11 MAY 2021
This day in the archive: 11 May
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan was published in a pamphlet alongside two more poems. His long narrative poem Christabel, with its supernatural themes, exercised a considerable influence on the writing of Edgar Allan Poe, and The Pains of Sleep has been read as a corrective to Kubla Khan, describing as it does one of the symptoms of withdrawal from the opium which fuelled Kubla Khan's hallucinatory imagery.
The poems had been completed some time earlier, but it was only after meeting Lord Byron in 1816 that Coleridge submitted them to Byron's own publisher, John Murray. That year Coleridge also put himself into treatment for his addiction, allegedly still holding the proofs of Christabel when he turned up on the doorstep of apothecary-surgeon James Gillman.
The publishing house of John Murray was established in 1768. The first John Murray (1737–1793), originally John McMurray, infamously started the business under the conviction that 'Many blockheads in the trade are making fortunes', as he observed in a letter to the poet William Falconer. Initially focusing on retail, John Murray senior benefitted from the House of Lords decision of 1774 that neither an author nor a printer could exercise common law copyright control of a creative work after the statutory period of copyright had ended. This was a milestone in the development of copyright law, and its implications were not entirely welcomed by the Stationers' Company. For one thing, it allowed Thomas Carnan to win his challenge to the Stationers' monopoly of the almanack trade.
But it opened up new opportunities to publishers such as Murray, whose inexpensive reprints of the poetry and prose of established writers including Shakespeare, Thomas Gray and Daniel Defoe formed the bedrock of his commercial success. This allowed Murray to expand into publishing medical and scientific titles, and reviews.
After serving an apprenticeship to his father's business partner Samuel Highley, John Samuel Murray (1778–1843) gained the Freedom of the Stationers' Company on the second of December 1800, and was admitted to the Livery on the same day.
Two years later, he and Highley dissolved their partnership, with Highley taking the medical titles. Murray eventually worked his way into the heart of London literary and intellectual life. He published the works of scientists including Faraday and Babbage, political economists including Malthus, and poets including Coleridge and Crabbe. He had a close working relationship and friendship with Byron, whose career he helped to advance, until their temperamental and political differences proved too great. Murray's combination of curiosity, literary discernment and business acumen shaped the ethos of the firm. That ethos is perhaps best expressed in John Murray's publication, in 1859, of two seminal works: Darwin's The Origin of Species, and the original self-help book, Samuel Smiles's Self-Help, with Illustrations of Character and Conduct. Smiles's book, now somewhat less familiar than Darwin's, tapped into a Victorian trend for self-improvement, and was a best-seller in its day.
22 APRIL 2021
Our next Archive Evening will be a virtual event on Monday 26 April at 6pm. For more details, and to register, go to our events page at: https://www.stationers.org/events/detail/5994.
To support the event, we have created an online exhibition, which you can view here: https://www.stationers.org/company/archive/print-profit-and-people-an-exhibition
Hope you can join us for what promises to be a fascinating evening!
22 MARCH 2021
We're delighted to anounce a forthcoming series of online discussions, organised by the University of Newcastle's Medieval & Early Modern Studies Research Group in conjunction with the Stationers' Company Archive.
16 MARCH 2021
Lockdown has presented archivists with unforeseen problems: restricted access to physical collections and closed reading-rooms have required us to find new ways of maintaining contact with our research communities. But it's also been a chance to reach out virtually to people who might not previously have considered visiting an archive. And it's been heartening to see that, despite the uncertainty and anxiety of our current situation, public interest in our collections has not diminished. Online enquiries have increased over the last year. Among our new researchers are people who decided to use lockdown to tackle that perennial bugbear of household chores, clearing out the attic. In the process, they stopped to wonder about the history behind hoarded personal effects - and found that, even if they themselves weren't Stationers, their enquiries led them to our Archive. One such is Michael Windet, who shares with us here the story of his personal voyage into the past.
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)
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.