The Rev. Alfred Daniel came to Frome in 1838 as Perpetual Curate of the newly built Holy Trinity Church. His young family gradually expanded to comprise two girls and four boys, the elder of whom, Henry, was nine years old when he was given some loose printer’s type. With this he amused himself by tying several letters together with string, inking them with his thumb, and pressing them laboriously onto paper word by word to print text. In 1846 his father, impressed by his interest in his new hobby, bought him a toy press, which enabled him to learn and practise the basic principles of real printing.
In 1850 Henry obtained a small but professional Albion Press and for a number of years he and his brothers, George, Eustace and William, used this to produce a wide range of small printed pieces, such as sermon texts, forms and notices for their father’s parish work, book plates for friends, odd educational or comical items and even three small real books of poems by two of their uncles as Christmas presents for the family.
Henry went up to Oxford in 1854 and became a don at Worcester College in 1863, later serving as Bursar and Dean, and ultimately as Provost.
Meanwhile his brothers, and occasionally even his father, continued to use the Albion Press at times for parish purposes at Trinity Parsonage, until in 1874 Henry, with a sudden revival of interest in his old hobby, took it up to his rooms in Oxford.
Here he gradually became a real expert in typography, printing a considerable number of books by some of the most important literary figures of the Oxford scene (including works by his friends Robert Bridges, later Poet Laureate, and Herbert Warren), and new editions of works by Milton, Keats and others.
Some of these are of great interest to bibliophiles, perhaps the most famous being the much sought after The Garland of Rachel, a beautifully produced collection of seventeen poems by seventeen well-known Oxford poets written in honour of Henry’s elder daughter on her first birthday.
Most of the productions of the Daniel Press (and all the Frome pieces) were given away as presents to friends or used in parish work. There are collections with the family, at Worcester College and in the John Rylands Library at Manchester. A pamphlet from the press is on view in the Museum together with a copy of a book about the work of the press in Frome recently printed and published by Mr Martyn Ould of Hinton Charterhouse.