Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers

The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers (until 1937 the Worshipful Company of Stationers), usually known as the Stationers' Company, is one of the livery companies of the City of London. The Stationers' Company was formed in 1403; it received a royal charter in 1557. It held a monopoly over the publishing industry and was officially responsible for setting and enforcing regulations until the enactment of the Statute of Anne, also known as the Copyright Act of 1710. Once the company received its charter, “the company’s role was to regulate and discipline the industry, define proper conduct and maintain its own corporate privileges.”[1]

Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers
MottoVerbum Domini Manet In Aeternum
LocationStationers' Hall, London
Date of formation1403 (1403)
Company associationPrinting and publishing
Order of precedence47th
Master of companyTrevor Fenwick

The company members, including master, wardens, assistants, liverymen, freemen and apprentices) are mostly involved with the modern visual and graphic communications industries that have evolved from the company's original trades. These include printing, papermaking, packaging, office products, engineering, advertising, design, photography, film and video production, publishing of books, newspapers and periodicals and digital media. The Company's principal purpose nowadays is to provide an independent forum where its members can advance the interests (strategic, educational, training and charitable) of the industries associated with the Company.


In 1403, the Corporation of London approved the formation of a guild of stationers. At this time, the occupations considered stationers for the purposes of the guild were text writers, lymners (illuminators), bookbinders or booksellers who worked at a fixed location (stationarius) beside the walls of St Paul's Cathedral.[2] Booksellers sold manuscript books, or copies thereof produced by their respective firms for retail; they also sold writing materials. Illuminators illustrated and decorated manuscripts.

Printing gradually displaced manuscript production so that, by the time the guild received a Royal Charter of Incorporation on 4 May 1557, it had in effect become a printers' guild. In 1559, it became the 47th in city livery company precedence. At the time, it was based at Peter's College, which it bought from St Paul's Cathedral. During the Tudor and Stuart periods, the Stationers were legally empowered to seize "offending books" that violated the standards of content set down by the Church and state; its officers could bring "offenders" before ecclesiastical authorities, usually the Bishop of London or the Archbishop of Canterbury, depending on the severity of the transgression. Thus the Stationers played an important role in the culture of England as it evolved through the intensely turbulent decades of the Protestant Reformation and toward the English Civil War.

The Stationers' Charter, which codified its monopoly on book production, ensured that once a member had asserted ownership of a text or "copy", no other member was entitled to publish it, that is, no one else had the "right to copy" it. This is the origin of the term "copyright". However, this original "right to copy" in England was different from the modern conception of copyright. The stationers' "copy right" was a protection granted to the printers of a book; "copyright" introduced with the Statute of Anne, or the Copyright Act of 1710, was a right granted to the author(s) of a book based on statutory law.

Members of the company asserted their ownership of a work by entering it in the "entry book of copies" or the Stationers' Company Register. The Register of the Stationers' Company became one of the most essential documentary records in the later study of English Renaissance theatre.[3] (In 1606 the Master of the Revels, who was responsible for licensing the performance of plays rather than their publication, acquired some overlapping authority over publication as well; but the Stationers' Register remained a crucial and authoritative source of information after that date too.) To be sure, enforcement of the rules was always a challenge, in this area as in other aspects of the Tudor/Stuart regime; and plays and other works were sometimes printed surreptitiously and illegally.

In 1603, the Stationers formed the English Stock, a joint stock publishing company funded by shares held by members of the Company. This profitable business gained many patents of which the richest was for almanacks including Old Moore's Almanack. The business employed out-of-work printers and disbursed some of the profit to the poor.

In 1606, the Company bought Abergavenny House in Ave Maria Lane and moved out of Peter's College. The new hall burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666 along with books to the value of about £40,000. It was rebuilt and its present interior is much as it was when it reopened in 1673. The Court Room was added in 1748 and in 1800 the external façade was remodelled to its present form.

In 1695, the monopoly power of the Stationers' Company was diminished, and in 1710 Parliament passed the Copyright Act 1709, the first copyright act.

The Company established the Stationers' Company's School at Bolt Court, Fleet Street in 1861 for the education of sons of members of the Company. In 1894, the school moved to Hornsey in north London. It closed in 1983.

Registration under the Copyright Act 1911 ended in December 1923; the Company then established a voluntary register in which copyrights could be recorded to provide printed proof of ownership in case of disputes.

In 1937, a Royal Charter amalgamated the Stationers' Company and the Newspaper Makers' Company, which had been founded six years earlier (and whose members were predominant in Fleet Street), into the Company of the present name.

In March 2012, the Company established the Young Stationers to provide a forum for young people (under the age of 40) within the Company and the civic City of London more broadly. This led to the establishment of the Young Stationers' Prize in 2014, which recognises outstanding achievements within the Company's trades. Prize winners have included novellist Angela Clarke, journalist Katie Glass, and academic Dr Shane Tilton.

The Company's motto is Verbum Domini manet in aeternum, Latin for The Word of the Lord endures forever.

Trades of the Stationers' Company

The modern Stationers' Company represents the "content and communications" industries within the City of London Liveries. This includes the following trades and specialisms:

  • Archiving (including librarian, curators, and book conservation)
  • Bookselling and distribution
  • Communications (including advertising, marketing, and PR)
  • Digital media and software
  • Newspapers and broadcasting
  • Office products and supplies
  • Packaging
  • Paper
  • Print Machinery
  • Printing
  • Publishing (including digital publishing and design)
  • Writing (including journalism, broadcasting, and authorship)

Stationers' Hall

Stationers' Hall is at Ave Maria Lane near Ludgate Hill. The site of the present hall was formerly the site of Abergavenny House, which was purchased by the Stationers in 1606 for £3,500, but destroyed in the Great Fire of London, 1666.[4] The current building and hall date from circa 1670. The hall was remodelled in 1800 by the architect Robert Mylne and, on 4 January 1950, it was designated a Grade I listed building.[5][6]

Stationers' Hall has hosted the Shine School Media Awards, where students compete in the creation of websites and magazines.

Notable liverymen

See also


  1. Lyons, Martyn (2011). Books: A Living History. Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum. p. 61.
  2. Patterson, Lyman Ray (1968). Copyright in Historical Perspective. Vanderbilt University Press.
  3. Chambers, E. K. (1923). The Elizabethan Stage. 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press; Vol. 3, pp. 160-77, 186-91.
  4. Stationers Livery Company website. Accessed 17 February 2015
  5. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1064742)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  6. Cyprian Blagden (1977) [1960]. "The Property". The Stationers' Company: A History, 1403-1959. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804709354.

Further reading

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