About  |  What You Can Do

85. ACTS CONCERNING PRINTING (1530-85)

(A) Proclamation against Erroneous Books (1530)

The king, our most dread sovereign lord, studying and providing daily for the weal, benefice, and honour of this his most noble realm, well and evidently perceiveth that, partly through the malicious suggestions of our ghostly enemy, partly by the evil and perverse inclination ... of sundry persons, divers heresies and erroneous opinions have been late sown and spread among his subjects of this his said realm by blasphemous and pestiferous English books, printed in other regions and sent into this realm to the intent as well to pervert and withdraw the people from the catholic and true faith of Christ, as also to stir and incense them to sedition and disobedience against their princes, sovereigns, and heads, as also to cause them to condemn and neglect all good laws, customs, and virtuous manners, to the final subversion and desolation of this noble realm ...: whereupon the king's highness ... hath invited and called to him the primates of this his grace's realm, and also a sufficient number of discreet ... and well-learned personages in divinity ... , giving unto them liberty to speak ... their ... determinations concerning as well the approbation or rejecting of such books as be in any part suspected as also the admission and divulgation of the Old and New Testament translated into English.

Whereupon his highness in his own royal person, calling to him the said primates and divines, hath seriously ... discussed the premises and finally by all their free assents ... determined that these books ensuing ...[1] and divers other books made in the English tongue ... do contain in them pestiferous errors and blasphemies, and for that cause shall from henceforth be reputed and taken of all men for books of heresy.... The king's said highness therefore straitly chargeth ... all and every his subjects ... that they from henceforth do not buy, receive, or have any of the books before named, or any other book being in the English tongue and printed beyond the sea of what matter soever it be, or any copy written [and] drawn out of the same, or the same books in the French or Dutch tongue.... [Offenders against this proclamation are to be brought] to the king's highness and his most honourable council, where they shall be corrected and punished for their contempt and disobedience to the terrible example of other like transgressors.

Moreover, his highness commandeth that no manner of person or persons take upon him or them to print any book or books in the English tongue concerning Holy Scripture, not before this time printed within this his realm, until such time as the same book or books be examined and approved by the ordinary of the diocese, where the said books shall be printed; and that the printer thereof, upon every of the said books being so examined, do set the name of the examiner or examiners, with also his own name upon the said books, as he will answer to the king's highness at his uttermost peril....

If it shall hereafter appear to the king's highness that his said people do utterly abandon and forsake all perverse, erroneous, and seditious opinions, with the New Testament and the Old corruptly translated into the English tongue now being in print, and that the same books and all other books of heresy ... be clearly exterminated and exiled out of this realm of England forever, his highness intendeth to provide that the Holy Scripture shall be by great and learned and catholic persons translated into the English tongue, if it shall then seem to his grace convenient to be....

Wilkins, Concilia, III, 740.

(B) Decree in Star Chamber concerning Books (1566)

I. That no person should print, or cause to be printed, or bring or procure to be brought into the realm printed, any book against the force and meaning of any ordinance, prohibition, or commandment, contained in any the statutes or laws of this realm, or in any injunctions, letters patents, or ordinances passed or set forth, or to be passed or set forth, by the queen's grant, commission, or authority.

II. That whosoever should offend against the said ordinances should forfeit all such books and copies; and from thenceforth should never use or exercise, or take benefit by any using or exercising, the feat of printing, and to sustain three months' imprisonment without bail or mainprise.

III. That no person should sell or put to sale, bind, stitch, or sew any such books or copies, upon pain to forfeit all such books and copies, and for every book 20s.

IV. That all books so forfeited should be brought into Stationers' Hall; and there one moiety of the money forfeited to be reserved to the queen's use, and the other moiety to be delivered to him or them that should first seize the books or make complaint thereof to the warden of the said company; and all the books so to be for feited to be destroyed or made waste paper.

V. That it should be lawful for the wardens of the company for the time being or any two of the said company thereto deputed by the said wardens, as well in any ports or other suspected places to open and view all packs, dryfats, maunds,[2] and other things wherein, books or paper shall be contained, brought into this realm, and make search in all work-houses, shops, warehouses, and other places of printers, booksellers, and such as bring books into the realm to be sold, or where they have reasonable cause of suspicion; and all books to be found against the said ordinances to seize and carry to the Hall to the uses abovesaid, and to bring the persons offending before the queen's commissioners in causes ecclesiastical.

VI. Every stationer, printer, bookseller, merchant, using any trade of book-printing, binding, selling, or bringing into the realm, should, before the commissioners or before any other persons thereto to be assigned by the queen's privy council, enter into several recognizances of reasonable sums of money to her majesty, with sureties or without, as to the commissioners should be thought expedient, that he should truly observe all the said ordinances, well and truly yield and pay all such forfeitures, and in no point be resisting but in all things aiding to the said wardens and their deputies for the true execution of the premises.

Upon the consideration before expressed and upon the motion of the commissioners, we of the privy council have agreed this to be observed and kept upon the pains therein contained. At the star chamber.

Strype, Life of Parker, I, 442 f.

(C) Decree in Star Chamber Concerning Printers (1585)

Imprimis, that every printer and other person ... which at this time present hath erected ... any printing-press, roll, or other instrument for imprinting of books, charts, ballads, portraitures, paper called damask paper, or any such things or matters whatsoever, shall bring a true note or certificate of the said presses ... already erected, within ten days next coming after the publication hereof, and of the said presses ... hereafter to be erected or set up from time to time, within ten days next after the erecting or setting up thereof, unto the master and wardens of the Company of Stationers of the city of London for the time being; upon pain that every person failing or offending herein shall have all and every the said presses ... utterly defaced and made unserviceable for imprinting forever, and shall also suffer twelve months' imprisonment....

Item, that no printer of books nor any other person or persons whatsoever shall set up, keep, or maintain any press or presses ... , but only in the city of London or the suburbs thereof (except one press in the university of Cambridge and one other press in the university of Oxford and no more); and that no person shall hereafter erect, set up, or maintain in any secret or obscure corner or place any such press ... , but that the same shall be in such open place or places in his or their houses as the wardens of the said company of stationers for the time being, or such other person or persons as by the said wardens shall be thereunto appointed, may from time to time have ready access unto to search for and view the same. And that no printer ... shall at any time hereafter withstand or make resistance to ... any such view or search, nor deny, to keep secret, any such press....

Item, that no person or persons shall imprint or cause to be imprinted or suffer by any means to his knowledge his press, letters, or other instruments to be occupied in printing of any book, work, copy, matter, or thing whatsoever except the same ... hath been heretofore allowed, or ... be first seen and perused by the archbishop of Canterbury and bishop of London for the time being, or one of them....

Item, that it shall be lawful to or for the said wardens for the time being, or any two by them appointed ... , to enter into any house, workhouse, warehouse, shop, or other place or places, and to seize, take, and carry away all presses, letters, and all other printing instruments set up, used, or employed contrary to the true meaning hereof, to be defaced and made unserviceable....

Strype, Life of Whitgift, III, 160 f.


[1] Five books are named.

[2] Wooden and wicker containers.


privacy policy