2 MARCH 2021
This Day in the Archive: 2 March
The 2nd of March, 1545, is the date of birth of Sir Thomas Bodley. An erudite scholar and accomplished diplomat, he is perhaps most widely remembered today as the founder of Oxford's Bodleian Library.
Leading image: Detail from 'Philanthropists: twenty portraits of public benefactors'. Engraving by J.W. Cook, 1825.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
The University library, originally built in the fourteenth century, had been remodelled in the 1480s to house a donation of manuscripts given by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of Henry V. However, by the time of Bodley's intervention, Reformationist zeal had depleted the collections, and Duke Humfrey's reading room had been taken over by the Faculty of Medicine.
With the resources provided by a lucrative marriage, Bodley set about refurbishing the library along the continental model of a 'stalled library' (shelves with a desk and seat at each press). He emphasised the importance of cataloguing the collection, and in 1605 the Bodleian Library produced the first general catalogue to be printed in Europe, following this in 1620 with the first alphabetical author-title catalogue. Recognising the importance of developing the collections, Bodley persuaded the Stationers' Company in 1610 to enter into an agreement to supply a free copy of every book registered at Stationers' Hall.
Bodley himself was ambivalent about the agreement, confiding to the first Bodleian Librarian, Thomas James, his fears of an influx of 'idle books, and riffe raffes', and the consequent 'harm that the scandal will bring unto the Librarie, when it shalbe given out, that we stuffe it full of baggage books'. However, he clearly recognised the advantages of the arrangement too, for he soon began planning for extensions of the library. These extensions were the first in England to include shelving for smaller format books which could not be chained, as had been the custom in the mediaeval library.
In fact, the agreement between Sir Thomas and the Stationers' Company became the foundation of what we now know as legal deposit in England. A Decree of Star Chamber in 1637 strengthened the Bodleian agreement, and in 1662 the Press Licensing Act required printers to deposit three copies of every book entered at Stationers' Hall, one for each of the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and one for the Royal Library.
The Stationers' Company Court Books record the difficulty of trying to enforce this. In 1664, a Court Order notes that 'a warrant was this day made and signed by the Master and Wardens to Nicholas Fussell (their Beadle) to call for and receive of Booksellers, all such books as are due, and to be delivered into his Majesty's Library, and anto the Libraries of the two Universities, according to an Act of Parliament.'
The struggle persisted, and as late as 1694 it was 'ordered that the Master shall proceed as he shall think be fit in the information in the exchequer brought by Master Attorney General against several of the members of this Company for their not bringing in to the Master 3 books of a sort to be by him sent to the King's Library and to the Vice-Chancellors of the two Universities according to the direction of the Act for Printing.'
The celebrated Statute of Anne (1709/10), with its reframing of the concept of copyright, formalised the deposit agreement as a legal requirement, and extended it to include the Scottish Advocates' Library in Edinburgh. As time passed, the importance of the legal deposit library emerged: as a means of circulating knowledge among scholars throughout the country, of collecting the intellectual output of a nation over time, and of preserving it for future generations. In 1911, the first full-time Agent for overseeing legal deposit in the designated libraries became a full-time job. By then, with the addition of Trinity College Dublin and the National Library of Wales, there were five designated libraries (the King's Library, transferred to the British Museum and subsequently the British Library, operates separately, having always had uniquely mandatory terms of deposit). Oversight of legal deposit is now conducted by the Copyright Agency, based at Cambridge University Library.
Hazel K. Bell (November 1992). "Legal deposit in Euston Street". Serials. 5 (3): 53–57. doi:10.1629/050353.
W.H. Clennell. "Bodley, Sir Thomas (1545–1613), scholar, diplomat, and founder of the Bodleian Library, Oxford." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. May 30, 2013. Oxford University Press. Date of access 2 Mar. 2021, <https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-2759>
Carolyn O. Frost. “The Bodleian Catalogs of 1674 and 1738: An Examination in the Light of Modern Cataloging Theory.” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, vol. 46, no. 3, 1976, pp. 248–270. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4306676. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.
21 FEBRUARY 2021
This Day in the Archive: 21 February
February 21st marks the death, in 1813, of Henry Baldwin, founder of a family dynasty of newspaper proprietors. Baldwin was apprenticed to Stationer Edward Say in 1749, and in 1756 was called to the Livery on the day he attained his Freedom of the Company by servitude. Not long afterwards, in March 1761, Baldwin published the first issue of the St James's Chronicle, a triweekly evening paper which remained in print until the end of the nineteenth century.
