Security printing

The British Library has a number of historical devices used for printing financial instruments like stamps. You can study these items in addition to our collections of stamps and banknotes.

About the collection

Items in our collection come from variety of printing methods including intaglio, letterpress, lithography and embossing.

Our security printing material is largely from the Britain and the Commonwealth and includes items from North Borneo, Labuan, India and the Orange Free State. The collection includes:

  • letterpress and embossing dies
  • embossing presses
  • a ‘Dandy Roll’ for making watermarked paper
  • 19th-century intaglio plates
  • engraved metal dies
  • a lithographic stone, transfer rollers and plates
  • plates of forgeries.

A highlight of our collection is The Perkins ‘D Cylinder’ Press. This is similar to the press used to print the 1840 1d black, the first stamp in the world. You can see the press on public display in the British Library.

If you’re researching security printing, you may also want to see our banknotes.

What is available online?

The Global Philatelic Library provides many online resources. It including millions of books and journals from the British Library's Crawford Library of Philatelic Literature.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

You can study our security printing items in our Philatelic Reading Room. You’ll need to make an appointment to use this Reading Room. If you can, please call us at least 10 days before your visit.

Security printing is core area of research at the British Library and our experts will be on hand to advise. Call us on 020 7412 7635 or email:

You can use our other Reading Rooms if you want to read books or journals on security printing. You can find these on our catalogue, Explore the British Library.

What is available in other organisations?

The St Bride Foundation Library has many books and journals on security printing.