21 FEBRUARY 2021
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.
The St James's Chronicle: or, the British Evening-Post was the successor to the St James's Evening Post, which Baldwin had bought from another printer, William Rayner. Rayner had established himself in the pamphlet market during the 1720s, and his move into newspaper publishing in the following decade heralded the rise to dominance of this format in the cheaper end of the print trade. Rayner's career is most tactfully described as colourful. His forays into print piracy and political controversy led to a prison sentence in 1733. This was served in the King's Bench Prison in Southwark. Debtors imprisoned in the King's Bench were, on payment of a fee, allowed out on parole to work at their trades in the streets surrounding the prison, an area known as the "Rules" of the King's Bench Prison. In 1734, Rayner opened a printing house in Southwark, and when he was made free of the Stationers' Company in 1737, he was still operating within the prison bounds.
However, a combination of business acumen and a lucrative second marriage meant that by the 1740s, Rayner was a successful man. Alongside the St James's Evening Post, he sold Baldwin two other titles, the London Spy and Read's Weekly Journal, which Baldwin merged to form a Saturday paper.
Although indubitably more respectable than Rayner, Baldwin brought to his enterprise the same determination and flair. Unable to fund his newspapers independently, he set up a joint-stock company, an innovative means of financing a newspaper at the time. His partners in the venture were prominent men in their own fields, many of them booksellers and writers, which helped the Chronicle establish itself in a burgeoning and competitive London market. David Garrick, the celebrated actor and theatre manager, is today the most widely known of the proprietors.
A later entrant into the joint-stock company was the eccentric literary scholar George Steevens. Steevens has another, rather different link to the history of the Stationers' Company. Given privileged access to the Stationers' Register while working on a new edition of Shakespeare, he quite literally made his mark in our Archive by inscribing his initials and an asterisk beside every Shakespeare entry.
Baldwin was not afraid of controversy, and the Chronicle's criticism of Parliament and George III could get him into trouble. Between 1768 and 1771, the first years of the so-called 'unreported Parliament', London newspapers began publishing Parliamentary debates with increasing frequency and accuracy. The government used several tactics to suppress this development, and on one occasion Baldwin and another publisher were made to kneel in penance before the Speaker of the House to accept his reprimand. According to one of those legends you can only hope is true, Baldwin rose from the floor, ostentatiously brushed his knees, and remarked in a stage whisper, 'What a damned dirty House'.
Baldwin's career continued to prosper, and in 1792 he served as Master of the Stationers' Company. His role as proprietor of the St James's Chronicle was taken over by his son, Charles.
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.
Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Stationers were eager to continue their traditions, perhaps to emphasise that, despite the losses the Company had sustained, it was all very much business as usual. Circumstances dictated some modifications, however. The Court records for the 5th February 1667 note:
'Ordered, that there be a meeting at the Lame Hospital Hall on Ash Wednesday in the morning next, and from there to go to Little St. Bartholomewes Church, there to hear a sermon in performance of the gift given by Master Norton.'
John Strype, in his 1720 update of Stow's Elizabethan Survey of London, notes that 'St. Bartholomew's Hospital [was] commonly called the Lame Hospital, for that the Lame, Wounded, and Diseased People, are hither sent for their Cure.' The Hospital chapel 'Little St Bartholomewes Church', or St Bartholomew-the-Less, was designated an Anglican parish church after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. This change of destination was hardly optional: both Stationers' Hall and St Paul's had been destroyed in the fire.
Surviving bakers' bills and 'bun lists' recording the distribution of the cakes suggest that over the next few centuries, the Stationers embraced the tradition with some enthusiasm. William Ponting's bill for 'bunns' came to ten pounds, seven shillings and six pence in 1782, while a distribution list from 1784 shows that each attendee received at least a dozen buns.
Ash Wednesday of 1820 saw a nationwide ceremony take precedence over Company tradition: the funeral of George III. A notice issued by the Beadle, William Lester, decreed that 'no Business shall be done on that day', and distribution of cakes and ale was postponed until the following week.