11 FEBRUARY 2021
This year, the Stationers' Company will unite online for a streamed Shrove Tuesday Service, followed by Cakes and Ale via Zoom. Coming together at the start of Lent has been a Stationers' tradition since the early seventeenth century. In 1612, John Norton, bookseller and erstwhile Master of the Company, bequeathed money for 'one sermon be preached in [the Parish Church of St Faith’s under St Paul’s] upon Ash Wednesday yearly for ever', with funds set aside for 'Cakes Wine and Ale after or before the Sermon upon Ash Wednesday.' Although the virtual nature of 2021's ceremony is unprecedented, this is not the first time that the ritual has been modified by historical events.
4 FEBRUARY 2021
The subject of Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy came up in conversation recently, and I remembered the impression that play made on me when I first came across it: not only did it establish the genre of the revenge tragedy in Elizabethan theatre (Revenge is, quite literally, one of its characters), but it boasts one of the best subtitles ever, being known in full as The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again. I decided to reacquaint myself with the history of this strange and seminal drama, and to investigate its registration at Stationers' Hall.
1 FEBRUARY 2021
This Day in the Archive: 1 February
On the 1st of February 1560, the Lord Mayor of London issued a precept that ‘it was this day ordered and agreed at the earnest suit and prayer of John Cawood and diverse other said persons, being free men of this City in the fellowship of the Stationers, that the same fellowship from henceforth shall be permitted and suffered to have, use and wear a livery and livery hoods in such decent and comely wise and colour as the other Companies and followships of this City after their degrees do comely use and wear.’
Leading image: Stationers' Company Procession to St Paul's, Ash Wednesday 1968, Stationers' Company Archive
25 JANUARY 2021
This Day in the Archive: 25 January
On the 25th January 1937, the reigning monarch George the Sixth officially decreed 'that the Mistery or Art of a Stationer of the City of London shall hereafter be called the Mistery or Art of a Stationer and Newspaper Maker of the City of London'. The name-change, and the amalgamation it celebrated, marked a significant milestone in the life of a Livery Company always committed to embracing the modernisation of its trades.
22 JANUARY 2021
This Day in the Archive: 22 January
With so many changes happening around us, from fluctuating infection rates to alterations in our centuries-old Hall, it can help to find a wider sense of continuity with the past. The Stationers' Company is extremely lucky to have an extensive Archive dating back to the granting of its Charter, with relatively few breaks in its records. Over the next few months, I'll be making occasional forays into the Archive to highlight records of events in the Company's history that happened 'on this day'.
We start with a significant entry in the Stationers' Register for the 22nd of January, 1607:
'Master Linge - Entered for his copies by direccon of A Court and with consent of Master Burby under his handwrytinge these iii copies, viz Romeo and Juliett, Loves Labour Loste, The taming of A Shrew'
25 NOVEMBER 2020
Richard Gilpin has written a detailed piece on the Stationers’ Company and its Almanacks which was abridged for Stationers' News but the whole article including images is reproduced here.
29 JULY 2020
On 13 July the Stationers' Company held its first virtal Archive Event over Zoom to replace the event which had been planned for the Hall in April. There will be a write up in Stationers' News but those who would have liked to Zoom in on the night but were unable to do so can watch the webinar by clicking on the image below.
12 JUNE 2020
Liveryman Margaret Willes's new book The Domestic Herbal comes out this month. Being something of an expert on the subject, Margaret explained to me how herbs were used at Stationers' Hall in the seventeenth-century - and why the hiring of a herbwoman was considered a crucial expense for any banquet.
28 MAY 2020
Written communication has always been at the heart of what Stationers do and noting that letter writing has increased in populrity during the Covid-19 crisis, Ruth Frendo, the Company Archivist, has been researching how letter writing is important to the Company both as it is represented in the Archive and as a consistently popular form of communication with members.
17 APRIL 2020
Unsurprisingly, there have been a lot of references to ‘the plague’ in the media over the last few weeks. The 400-year pandemic of bubonic plague which swept from China into Europe in the fourteenth century is, in the popular imagination, the closest parallel we have to our current situation. Lately, when answering research queries, writing ‘Archive News’ posts, or looking up references for the Master’s letter, I’ve found myself consulting our digital Archive to understand how Stationers responded to outbreaks of plague in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With limited medical understanding, restricted communication technologies, and inadequate social welfare, their predicament must have seemed far more terrifying and isolating than our own.