The Stationers' Company

The Worshipful Company of Stationers & Newspaper Makers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. The Stationers' Company, as the Company is more regularly known, has existed in one form or another since the 14th century, but it was in 1403 that the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London approved the formation of a Guild of Stationers, the members of which were text writers and illuminators of manuscript books, booksellers, bookbinders and suppliers of parchment, pens and paper.

With the introduction of printing into England in 1476 printers began to join the Guild, which consequently increased in importance and received a Royal Charter of incorporation in 1557. In 1559 it was granted the right to have a livery. The Company's Charter gave it powers to restrict printing and to search for seditious or heretical books. Company members were therefore secured from outside competition, but they still had to settle disputes among themselves, such as who owned the text of a particular work to be printed. This led to two unique aspects of the Company: the invention and maintaining of copyright for more than three centuries, and the running of trading concerns known as Stocks. The most prominent of the Stocks was the joint stock publishing company the English Stock, founded in 1603 by royal grant. It traded until 1961.

The Company's Livery Hall is on Ave Maria Lane; begun in 1670 following the Great Fire of London, the current Hall is the second on the site.

Ian Gadd, Bath Spa University


This short video takes a behind the scenes look at the Literary Print Culture: The Stationers' Company, 1554-2007 collection from Adam Matthew, created in partnership with the Stationers' Company.