator of opera (all of Cavalli's, all of Monteverdi's and several of Mozart's) and a librettist ('The Departure', 'The Jesse Tree' and 'The Lampton Worm'). Anne Ridler was essentially a metaphysical and Christian poet with a concern for the passing of things and the need to establish a resonance in memory for them. Although she continued to write poetry, by the 1960s her style and subject matter put her outside of the mainstream of Modern English poetry. In 1994 Carcanet Press published her collected poems reviving interest in the work of this multi-talented writer.

Vivian Hughes Ridler (1913 - 2009) first became interested in printing during his childhood and became involved in the school magazine at Bristol Grammar School. His father encouraged this passion by being persuaded to buy Vivian an Adana printing machine with one pound of type. Vivian Ridler and David Bland established the Perpetua Press (named after Eric Gill's Perpetua type-face). During the five years they worked together they published thirteen books, a quantity of ephemera and the parish magazine of St Matthew's Church, Kingsdown - all in the basement of Bland's father's vicarage. In 1936 Vivian Ridler was taken on as assistant to John Johnson, Oxford University's Printer. This turned out to be quite an unhappy period in Ridler's career - though it was during this time that he met his future wife Anne. Ridler left Oxford to join Theodore Besterman's Bunhill Press in London. This factory was destroyed during the Blitz and Ridler was called up to fulfil his war service. After his demobilisation he joined the Royal College of Art and became its first tutor in typography. He was also typographer to Lund Humphries in Bradford. Then, in 1948, he was invited to return to Oxford University Press as its Works Manager. Ridler became President of the British Federation of Master Printers 1968 - 69 and was appointed CBE in 1971. He produced many beautiful and satisfying books and commissioned notable artists (including John Piper, Edward Bawden, Gilbert Spencer and Alfred Daniels) to contribute to the University's almanack calendar. Ridler also oversaw some significant advances in print technology from his early days with letter-press, then with hot-metal and through to web-offset. The closure of the Oxford University print works in 1989 saddened him greatly even though he had retired in 1979. During his retirement he revived Perpetua Press, printing some fine books with a Cropper Demy Folio Platen Press at his Stanley road home. Amongst these books were collections of Anne Ridler's poems and other poets edited by her.

The blue plaque for Anne and Vivian Ridler can now be seen on the wall of their former home at 14 Stanley Road, Oxford.

 'The Jesse Tree' was a dramatic masque produced at Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire in 1970. The words were by Anne Ridler, the artwork by John Piper and the printing overseen by Vivian Ridler at Oxford for The Lyrebird Press (1972). This book was limited to a production run of 100 copies, each signed by Anne Ridler and John Piper.





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