Events of the twentieth century were to intrude more starkly into the life of the Company. The Court record for 5 February 1918 notes that, although permission had been obtained from the Dean of St Paul's to hold the Ash Wednesday service as usual,'it was proposed to suspend the distribution of cakes and ale until the termination of the War, which was approved' (Court Book g, f636, Stationers' Company Archive TSC/1/B/01/30). As things turned out, an Armistice was signed later that year, but the next World War occasioned a longer interruption to the tradition. A Court Order for 5 February 1941 reads:
'It was decided that, in consequence of the war and the present state of affairs, the service usually held on Ash Wednesday in the Parish Church of St Faith in the Crypt of St Paul's Cathedral pursuant to the Will of Alderman John Norton should not be held this year but that, if circumstances warranted it, it should be revived next year, and also that no buns and ale should be provided for the Livery.' (Court Book k, f258, Stationers' Company Archive TSC/1/B/01/34)
Circumstances did not, of course, and it wasn't until 1946 that the ceremony could be restored.
The revival proved unexpectedly short-lived, however, for in February 1947, the Court decreed that 'since buns could not be obtained owing to the rationing regulation, there would be no buns and ale.' (Court Book l, f111, Stationers' Company Archive TSC/1/B/01/35). 1948 saw the Ash Wednesday service followed by a rather more modest provision of tea, and the beloved cakes and ale didn't return to the menu until 1949.
Since then, the tradition has continued to bring Stationers together, and as the Company demonstrates its ingenuity in surmounting yet another obstacle, we hope you'll join us for this year's virtual celebration.
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.
In its day, The Spanish Tragedy was a huge popular success. The Elizabethan impresario Philip Henslowe, whose business diary is one of the most important surviving theatre records we have of this period, tallied twenty-nine performances between 1592 and 1597. The play toured to the Continent, and both German and Dutch adaptations have survived. It was still being performed in the seventeenth century, and even gets a mention in Samuel Pepys's diary.
Pepys gives the following, less than glowing review of a performance he attended on 24th February 1668, at the Nursery Theatre:
'where none of us ever were before; where the house is better and the musique better than we looked for, and the acting not much worse, because I expected as bad as could be: and I was not much mistaken, for it was so... Their play was a bad one, called “Jeronimo is Mad Again”, a tragedy. Here was some good company by us, who did make mighty sport at the folly of their acting, which I could not neither refrain from sometimes, though I was sorry for it.'
The Spanish Tragedy's publication history is no less impressive than its box office success, with at least eleven editions being printed between 1592 and 1633. No doubt due to the play's popularity, its entry into print was not without complications.
The play was first entered in the Stationers' Register on 6th October 1592, to Abel Jeffes, under the title The Spanish Tragedie of Don Horation and Bellmipera. However, the earliest quarto imprint which we have of The Spanish Tragedie, Containing the lamentable end of Don Horatio, and Bel-imperia, was printed by Edward Allde for Edward White, certainly no later than 1592.
The title page of this edition refers to an earlier printing, possibly by Jeffes. Whatever the case, in December 1592 the Stationers' Company Court faulted both Jeffes and White for printing titles registered to each other, fined each man ten shillings, and ordered all copies of the transgressing titles.
According to this ruling, Jeffes had brought out an imprint of The Tragedie of Arden, a title registered to White. This play is notable as the earliest surviving Elizabethan domestic tragedy, an early modern 'true crime' drama, based as it is on a recent and local event: the murder of Tudor businessman Thomas Arden by his wife Alice and her lover Mosby, in 1551. The authorship of this play is unknown, and it has variously been attributed to Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, and even William Shakespeare. We're on surer ground with the authorship of The Spanish Tragedy. Poet and playwright Thomas Heywood attributes the play to Kyd in his prose work An Apology for Actors (first printed in 1612), and more recent scholarship on the style of the text seems to support this. The structure and characterisation of The Spanish Tragedy, with such innovations as its use of a play-within-a-play, place its author among the great Elizabethan dramatists.
