Sunday, December 26, 2010

Notes on "The Craft of Printing and the Publication of Shakespeare's Works - Chapter 3

1474 - Histories of Troy, printed by Johann Valdener, with his apprentice William Caxton; the first book printed in English (63).

Caxton set up a bookshop in Westminster in 1476, and set up a press shortly thereafter in Almonry, west of the Abbey. A Papal Indulgence, with a date filled in of 13 December 1476, is the earliest extant document from this print shop, and the earliest book printed was the early 1477 History of Jason, which is the first book printed in England (63 - 64).

In 1495 Wynkyn de Worde printed the first book to be made of English paper (milled by John Tate at Stevenage in Hertfordshire). Richard Pynson of Normandy introduced roman type to English print shops in 1509, De Worde printed the first Greek characters in England in 1517, and printed the first Hebrew and Arabic type in 1528 (67).

The Company of Stationers pre-dates printing in London; the guild existed as a group of scribes, illuminators, binders, and book sellers, and while overwhelmed by the influx of new books, they appear to have embraced the new technology and peaceably integrated printing into their professional community (67).

The Stationers company received control of printing in England via a royal charter from Queen Mary in 1557. This allowed them to determine the number of presses a printer could have, the maximum number of books printed in an edition (the maximum was 1500 copies), and the number of journeyman and apprentices a master printer could keep. Perhaps more significantly, it established a primitive method of copyright, allowing a printer to record the title of works he had purchased and his intention to publish (70).

The Company of Stationers formed a self-regulating body, mostly of book sellers and printers by their chartering, which kept out foreign influence, which pleased the crown, as it helped prevent the publication of foreign, seditious, or heretical works (70).


The development of printing in England came after printing had spread to the continent, but printed books easily integrated within the professional framework of scribes, and book binders and sellers. As on the continent, the production of books increased at a geometric rate after the introduction of the press. Royal charter gave official sanction to the Company of Stationers, which served as a self-regulating body to ensure fair trade among its members, and while a book did not have to be registered with the Stationer's Company to be printed, doing so provided legal protection should someone else attempt to print it.

No comments:

Post a Comment