24 APRIL 2023
Liveryman Dr Gordon Johnson has provided this report, a fuller version of which will appear in the next issue of Stationers' News.
This year marks the 350th Anniversary of the Hall. Drawing on the archive, the evening was designed to celebrate this and to reveal something of the broader history of the Company by doing so. The event was live-streamed giving access to an audience across the world.
An exhibition of items, superbly curated and captioned by Archivist Dr Ruth Frendo, was laid out in the Court Room. The focus was the consequences for the Company of the Great Fire of London. The Company lost its business headquarters and a great deal of Stationers’ inventory which had been moved to the Crypt for safety was totally lost when the roof of St Paul’s Cathedral crashed into its foundations.
Under Warden Paul Wilson described the Company’s immediate response: a determination to resume business as quickly as possible and to rebuild on the site of the former Hall, Abergavenny House
Liveryman Julian Venables explained how the astrology of the Almanacks was visible in the Hall. In line with architectural conventions of the day the building was decorated with symbols representing its purpose.
Liveryman Margaret Willes (whose most recent book is about St Paul’s Churchyard which draws significantly on the Company’s archive) spoke about feasts and the role the Hall plays in charitable activities and the wider life of civic London.
The last speaker was Liveryman and Honorary Librarian, David Pearson. He took as his subject, Samuel Mearne, the most distinguished English book-binder of the seventeenth century. He and his workshop produced fabulous work, and in 1660 he was appointed binder for the Royal Library. Dr Pearson concluded his talk on Samuel Mearne by stressing the richness and importance of the Company’s archive. Mearne’s fame rests on his bookbinding but the archive reveals the extent of his widespread businesses, and his place in the life of London, far beyond his involvement with book binding. The Company’s earliest records date from the mid- sixteenth century. They were saved from the Great Fire by the Clerk, George Tokefield carrying them off to his house in Gray’s Inn.
Archivist Frendo brought an interesting and entertaining evening to a close by responding to a question from the floor about how archives are selected and preserved in the age of digital communication. Dr Frendo admitted that the challenges were very great but that every effort was being made to build and preserve the essential archive – we just didn’t know yet how the detail would be worked out. Clerk Giles Fagan noted that some records were still entered by hand in books. Court Assistant Carol Tullo who moderated the panel thanked everyone for their contributions and the gathering then fell with delight (for the first time in three years) on the traditional bangers and mash buffet that concludes Archive Evenings.
Liveryman Tyler Carey was pleased to be able to join the event from th e US as it was live streamed. This was the first time the Company had tried to do this and we were pleased to have his verdict. Tyler writes
"The hybrid Archive Event held on 17 April via Zoom was fantastically managed and choreographed. One would be surprised to learn this was the first attempt that this particular format of in-person and remote hybrid webinars was attempted, as the use of a camera to focus on the key speakers and the interaction with remote attendees via the Q&A panel was seamless. Sharing the presentation via email with remote attendees in advance was clever, to avoid the issue of a camera pointing at a screen while a speaker presented their content . There is not a thing I would have changed with the format or delivery of the content, and I look forward to future hybrid events -- and would gladly pay to attend them as a remote attendee. Very well done."
In the photo you can see from L-R Court Assistant Carol Tullo OBE, Liveryman Julian Venables, Liveryman Maragret Willes, Liveryman and Honorary Librarian David Pearson ,Under Warden Paul Wilson and Archivist Ruth Frendo.