In general, attribution is difficult for drama of this period, and the full extent of Kyd's oeuvre remains unknown. Equally, few of the facts of Kyd's life survive, the most well-documented being his arrest and imprisonment in 1593 for possession of heretical documents. It's possible that Kyd fell foul of a politically motivated attempt to incriminate his fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe; certainly Kyd claimed that the 'heretical documents' belonged to Marlowe, not him. Marlowe was also briefly arrested, but was killed in a pub brawl in Deptford shortly after his release. Kyd himself died about a year later, freed from prison but severely damaged by his time there.
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
Grant of Livery was a significant step in establishing the prominence of the Stationers’ Company in the City. John Cawood, who was so energetic in pursuit of this goal, was clearly a consummate politician. Despite having served as Queen’s Printer under Mary Tudor – a position he seized when the previous King’s Printer, Richard Grafton, took an unfortunate gamble in supporting the succession of Jane Grey – he managed to secure a role as joint Royal Printer, with Richard Jugge, for Elizabeth I. Cawood went on to serve as Master of the Stationers’ Company from 1561 to 1563, and again for 1566-67.
Transcription of Lord Mayor's Order, Liber A f4v
To appreciate the full implications of the Grant of Livery, it’s worth remembering that between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, clothing in England was closely regulated by a succession of sumptuary laws. These dictated not only which articles of clothing a person could wear, but also which style, fabric and colour, according to their rank. The sumptuary laws served the dual purpose of demarcating people’s social status, and controlling the import of foreign textiles. References to the sumptuary laws abound in Shakespeare: for instance, Rosaline’s remark in Love’s Labour’s Lost that ‘better wits have worn plain statute-caps’, refers to a 1571 decree that all men beneath a certain rank should wear flat caps on Sundays and holidays, in an attempt to promote the consumption of domestic wool.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London: 'Wool, knitted and fulled, with layered brims, English, 1500s'
Our Company Archives contain valuable evidence of how Livery Companies participated in this regulation of apparel. Copied into Liber A is an Order of Common Council from 1582, prohibiting Company members from wearing ‘lace or otherwise any gold or silver or embroidered or tailor’s work like to embroidery or lace made of or with any metal’ (Liber A, f42r). A transcription of an order from the Court of Aldermen in 1619, lamenting the poor quality of fur trimmings on livery gowns, is helpfully followed by a note on the prices of different kinds and qualities of fur (Liber A, ff96r-96v; the ‘chief Companies’ apparently favoured martens’ fur).
Subsequent Court Orders rebuke Liverymen for various sartorial misdemeanours. I was particularly struck by the minutes of a Court meeting of 1 July 1635, lamenting that several members of the Livery ‘have upon solemn days of Meeting repaired unto the Hall and other places wearing falling bands, doublets slashed and cut, with other undecent apparel, which at such times we conceive ought not to be done as not fitting with the habit of citizens.’ Searching the Victoria and Albert Museum’s fantastic online image collection helped me to visualise this a bit better. ‘Slashing’ doublets began as a way of circumventing the restrictions of Elizabethan dress: cuts in the sleeves allowed the wearer to show off the colourful fine silk of their linings.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London: 'Man's linen falling band, 1625-50, English; embroidered with cutwork, floral, whitework'
Falling bands were wide, flat collars, introduced in the 1590s as a cheaper and more informal alternative to the ruff. By the 1630s, the fashion was for a large falling band: to give you an idea, the example shown here has a depth of 25cm from the neckband to the tip of the scallop! Hardly discreet items, then, and one can’t help having some sympathy with the Court’s decision to fine Liverymen for wearing one to the funeral of a fellow Stationer.
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.
14 APRIL 2020
Literature in Lockdown - 3
As London settles into a period of restricted movement, we look at some documents from the Stationers' Company Archive, which show us how writers, printers and publishers have responded to similar crises over history.
In my final post on this subject, my starting point is the publication of Thomas Dekker's pamphlet The Wonderfull Yeare.