For decades Fleet Street in London was synonymous with the UK’s biggest newspapers, the first British daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was published in Fleet Street on 11 March 1702. The whole area is part of printing history, Wynkyn de Worde, William Caxton’s apprentice, had set up business near Shoe Lane, just around the corner, around 1501 and all of Baxter’s main offices were around a mile from the famous street.
At its height nearly every national paper and several provincial newspapers had offices within a half-mile radius. Times have changed and they have now moved to out of town sites, the last journalists left Fleet Street in 2016.
It is still a bustling area and as well as the many restaurants and offices it is now a tourist area with many stories to tell and landmarks still to be seen. One new such feature includes ‘Baxter Engravings'.
Magpie Alley EC4 has been decorated with a tiled mural depicting the area’s printing history, a series of tiles depicting Printers and Newspapers offices and also printing presses. One of those shows a wood engraving of a Paragon press by Baxter for an unknown trade catalogue for his father-in law, Robert Harrild, and is most probably his earliest work outside of his father’s business back in Lewes.
This and other early engravings were reproduced in ‘Baxter Colour Prints’ by H G Clarke in 1919 but the wording Paragon Press 1805 on the tiles was not reproduced in Clarke’s book. It would be nice to think that somewhere in Fleet Street, possibly in the printing Library of St Brides in Fleet Street, they had managed to locate Harrild’s original Catalogue and reproduce it from there rather than Clarke’s book. Perhaps a copy of that catalogue may at some time turn up and we can get to see these actual early wood engravings by Baxter.