This fine sign in Red Lion Court, one of the alleyways off Fleet Street. Alere flammam means 'feed the flame', and the hand in the image is doing just that. It was the sign of printer Abraham Valpy, who worked here until his retirement in 1837.
Valpy was a schoolmaster's son, who studied first at his father's school (Reading Grammar School) and then at Oxford University. His first publication was a selection of excerpts from Cicero's letters - in 1804, when he was only 14 - so after leaving Oxford he was apprenticed to bookseller Humphrey Pridden so that he could be admitted to the Stationers' Company. Valpy opened his first business in Took's Court but moved to these premises in 1822.
Valpy specialised in classical literature, and went on to found the Classical Journal. Other periodicals included The Pamphleteer, an anthology of contemporary pamphlets, and The Museum. However, the classics remained his main interest: he published both learned editions and the translated Family Classical Library. The sign he chose, then, was as apt in its illustration of a Roman lamp as in its motto: he did indeed 'feed the flame' of learning.