Dr. Frederick A. Thorpe, O.B.E.
The Pioneer and Founder of Ulverscroft Large Print Books and the Ulverscroft Foundation
"I speak sincerely when I say that not only myself, but thousands of senior citizens are very grateful to you and it has brought into our lives a new hope to live out our last days in pleasure and peace."
These moving words come from one of the thousands of letters written to Frederick Thorpe, the founder of Ulverscroft Large Print Books and the first person to publish large print books in the United Kingdom.
In the early 1960's it was recognised that many people, and particularly the elderly, could no longer read normal size print due to failing eyesight. People who had been avid readers for most of their lives were denied the pleasure of reading. For the elderly, their failing eyesight occurred at a period when they often had more leisure time on their hands than previously.
Frederick A. Thorpe, a newly retired printer and publisher, was asked for his help and advice in finding a way of printing books that most people could read easily. He found that producing large print books had been thought about over the previous twenty years, but nothing had been done as large print had not appeared to be a commercial proposition. Frederick Thorpe realised, that although there would be difficulties in attempting to print in a type size more than twice as large as that used in a normal book, it could be done.
Ulverscroft Large Print Books Limited, was formed by Frederick Thorpe in 1964 as a non-profit making organisation to republish standard books in large print for sale to public libraries. Ulverscroft books use a high quality paper that gives minimum glare, and high density black ink to give good clear print making the books easier to read. Ulverscroft large print books are now distributed throughout the world bringing the pleasure of reading to millions of people.
The original books were large and rather heavy which was a problem for the elderly and disabled. Over the years, improvements were made and the modern books are very similar in size and weight to standard print books and often have identical covers to the original editions - an important point for people who do not wish it known that they have difficulty with standard print. The books are very durable, lasting longer, and being borrowed more often than the standard print editions. The public libraries that buy Ulverscroft books can ensure that Ulverscroft books will be very good value for money as more people read and enjoy them. Ulverscroft large print books are now often bought by people who first borrowed the books from libraries and wanted to have their own copies.
Ulverscroft Large Print Books Limited acquired other large print book publishing companies over the years to form the Ulverscroft Group. Ulverscroft now also produce, sell and distribute talking books - audio cassettes and compact disc versions of books, both abridged and unabridged. These talking books can be enjoyed by those who have so little sight that reading even large print books is no longer possible. Over the years we have received many appreciative letters regarding our large print books.
Many librarians and readers of Ulverscroft Large Print Books have enquired why the Company, the first of the Large Print series and the Foundation were named 'Ulverscroft'
Frederick Thorpe, the founder and publisher of these Large Print Books, farmed a large acreage in the Parish of Ulverscroft. Close by is an ancient priory, which was founded in the eleventh century by Robert de Bossu. It began as a small refuge for Augustinian Eremites, at a time when the Knights of the Order were having a troubled existence in the Holy Land. About the year 1200, the Priory sheltered only three Brothers, all priests, but this number increased later.
Nearby, the small Priory of Charley, founded by Robert's son, was united with Ulverscroft Priory in about 1465. A report of 1536 gives a favourable picture of the augmented Priory. It then contained besides the Prior, eight Canons, of whom six were priests. These were virtuous and discreet men, skilled at writing, embroidery, painting, and intent on continuing in religion. At the height of its prosperity the Priory at Ulverscroft kept open house for the wayfarer, succoured the needy, comforted the weary, and maintained the poor in villages for miles around.
It seemed fitting when giving a name to the Company and the original Large Print series that they should be called Ulverscroft. This was done as a tribute to the Founders of the Ulverscroft Priory, so helping to perpetuate the memory of an edifice erected to shelter pious and poor alike. Although the Priory is now in ruins, it remains a symbol of Charity and Service rendered by Brothers in Faith.
The arms of the Foundation were first borne by Saer de Quency, a Knight Templar and an early patron or benefactor of Ulverscroft Priory. He was created Earl of Winchester on 13th March, 1207 and died at Acre on 3rd November, 1219.
The Trademark of Ulverscroft is a local landmark known as Old John. This watch tower stands on a hill in the midst of Bradgate Park, once the home of Lady Jane Grey, proclaimed Queen of England for nine days in 1553. Old John was erected to the memory of an old retainer of the Grey family.
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