The Stationers' Company
The City of London Livery Company for the Communications and Content Industries



From Gamekeeper to Poacher’: Literary Evening with Margaret Willes

Liveryman Gordon Johnson reports on the superb Literary Evening organised by the Livery Commitee on 3 September 2020.

A holiday excursion to Westminster Abbey when she was five set Margaret Willes on course to be a historian; and a casual exchange with a friend determined that she would take ‘Architecture in the Age of Wren’ rather than ‘American Documents’ as her special subject at Oxford. This settled the period of history she would become most passionate about. These were two among many delightful insights elicited by Peter Day in the scintillating conversation that made up the third of the Livery Committee’s virtual literary events.

After graduation Margaret tumbled into publishing culminating in a distinguished career at the National Trust. Finding on arrival that the Trust used many publishing partners, she decided, very successfully, to set up the Trust’s own imprint.

On retirement a friend at the British Library suggested she should take up historical research full time and become that publisher’s bane, an author. This has led to a stream of exciting, enjoyable, and deeply learned books on the cultural and intellectual history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and beyond.

Over fifty-five Stationers ‘attended’ the event and toasted the publication of Margaret’s newest book ‘The Domestic Herbal’ (Bodleian Library, 2020). They looked forward to her next book from Yale University Press in 2021: a history of St Paul’s Churchyard from the Anglo-Saxons to the Second World War – the place at very heart of English publishing and of the Stationers’ Company’s activity.

I hope that the Livery Committee will continue this innovative form of a Stationers’ event beyond lockdown. The Day-Willes interview is available on the website for those who missed it on 3 September.

If you missed the evening, or would like to listen again to Liveryman Peter Day tease fascinating tales from Margaret, you can click on the image below to watch the video.