The Stationers’ Company, 1403–1775: London’s book trade guild

Gadd, I (2021) The Stationers’ Company, 1403–1775: London’s book trade guild. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.

Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.013...

Abstract

The Stationers’ Company is one of Britain’s most important cultural institutions. Founded in 1403, it oversaw the regulation of the London’s book trades for several centuries. From the mid-16th century to the end of the 17th, the Company maintained a near-national monopoly over the technology and craft of printing; during that same period, almost every important English printer and publisher belonged to it, and the vast majority of books published in England were printed and sold by its members. It played a crucial role in the development and implementation of modern Anglo-American copyright law, establishing in the 1550s a ‘Register’ for the recording of publishing rights that was still being used in the early decades of the 20th century. Six centuries on, the Company continues to retain strong ties to the printing, publishing, and allied industries. The Company was — and remains — one of the dozens of livery companies that historically regulated London’s crafts and trades. Its national powers, granted to it by the crown in 1557, were exceptional but not unique, and effectively lapsed in 1695. It had oversight of training, labor, wages, and prices, and regularly arbitrated members’ disputes; it also provided vital welfare and social functions for its members and their families. During the early modern period, it was frequently cited in state decrees and legislation that sought to regulate the publication of printed material, but it was never the active censoring body that subsequent scholarship has often claimed. Despite weakening powers from the late 17th century, the Company flourished into the Victorian era, in large part due to its distinctive publishing venture, the English Stock, whose interests it fiercely defended. In 1937 it formally incorporated newspaper makers into its ranks, becoming the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers. The Company’s hall, which houses its archive, is located off Ludgate Hill in central London.

Item Type: Other
Note:

Long-form overview article written for the Oxford Research Encyclopedias website.

Keywords: Stationers’ Company, Stationers’ Register, publishing, bookselling, printing, London, England, copyright, censorship, guilds
Divisions: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2021 17:32
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:56
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)